The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Nation & World Sat, 02 Jul 2016 04:30:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Commandos rescue 12, find 5 bodies after ending siege at Bangladesh restaurant Sat, 02 Jul 2016 03:44:55 +0000 DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh forces stormed a restaurant where heavily armed militants held dozens of people hostage for 10 hours Saturday morning, triggering explosions and finding at least five bodies lying in pools of blood. Japan’s government said that 12 people were rescued.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka’s Gulshan area, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadis activity online. At least 35 people, including about 20 foreigners, were trapped inside the restaurant, said kitchen staffer Sumon Reza, who was among more than 10 people who managed to run to the rooftop and escape when the militants moved in Friday night.

With the sound of gunfire and explosions, local TV stations reported that the rescue operation began at 7:40 a.m. It included army personnel with automatic weapons and at least seven armored vehicles. Several ambulances were on standby.

Local media reported that an Argentine and two Bangladeshis were rescued from the restaurant early Saturday, but details about their condition were not immediately available.

Commandos storming the restaurant discovered five bodies lying in blood, a police official who was not identified told Channel 24 TV station.

In Tokyo, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda said that 12 people were rescued in the raid, including two foreigners, but he couldn’t say if they were Japanese. His information was based on Dhaka police.

A news agency affiliated with the Islamic Group claimed that 24 people had been killed and 40 wounded, including foreigners, according to SITE. The figures could not be independently confirmed.

The Amaq news agency also posted photos purportedly showing the bodies of hostages. The authenticity of the pictures could not be confirmed either.

The attack marks an escalation in the growing drumbeat of militant violence to hit the traditionally moderate Muslim-majority nation in the past three years, but with increasing frequency in recent months. Most attacks have been by machete-wielding men singling out individual activists, foreigners and religious minorities.

Bangladesh did not immediately respond to the claim of responsibility by IS, but in the past have denied that the extremist group has a presence in the country. The U.S. State Department said it had seen the IS claim, but could not confirm its authenticity.

The attackers “have not responded to authorities’ calls for negotiation,” said a member of the elite anti-crime force, Rapid Action Battalion, identifying himself as Lt. Col. Masood, during an interview with the Indian TV channel Times Now.

He said that the security cordon would prevent any of the attackers from escaping. Authorities also ordered internet services to be blocked across the country, according to internet service provider Aamra.

Police said the two officers died at a hospital after being wounded in the initial gunfire with as many as nine attackers, who also hurled bombs. Ten of the 26 wounded were listed in critical condition, six of whom were on life support, according to hospital staff, who said the injuries ranged from broken bones to gunshot wounds. Only one civilian was among the wounded.

Reza said the attackers chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) as they launched the attack around 9:20 p.m. Friday, initially opening fire with blanks. A huge contingent of security forces cordoned off the area around the bakery.

The nationalities of the hostages were not immediately clear. On Saturday, Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said at a hastily called news conference in Tokyo that the government is trying to confirm that Japanese were among the hostages. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that saving lives is the top priority.

“Some derailed youths have entered the restaurant and launched the attack,” Benazir Ahmed said. “We have talked to some of the people who fled the restaurant after the attack. We want to resolve this peacefully. We are trying to talk to the attackers, we want to listen to them about what they want.”

“Our first priority is to save the lives of the people trapped inside,” Ahmed said. He would not say how many people were being held hostage.

Among the hostages was a businessman and his wife and two children, according to his uncle Anwarul Karim.

“My nephew Hasnat Karim called me and said he was inside with his family. He told me, ‘Please save us, please!’ And he hung up,” he said. “We do not know what is going on there.”

In Washington, a White House official said President Barack Obama was briefed on the attack by his chief counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco. The president asked to be kept informed as the situation develops, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the president’s meetings.

State Department spokesman John Kirby says the U.S. is in contact with the Bangladesh government and has offered its assistance to bring those responsible to justice.

He said all official American personnel are accounted for with no injuries reported, and the department is working with local authorities to determine if any U.S. citizens and locally-employed staff were affected.

The spree of recent attacks in Bangladesh have raised fears that religious extremists are gaining a foothold in the country, despite its traditions of secularism and tolerance.

About two dozen atheist writers, publishers, members of religious minorities, social activists and foreign aid workers have been slain since 2013. On Friday, a Hindu temple worker was hacked to death by at least three assailants in southwest Bangladesh. IS and and al-Qaida affiliates have claimed responsibility for many of the attacks.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government has cracked down on domestic radical Islamists. It has accused local terrorists and opposition political parties — especially the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its Islamist ally Jamaat-e-Islami — of orchestrating the violence in order to destabilize the nation, which both parties deny.

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Israel deploys troops around city of Hebron Sat, 02 Jul 2016 01:46:29 +0000 JERUSALEM — Israel deployed several hundred soldiers around the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday after two Israelis were killed in separate attacks in the past 48 hours.

The army began implementing wide-ranging closures around the city, including setting up checkpoints and restricting general movement.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said the steps were the most “substantial” the Israeli army has taken on the ground since 2014, when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed by two Palestinian militants.

On Friday, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on an Israeli family traveling on a main highway near the Israeli settlement of Otniel. The car crashed, killing a man and seriously injuring a woman.

On Thursday, a Palestinian youth fatally stabbed an Israeli teenager as she slept in her bed. The attacker, from the village of Bani Naim, infiltrated the Israeli settlement of Arba near Hebron, authorities said. He was fatally shot. The victim, 13-year-old Hallel Yaffe Ariel, was a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen.

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Cash cow: Dairy farmer wins back money from IRS Sat, 02 Jul 2016 01:22:56 +0000 Four years after federal agents showed up at his Frederick, Md., farmhouse and told him that they had seized the money in his bank account, dairy farmer Randy Sowers has gotten it all back.

The victory followed political pressure from Congress and legal pressure from the libertarian Institute for Justice on the government to roll back prosecution of the crime of structuring bank deposits to avoid Internal Revenue Service reporting requirements.

“I’m happy in more ways than one,” Sowers said after the announcement. “Getting my money back and defeating something that was wrong.”

When someone puts more than $10,000 in the bank at once, the bank makes a report to the IRS. Putting less than that amount in an account so as to intentionally avoid the scrutiny is a crime. In hundreds of cases, the Justice Department has seized money from the accounts of people accused of structuring.

The thing that is wrong, in the view of Sowers and his supporters, is going after people who are guilty of nothing other than trying to avoid the IRS report. He maintains that a bank teller told him it would be easier for everyone to keep deposits down and avoid the reporting requirement; he says that if anyone should have been prosecuted, it’s the teller.


“I guess the way the law was set up, we broke it,” Sowers said, “but we had no idea.”

So he fought back. He testified before a congressional committee and appeared on television broadcasts aired as far away as China. As he sought support locally, it helped that his farm, South Mountain Creamery, is popular across the Washington and Baltimore regions for its home-delivered milk and annual farm festival.

In October 2014, the IRS changed its policy to say it would pursue seizure of structured assets that came only from criminal activity. In March of last year, the Justice Department announced that it would follow suit.

By that time, Sowers, hesitant about getting mired in a long court battle, had already agreed to a deal under which the government took 10 percent of the $295,220 he was accused of structuring. After the change in policy last year, he filed a petition to get his money back.

“I mean, I could use the $29,000 right now for sure,” he told a congressional committee this May.

Another Maryland farmer, Calvin Taylor of the Eastern Shore, testified at the same House Ways and Means subcommittee hearing. He said that when his funds were seized in 2011, the IRS agents who came to his home told him they did not think he had knowingly done anything wrong. But like Sowers, he said he chose to give up $41,000 rather than wage a legal battle he had little chance of winning. He has also petitioned for a refund.


On Wednesday, Sowers and his attorneys got word that the petition had been granted. He’s the first person who settled with the IRS to get his money back.

“This is just an incredibly exciting development for Randy but also for everybody else who’s had money taken under the structuring law,” said Robert Johnson, the Institute for Justice attorney who filed Sowers’s petition. “When we started out down this road, nobody would have thought we would get to this point.”

The petitioners say the congressional hearing helped pressure the Justice Department. A bipartisan group of lawmakers pushed a Justice Department representative to move on Sowers’ behalf.

“You have the authority to fix this, and you have the authority to do something extraordinarily great here,” Rep. Peter J. Roskam, R-Ill., said at the hearing.

The lawmakers also questioned what the IRS is doing to help people whose assets were seized; in response, the agency has sent out letters in 700 cases notifying subjects that they can petition the Justice Department for a return of their funds.

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Transgender service members’ careers are on hold Sat, 02 Jul 2016 01:01:12 +0000 ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Alexandra Marberry should have gone to flight school in October, but the 2015 Naval Academy graduate never made it to Pensacola, Fla.

Instead, the 23-year-old aspiring aviator works as an administrative assistant in a windowless office at the academy – in a male uniform.

Marberry is transgender. Her gender identity is different from the male body she was born into.

The Department of the Defense announced last year that it intends to allow transgender people to serve openly, and the Pentagon announced the repeal of its ban Thursday. The full policy must be completely implemented no later than July 1, 2017.

Because Marberry revealed her gender identity, her career has been on hold, and her gender transition is at an impasse. She is required to keep her hair short, use male bathrooms and meet male physical requirements, despite being on female hormones. Her trimmed eyebrows, smooth jawline and feminine silhouette don’t match the required male uniform – garnering a mix of sir’s and ma’am’s from passers-by.

Instead of piloting airplanes, she files paperwork and helps plan academy events.

“This is my dream career,” she said. “And I’m sitting here atrophying.”

Marberry is one of an estimated 15,500 soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors who had been waiting to find out if they would be permitted to serve their country as the gender they identify with. Medical regulations banning transgender service have been in place, but military separations had been effectively halted.

The Department of Defense’s review raises questions about how the military would address preferred gender pronouns, housing arrangements, fitness standards, uniform and grooming requirements, and to what extent the military health care system would offer hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery.


For Marberry, her aviation aspirations took a back seat to honesty.

“I was done hiding for four years,” she said.

When she was growing up, Marberry said, she knew two things for sure.

One was that she wanted to be in the military. The other was that she is female.

Raised and home-schooled by a Christian family in conservative Lubbock, Texas, Marberry battled herself. Her desire to be a girl conflicted with what she was taught about right and wrong.

“I’m the only one, I feel weird like this, and I can’t tell anyone that I feel this way because it’s so weird,” she thought.

Marberry didn’t come out to her family until 2013, halfway through her time at the academy. Her dad was the first to know.

“I remember he didn’t understand it at first, and when he started to realize I actually want to transition, this isn’t just dressing up, being a very conservative Christian guy, he was like ‘No this is the path to death. This is a demon we need to get out of you,'” she said. “He believed at the time, maybe even still now, that this is identical to being gay, and being gay is against the Bible.”


After the federal “don’t ask, don’t tell” law was repealed in 2010, lesbians, gays and bisexuals were permitted to serve openly in the military.

Marberry recalled that some midshipmen celebrated the announcement of the repeal.

“Everyone is like ‘Yay! Game over.’ And I’m just sitting there like, ‘Hello?’ ”

The military ban on transgender service is based on Department of Defense medical standards – both physical and psychological.

The standards prohibit a change of sex and “psychosexual conditions” including “transsexualism … and other paraphilias.”

The first anti-transgender U.S. military regulation was in 1983, three years after the American Psychiatric Association first recognized gender identity disorders or “transsexualism,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a research institute.

The regulation followed military medical rules against cross-dressing in 1942 and genital modification in 1961, Belkin said.

“The 1961 genital modification ban was intended for surgical reconstruction of ambiguous genitalia in infants or children – intersex conditions – not what we think of today as gender transition surgery,” he said. “In the 1980s, however, the military started to rely on the 1961 ‘change of sex’ rule to fortify its new ban on transgender persons (in contrast to cross-dressers), even though that was not its original purpose.”

Since then, those rules have affected both accession and retention standards, said Paula Neira, an LGBT military expert who is a trans woman, academy graduate and lawyer.

“If you had any idea that you were a transgender individual, that would bar you from service under the psychological regulations,” she said. “If you had any history of a sex change, that would bar you from service. If you were in the process of transitioning, you were barred.”

Discrimination based on gender identity is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But it does not apply to the military, and therefore doesn’t apply to Marberry.

After graduation, Marberry realized she couldn’t continue living a double life. Before leaving for flight school that fall, she notified her academy superiors about her identity and was disqualified from flight school. Officials said she had “gender identity disorder,” although that term is no longer recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.

With the policy announcement, Marberry may be the closest any transgender Naval Academy graduate has come to serving openly for her entire career.

“I need to serve with integrity or not at all,” she said.

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Humans causing growth of key factor in climate change Sat, 02 Jul 2016 01:00:48 +0000 When it comes to fundamental drivers of climate and weather across the Earth, it is hard to think of a region more important than the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool, an enormous area stretching across the Pacific and Indian oceans on both sides of the equator.

This is, basically, the biggest body of warm water there is. Indeed, the warm pool, which is fueled by the intense sunlight striking the equator and tropics, is defined as the area where the average surface ocean temperature is greater than about 82 degrees Fahrenheit all year round (a temperature, incidentally, that is well above the threshold level needed for tropical cyclone or hurricane formation).

The warm pool drives monsoons, tropical cyclones and much more. Its warm ocean surface is the home to deep atmospheric “convection,” or the rising of warm, moist air, which leads to atmospheric circulation and rainfall patterns that influence the entire planet.

And the warm pool is growing.

“It is about four or five times larger than Australia,” said Seung-Ki Min, a researcher at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea and an author of a new study in Science Advances on the warm pool’s expansion. “It has been increasing about 32 percent over the last 60 years in size.”

The new study, which Min co-authored with Evan Weller of Pohang University as well as colleagues in China, Canada and Australia, proves for what is apparently the first time that this spatial expansion – which has implications for hurricane landfalls, rising seas (warm water expands and takes up more area) and much more – is caused by human-induced climate change.

It is not, of course, news that the global ocean itself is warming. That’s been documented many times. Indeed, the ocean is sucking up 90 percent of the total additional heat that climate change is retaining within the Earth’s system.

But because of the warm pool’s enormous heat and role in the global atmospheric circulation, its changes reverberate very widely indeed.

“We have more energy available from the hotter ocean,” said Min. “That means the atmosphere will be enhanced to transport more energy from the tropical ocean to the high latitude zone.”

The new study used a series of model runs, with and without human greenhouse gas emissions included, to study how well the different simulations reproduced the actual, observed expansion of the warm pool.

It’s clear that the models that include both natural factors and greenhouse gases best capture the expansion. “About 12 to 18 percent has been due to natural variability in the ocean, but the remaining part is overall due to the greenhouse gas increase,” said Min.

The maps above also give a sense of the kinds of consequences that this expansion will have and indeed is already having. For instance, the warm pool, which is quite conducive to generating hurricanes, is now much closer to many hurricane-vulnerable regions – including Bangladesh, which has seen the deadliest tropical cyclone strikes in world history.

More warm water means that there are more areas conducive to the formation of tropical cyclones, and it also affects how far they can travel, in any particular direction. A storm “can survive longer, because we now have a larger area of hot water, giving more energy to the tropical cyclone,” Min said.

When it comes to climate change, much of the most vivid imagery is far away from the warm pool – in the rapidly warming Arctic, for instance, where sea ice is vanishing and glaciers are breaking off city-sized pieces.

That’s all very dramatic, but the slow, creeping expansion of the warm pool is hard to match when it comes to ultimate consequences.

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California governor signs six stringent gun bills, vetoes five others Sat, 02 Jul 2016 00:26:01 +0000 SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Jerry Brown signed six stringent gun-control measures Friday that will require people to turn in high-capacity magazines and mandate background checks for ammunition sales, as California Democrats seek to strengthen gun laws that are already among the strictest in the nation.

Brown vetoed five other bills, including requirement to register homemade firearms and report lost or stolen weapons to authorities.

The Democratic governor’s action is consistent with his mixed record on gun control. Some of the enacted bills duplicate provisions of a November ballot measure by Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. Some of the vetoed measures also appear in Newsom’s initiative.

“My goal in signing these bills is to enhance public safety by tightening our existing laws in a responsible and focused manner, while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners,” Brown wrote in a one-sentence message to lawmakers.

Gun control measures have long been popular with the Democratic lawmakers who control the California Senate and Assembly. But they stepped up their push this year following the December shooting in San Bernardino by a couple who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

Advocates on both sides of the gun-control debate say California has some of the nation’s strictest gun laws. It is one of six states to get the highest grade from the pro-gun control Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The state’s move to tighten them further comes amid years of gridlock at the federal level, which spawned a tense clash in Washington last week as Democrats camped out on the floor of the U.S. House and shouted down Republicans.

The bills angered Republicans and gun-rights advocates who say Democrats are trampling on 2nd Amendment rights, creating new restrictions that won’t cut off the flow of guns to people intent on using them for nefarious purposes.

“On the eve of Independence Day, independence and freedom and liberty in California has been chopped down at the knees and kicked between the legs,” said Sam Paredes, executive director of the advocacy group Gun Owners of California.

Lawsuits challenging the new laws are likely once they take effect next year, Paredes said.

Brown’s action will require people who own magazines that hold more than 10 rounds to give them up. It extends a 1999 law that made it illegal to buy a high-capacity magazine or to bring one into the state but allowed people who already owned them to keep them.

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Louisiana’s expansion of Medicaid becomes first
in Deep South Sat, 02 Jul 2016 00:22:34 +0000 BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana is becoming the first state in the Republican-dominated Deep South to expand its Medicaid program, with more than 233,000 people already enrolled in the government-financed insurance coverage that began Friday.

Medicaid expansion fulfills one of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ main campaign promises, embracing the health law championed by President Obama after years of GOP stonewalling in Louisiana.

“I understand that this is a Southern state. It’s a conservative state, with a majority of the legislators Republican. But I’ve always said the idea of expanding Medicaid is not right versus left, it’s right versus wrong,” Edwards said.

Adults ages 19 to 64 with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level – about $16,400 for a single adult or $33,500 for a family of four – are eligible for the coverage through one of Louisiana’s Medicaid plans administered by managed-care companies.

Joyce Brock, a 62-year-old Wendy’s cashier, enrolled for the coverage and was looking for a primary care doctor to monitor her asthma and test her for diabetes. Uninsured, she had struggled to cover the costs of inhalers and other medication, whose costs she estimated at $300 a month. Medicaid expansion will help her pay for prescriptions and get checkups.

“I’ve been crying for Medicaid,” Brock said, signing up at a Baton Rouge clinic.

The Edwards administration estimates 375,000 people will get insurance from the expansion over the next year, 70 percent of them full-time workers in like food service, tourism and construction.

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U.S. drones have killed up to 116 civilians outside of war Sat, 02 Jul 2016 00:12:50 +0000 WASHINGTON — The United States has inadvertently killed between 64 and 116 non-combatant civilians in drone and other lethal attacks against terrorism suspects in places not considered active war zones, the Obama administration said Friday.

The unintentional deaths came in a total of 473 CIA and military counterterrorism strikes up to the end of 2015 that the administration said have taken between 2,372 and 2,581 militants permanently off the battlefield in countries where the United States is not at war, which would include Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya.

The release was accompanied by an executive order, signed by President Barack Obama, designed to give added weight to existing administration standards and procedures governing the use of lethal force and for limiting civilian casualties. In releasing only aggregate figures that do not include when or where the strikes occurred, the administration sought to bolster government assertions about the accuracy and effectiveness of the program, even as it shielded those claims from meaningful public scrutiny.

Independent research groups that track drone strikes have produced significantly higher estimates of non-combatant deaths. The New America Foundation and the Long War Journal each put the number of civilians killed at about 250. A third group, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, believes the number is far higher, estimating that as many as 358 civilians have died in U.S. counterterrorism operations since Obama took office.

The newly released figures were cast as a rebuke to those claims, which U.S. officials have said are often inflated by erroneous press reports or even efforts by Pakistan and Yemen to pass off their own military miscues as U.S. drone strikes. But by withholding information about its methodology and refusing to release data on specific strikes the administration is unlikely to sway skeptics.

“I give this administration credit for being more forthcoming and recognizing the need” for increased public accountability, said Micah Zenko, an expert on the U.S. drone program at the Council on Foreign Relations. But “putting out raw numbers without any clarifying information” leaves reason to remain skeptical of the government’s claims, Zenko said. “You can’t grade your own homework.”

The administration’s figures were largely drawn from post-strike analyses done by the CIA and Joint Special Operations Command – entities that even critics acknowledge have become more accurate in their use of armed drones but nevertheless have institutional incentives to undercount the number of civilians they kill.

“So long as the public is examining these casualties in the dark, with these little bitty flashlights, we are never going to understand the depth and breadth of this lethal program,” said Letta Tayler, senior terrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch. The administration’s claim of fewer than 100 civilian casualties is “highly questionable,” Tayler said, attributing the gap between it and outside estimates to the government’s “overly elastic definitions of combatant and civilian.”

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Team emphasizes support for addicted moms, infants Fri, 01 Jul 2016 23:52:22 +0000 NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — Eight-day-old Braylin Debonise dozes in her crib, barely a week into the world and blissfully unaware.

She doesn’t realize that she is spending the first few weeks of her life being treated for the opioids she was exposed to at birth.

She doesn’t yet understand that her mother’s history of addiction led to her needing special care and treatment in the first days, months and years of her life.

She doesn’t recognize the determination of her mother to live a clean life, with the support of her father, also a recovering addict.

But she will learn all of this in time. Her mother, Amanda Fielding, has no plans to hide the truth from her and her sister, Briella, 20 months old.

Briella was also born addicted to methadone.

“I don’t want to hide anything from them,” she said. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I’d rather be honest with them. As they get older, I don’t have a problem talking to them about it.”


Fielding was abusing prescription pills by 13.

By 24, she was an IV heroin user.

She “died” four times, revived by doses of Narcan, a drug given to counteract the effects of an overdose.

Her days passed in a destructive, droning pattern. She woke up sick and with one thought racing through her mind: Need more heroin.

To fund her habit, she stole jewelry and “anything and everything” from people, including her parents.

She would mix heroin and benzodiazepine medications, often called “benzos” for short, which are widely prescribed for the treatment of anxiety disorders and insomnia. That, she said, was “a very dangerous thing to do.”

“I fought it for a long time,” she said. “I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

On March 1, 2013, Fielding entered a methadone clinic and celebrated her first day of sobriety. “Pretty much I’ve been clean since then,” she said. “The clinic saved my life.”

Treatment, she stressed, involved more than a visit to the clinic in the morning, getting a dose of methadone and leaving.

She participated in group and one-on-one therapy. “It’s a whole different lifestyle,” she said. “You really have to want it.”

And while she was in treatment, fighting for her sobriety, she became pregnant.

At one time, women who gave birth to babies exposed to narcotics were treated with scorn and shame, experts said.


That attitude does little to help either the mother or the baby, according to those who work closely with them.

“This mother has an illness; she has an addiction,” said Dr. Brian Sard, chairman of pediatrics for Southcoast Health. “We work with them as opposed to working against them.”

The earlier a drug-addicted woman reaches out in her pregnancy, the more likely she and the baby are to have a positive outcome, experts said.

Close medical supervision can help ensure the mother does not withdraw from the drug cold turkey or overdose, Sard said.

For heroin users, “every effort is made to get them on methadone” to maintain a stable pregnancy, said Dr. Jessica Slusarski, site leader for the St. Luke’s Hospital Special Care Nursery.

Expectant mothers can then be placed on a “maintenance program” that can range from making every effort to stop smoking marijuana, for example, to ensuring the mother-to-be remains in methadone treatment as she withdraws from heroin.

And the women receive more frequent monitoring to ensure the fetus is growing at a healthy rate. This kind of positive treatment is far more likely to result in a healthy baby and far less likely if a woman feels she would be shamed for her situation, experts said.

Once the baby is born, a medical team works closely with the mother and the infant.

Both are visited by medical staff every three hours to take their vital signs such as blood pressure and temperature. This helps them monitor for signs of withdrawal.

All of this work is done “as inclusive of the parents as possible,” said Dr. Slusarski. “We promote the parents’ comfort and readiness.”

Nurses are trained on how to evaluate these symptoms. An infant may naturally exhibit one or two of these signs, Dr. Slusarski said, but when “when things start adding up” the baby may need medication to help withdrawal.


The goal is “not to sedate the baby, it’s to manage the withdrawal,” she said.

In addition to the medical intervention, “a team effort” goes into place, she said, that often includes social workers and lactation specialists.

An occupational therapist also comes in and works with the baby, perhaps offering infant massage and teaching parents to do the same, said Sard.

“We see lots of mothers being more proactive,” said Lisa Tibbetts, registered nurse and director of the family centered unit at St. Luke’s Hospital.

The approach “has moved away from, I’m doing something in secret,” she said.

Heroin might be the drug publicly associated with babies born exposed to opioids, but medical experts locally are seeing a new trend: Mothers addicted to several substances at once. In many cases, they are addicted to pharmaceuticals.

Dealing with babies born to mothers with this addiction, known as polypharmacy, “is more complex,” Dr. Sard said.

Dr. Leslie Kerzner, director of newborn follow-up program and staff neonatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, agrees. And she places some of the responsibility for the growing number of cases on the medical establishment’s increased reliance on pain medication.

“Pain became the fifth vital sign,” she said.

To eliminate pain, doctors would prescribe pain medication and some patients would keep extra pills on hand, which could then find their way to others in the household, she said.

Now, she said, “we have all these addicts to deal with.” As a result, she said, “we’re not going to see a decrease soon” in prescription pill abuse and with it, pregnancies in women struggling with these substances.

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Vermont leaders celebrate new GMO labeling requirement Fri, 01 Jul 2016 23:20:19 +0000 MONTPELIER, Vt. — Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders joined other Vermont leaders Friday to celebrate the state’s new law requiring labels on genetically modified food and to blast federal legislation that could pre-empt the state requirement.

Vermont became the first state Friday to require the labeling of food containing GMOs, or genetically modified organisms.

“Vermont had the courage to say … ‘If it’s the right thing to do, what are we waiting for,”‘ Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin told a rally audience.

Sanders sharply criticized the compromise bill in Congress that called for less stringent regulations. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week.

The federal legislation would allow an electronic code on a package to stand in for a label, requiring a smartphone and internet connection for a consumer to know whether the product contained genetically modified ingredients, Sanders said.

Many products, including corn products, beet sugar and soy oils that are in many processed foods, could be exempt from the requirement, he said.

“Perhaps most shockingly and what exposes the partial nature of this legislation, this bill imposes no penalties whatsoever for violating the labeling requirement, making the legislation essentially meaningless,” he said.

Vermont’s law imposes a penalty of $1,000 per day per genetically modified product that is not labeled as required.

Eric Blom, spokesman for Maine-based Hannaford Supermarkets, said the chain has new labels for any store-brand products that contain genetically modified ingredients and those labels will be going to Vermont and throughout Hannaford’s distribution system.

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Boy who was arrested over his homemade clock returns to Texas Fri, 01 Jul 2016 22:58:09 +0000 DALLAS — After a nine-month stay in Qatar, Ahmed Mohamed returned to Texas this week with a deeper appreciation for his religion and a thicker skin.

He’s no longer surprised when people recognize him since his arrest at Irving’s MacArthur High School in September, when a homemade clock he brought to school was mistaken for a bomb.

It wasn’t until family members in Africa reached out that he realized his arrest made news not only in Texas, but across the world.

After photos of Ahmed in handcuffs went viral, a national uproar began about the treatment of Muslims in the U.S. and made him think about how he could use the incident to teach others.

“I want to help change Texas for a better state, and I hope that not just for Texas, but the entire world,” Ahmed said this week from Irving, where he’s returned for the summer. “People sometimes don’t want to admit their mistakes, and sometimes the best thing to do is to help them change.”

The amount of support he received through social media surprised him, Ahmed said.

He has received hateful comments as well, but he tries not to let negativity faze him. Online threats have made him nervous, and the rest of his family tries to stay out of the spotlight, he said.

While he’s in the U.S., he plans to take up invitations to visit well-known companies that followed in the wake of his arrest, even if he gets some negative attention along the way.

He will get a chance to thank some social media giants in person later this summer when he visits Facebook and Twitter headquarters.

]]> 3 Fri, 01 Jul 2016 18:58:09 +0000
Judge blocks Mississippi’s anti-gay rights law Fri, 01 Jul 2016 22:55:47 +0000 JACKSON, Miss. — A federal judge blocked a Mississippi law on religious objections to same-sex marriage moments before it was set to take effect Friday, ruling it unconstitutionally establishes preferred beliefs and creates unequal treatment for gay people.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves wrote that the title, text and history of the law show it is “the state’s attempt to put LGBT citizens back in their place” in response to last summer’s Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage nationwide.

“In physics, every action has its equal and opposite reaction,” wrote Reeves, who was nominated to the bench by President Barack Obama in 2010. “In politics, every action has its predictable overreaction.”

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said he plans to appeal the ruling, which came overnight in response to two lawsuits filed weeks ago by gay and straight plaintiffs.

The law sought to protect three beliefs: That marriage is only between a man and a woman; that sex should only take place in such a marriage; and that a person’s gender is determined at birth and cannot be altered.

It would allow clerks to cite religious objections to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and would protect merchants who refuse services to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people. It could affect adoptions and foster care, business practices and school bathroom policies.

“The state has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others,” the judge wrote. Reeves also wrote that it violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee.

Gov. Bryant signed House Bill 1523 in April, winning praise from conservative Christian groups. The Family Research Council gave him a religious freedom award for signing the bill, and Bryant said the “secular, progressive world had decided they were going to pour their anger and their frustration” on him because of the bill.

In a statement, Bryant said he was disappointed by the ruling.

“Like I said when I signed House Bill 1523, the law simply provides religious accommodations granted by many other states and federal law,” Bryant said. “I am disappointed Judge Reeves did not recognize that reality. I look forward to an aggressive appeal.”

Attorney General Jim Hood – the lone Democrat in statewide office – had his staff defend the bill but reversed course after the ruling, saying he doesn’t know if an appeal is worthwhile for a state with budget problems.

“The fact is that the churchgoing public was duped into believing that HB1523 protected religious freedoms,” Hood said.

In late 2014, Reeves struck down Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage but put his ruling on hold while the state appealed. The Supreme Court marriage ruling came down while the Mississippi appeal was pending.

Brandiilyne Magnum-Dear, minister of the Joshua Generation Metropolitan Community Church in Hattiesburg, is a plaintiff in the Mississippi Center for Justice suit challenging the religious-objections law.

“The passage of this bill signaled to our church, and to my wife and me, that our religious beliefs are less worthy of protection than those of others, and that the rights of gay, lesbian, and transgender people are not equal to the rights of others,” Magnum-Dear said in a statement.

More than 100 bills were filed in more than 20 state legislatures in response to the Supreme Court gay marriage ruling, UCLA law professor Douglas NeJaime testified before Reeves last week.

]]> 1, 01 Jul 2016 18:55:47 +0000
Man who died in Tesla ‘autopilot’ crash had ‘need for speed,’ friend says Fri, 01 Jul 2016 18:14:05 +0000 WASHINGTON — A driver with a history of speeding who was so enamored of his Tesla Model S sedan that he nicknamed the car “Tessy” and praised the safety benefits of its sophisticated “Autopilot” system has become the first U.S. fatality in a wreck involving a car in self-driving mode.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the driver’s death Thursday, and said it is investigating the design and performance of the Autopilot system.

Joshua D. Brown of Canton, Ohio, the 40-year-old owner of a technology company, was killed May 7 in Williston, Florida, when his car’s cameras failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky and didn’t automatically activate its brakes, according to statements by the government and the automaker. Just one month earlier, Brown had credited the Autopilot system for preventing a collision on an interstate.

Frank Baressi, 62, the driver of the truck and owner of Okemah Express LLC, said the Tesla driver was “playing Harry Potter on the TV screen” at the time of the crash and driving so quickly that “he went so fast through my trailer I didn’t see him.”

The movie “was still playing when he died,” Baressi told The Associated Press in an interview from his home in Palm Harbor, Florida, saying the careening car “snapped a telephone pole a quarter mile down the road.” He acknowledged he didn’t see the movie, only heard it.

Tesla Motors Inc. said it is not possible to watch videos on the Model S touch screen. There was no reference to the movie in initial police reports.

Brown’s driving record, obtained by The Associated Press, showed he had eight speeding tickets in a six-year span. Seven came in Ohio and one in Virginia. The most recent ticket, in northeastern Ohio in August 2011, was for driving 64 mph in a 35 mph zone.

Terri Lyn Reed, a friend and insurance agent in northeastern Ohio who insured Brown’s business, said he was always up for an adventure and loved motorcycles and fast cars.

Brown “had the need for speed,” Reed said. She described him as “kind of a daredevil” who was fearless.

Brown’s published obituary described him as a member of the Navy SEALs for 11 years and founder of Nexu Innovations Inc., working on wireless internet networks and camera systems. In Washington, the Pentagon confirmed Brown’s work with the SEALs and said he left the service in 2008.

Brown was an enthusiastic booster of his 2015 Tesla Model S and in April praised the Autopilot system for avoiding a crash when a commercial truck swerved into his lane on an interstate. He published a video of the incident online. “Hands down the best car I have ever owned and use it to its full extent,” Brown wrote.

In a statement released Friday, Brown’s family noted his “passion for technological advancement” and said they are cooperating with the investigation. The family hopes “information learned from this tragedy will trigger further innovation which enhances the safety of everyone on the roadways.”

Tesla didn’t identify Brown but described him in a statement as “a friend to Tesla and the broader EV (electric vehicle) community, a person who spent his life focused on innovation and the promise of technology and who believed strongly in Tesla’s mission.” It stressed the uncertainty about its new system, saying drivers must manually enable it: “Autopilot is getting better all the time, but it is not perfect and still requires the driver to remain alert.”

Tesla founder Elon Musk expressed condolences in a tweet late Thursday.

Preliminary reports indicated the crash occurred when Baressi’s rig turned left in front of Brown’s Tesla at an intersection of a divided highway southwest of Gainesville, Florida, where there was no traffic light, NHTSA said. Brown died at the scene.

By the time firefighters arrived, the wreckage of the Tesla — with its roof sheared off completely — had come to rest in a yard hundreds of feet from the crash site, assistant chief Danny Wallace of the Williston Fire Department told the AP.

Tesla said in a statement that this was the first known death in over 130 million miles of Autopilot operation. Before Autopilot can be used, drivers have to acknowledge that the system is an “assist feature” that requires a driver to keep both hands on the wheel at all time. Drivers are told they need to “maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle” while using the system, and they have to be prepared to take over at any time, the statement said.

Autopilot makes frequent checks, making sure the driver’s hands are on the wheel, and it gives visual and audible alerts if hands aren’t detected, and it gradually slows the car until a driver responds, the statement said.

The Autopilot mode allows the Model S sedan and Model X SUV to steer itself within a lane, change lanes and speed up or slow down based on surrounding traffic or the driver’s set speed. It can automatically apply brakes and slow the vehicle. It can scan for parking spaces and parallel park on command

NHTSA said the opening of the preliminary evaluation by its defects investigation office shouldn’t be construed as a finding that the government believes the Model S is defective.


Krisher reported from Detroit. Associated Press writers Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles, Lolita Baldor and Ted Bridis in Washington, John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio, Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit, Jason Dearen in Gainesville, Florida, and Tamara Lush in Palm Harbor, Florida, contributed to this report.

]]> 1, 01 Jul 2016 15:24:30 +0000
U.S. drone strikes have killed as many as 116 civilians since 2009 Fri, 01 Jul 2016 17:59:33 +0000 WASHINGTON — The Obama administration says between 64 and 116 civilians have been killed by drone and other U.S. strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Africa since President Barack Obama took office in 2009.

Friday’s disclosure was the administration’s first public assessment of the number of civilians killed in these types of operations. Some human rights advocates say the number is significantly higher.

Obama also signed an executive order that makes protecting civilians a central element in planning U.S. military operations.

While sketchy details often emerge about individual drone strikes, the full scope of the U.S. drone program has long been shrouded from view. It is a key tool of Obama’s counterterrorism strategy.

The civilian casualties disclosed do not reflect U.S. air attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria.

]]> 4 Fri, 01 Jul 2016 14:09:14 +0000
Misnamed ‘Battle of Bunker Hill’ still sparking Boston skirmishes Fri, 01 Jul 2016 17:21:33 +0000 BOSTON (AP) — The Battle of Bunker Hill — one of the greatest misnomers in U.S. history — has sparked a social media skirmish.

The 1775 battle, a rallying point for American colonists trying to overthrow British rule, mostly was fought a musket shot away on nearby Breed’s Hill. Descendants and supporters of the Breed clan are dueling with traditionalists online, and the dispute is part of a new book, “Wicked Pissed: New England’s Most Famous Feuds.”

Even Boston Mayor Marty Walsh caught flak after tweeting a reminder that June 17 was Bunker Hill Day. Loyalists chided him that it rightfully should be called Breed’s Hill Day.

“It’s one of those things we’re stuck with, like the myth that George Washington had wooden teeth,” said Dan Shippey, founder of the Orange, California-based Breed’s Hill Institute, a nonprofit historical organization promoting the ideas behind the American Revolution. “I don’t think we’ll ever straighten it out.”

Few, if any, dispute the facts. Thousands of outnumbered and outgunned American colonists laid siege to the British army on the hill in Charlestown, Boston’s oldest neighborhood. The British won the battle but suffered far more losses than their revolutionary foes, who proved to themselves and the rest of the world that they weren’t pushovers.

Early accounts erroneously referenced Bunker Hill — and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, dozens of Boston-area businesses and institutions are named for Bunker Hill, including a community college, a high school, a golf course, a security company and an insurance agency.

The National Park Service, which runs the park surrounding the 221-foot granite obelisk that marks the spot, has no plans to rename it — though it does use hashtags such as #BreedsHillNotBunkerHill on social media posts in a halfhearted attempt to set the record straight.

Perpetuating the fog of war at a site that annually draws hundreds of thousands of inquisitive students and tourists, virtually every sign invokes Bunker Hill. A single plaque mentions Breed’s Hill.

If you’re a Breed, that’s a pitifully insufficient footnote to nearly two and a half centuries of history.

“It’s kind of annoying that the Bunkers get all the credit. They have bridges and aircraft carriers named after them. They feel quite empowered by a misnamed battle,” said Jed Breed, 32, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based entrepreneur and 13th-generation descendant.

It’s not for a lack of trying: At least since 1892, the nation’s Breeds have brandished a family manifesto clamoring for a name change.

“We respectfully submit: The name ‘Battle of Breed’s Hill’ should be adopted, because the battle was begun there, the redoubt stood there, (American Gen. Joseph) Warren fell there, the battle was decided there,” it declares.

Nothing doing, said Gil Bunker, president of the Bunker Family Association.

“Sure, the Breeds would like it renamed, but we don’t want it changed. It’s more or less in cement now,” said Bunker, 81, of Turnersville, New Jersey.

Ted Reinstein, a reporter for WCVB-TV in Boston and author of “Wicked Pissed,” captures in his book what he calls the “historic outrage.”

“Like any self-respecting New Englander, I knew the battle of Bunker Hill was fought on Breed’s Hill, but I never thought the battle might still be going on. That came as a bit of a revelation to me,” he said.

Joan Breed, of Lynn, Massachusetts, sees flickers of hope. Her grandchildren’s history books speak of Breed’s Hill. “So there’s progress,” she said.

And the Breeds vs. Bunkers dispute is far more cordial than the fiery Hatfields vs. McCoys feud. Three years ago, the Bunkers gathered at the obelisk for a 100th reunion and invited the Breeds to engage in a friendly tug of war. The two sides used a piece of rope from the U.S.S. Constitution, docked nearby.

Who won?

“It was a tie,” Bunker said.

]]> 0, 01 Jul 2016 14:23:31 +0000
Turkish media say 2 of 3 airport attackers have been identified Fri, 01 Jul 2016 15:57:50 +0000 ISTANBUL — Turkish media say authorities have determined the identities of two of three suicide bombers responsible for the Ataturk Airport attack that killed 44 people this week in Istanbul.

The state-run Anadolu Agency reported Friday that the Bakirkoy Public Prosecutor’s Office had established the identity of two suspects in the course of investigations. The investigation into the third suspect’s identity is ongoing.

The identity of one suspect was determined through a photocopy of his passport, which he submitted to a realtor in order to rent a house in Istanbul’s Fatih district. In addition, a computer that had been destroyed was found in a trash bin near the apartment where the suicide bombers were staying. The police are trying to access the information on the computer.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeated that the Islamic State group “most probably” was behind the Istanbul airport attack, adding that its militants would end up “in hell.”

Speaking in Istanbul following Friday prayers, Erdogan said the extremist group claims to carry out acts in the name of Islam, but said it has nothing to do with the religion.

“They have no connection to Islam. Their place is in hell,” he said.

“These people were innocent; they were children, women, elderly, … They embarked on a journey unaware, and came face to face with death. You have no such right,” Erdogan said.

Swedish authorities say an ethnic Chechen identified as the organizer of the Istanbul airport bombing that killed 44 people was convicted of weapons smuggling in 2008.

The chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, along with Turkish and Swedish media, says Akhmed Chatayev directed the three suicide bombers who carried out the attack Tuesday. Chatayev’s whereabouts are unclear.

The city court in the southern Sweden port city of Ystad says Chatayev was sentenced to 16 months for smuggling an automatic weapon and two handguns with munition and silencers into Sweden on March 3, 2008.

Court documents obtained by The Associated Press on Friday show Chatayev had arrived by ferry from Germany. He and two others in the car said they were heading to Norway to go fishing and meet friends.

Court documents show he denied knowing about the guns hidden in a spare wheel in the trunk. A local paper says he was freed from prison in January 2009.

]]> 0, 01 Jul 2016 12:33:23 +0000
Court orders trial for girl who texted boyfriend urging suicide Fri, 01 Jul 2016 15:32:53 +0000 BOSTON — A teenager who sent her boyfriend dozens of text messages encouraging him to take his own life and telling him to “get back in” a truck filled with carbon monoxide fumes must stand trial for involuntary manslaughter, the state’s highest court ruled Friday.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a grand jury had probable cause to indict Michelle Carter, then 17, in the 2014 death of Carter Roy III, 18.

Carter’s attorney had argued that her texts were free speech protected by the First Amendment and didn’t cause Roy to kill himself.

But the court said the grand jury heard evidence suggesting that Carter engaged in a “systematic campaign of coercion” that targeted Roy’s insecurities and that her instruction to “get back in” his truck in the final moments of his life was a “direct, causal link” to his death.

“In sum, we conclude that there was probable cause to show that the coercive quality of the defendant’s verbal conduct overwhelmed whatever willpower the 18-year-old victim had to cope with his depression, and that but for the defendant’s admonishments, pressure and instructions, the victim would not have gotten back into the truck and poisoned himself to death,” Justice Robert Cordy wrote for the court in the unanimous ruling.

The case drew national attention after transcripts of text messages Carter sent to Roy were released publicly, showing her urging him to follow through on his plan to kill himself and chastising him when he expressed doubts.

“I thought you wanted to do this. The time is right and you’re ready, you just need to do it!” Carter wrote in one message.

“You can’t think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don’t get why you aren’t,” she wrote in another message.

The teenagers had met in Florida two years earlier while visiting relatives. Their relationship largely consisted of text messages and emails. They hadn’t seen each other in more than a year when Roy died, even though they lived only about 50 miles apart in Massachusetts, Carter in Plainville, and Roy in Mattapoisett.

Roy’s grandmother Janice Roy said the family is happy Carter can be put on trial. “He was very vulnerable at that stage,” she said.

Carter’s attorney, Joseph Cataldo, argued that Roy was a depressed teenager who had previously tried to take his own life and was determined to finish the job this time. He said Carter shouldn’t have been charged with manslaughter because Massachusetts doesn’t have a law against encouraging or assisting suicide.

On Friday, Cataldo said he was surprised and disappointed by the court’s ruling. But he noted that the court didn’t weigh in on Carter’s guilt or innocence, but merely found there was enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial.

“At trial, it’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a much higher standard, and I’m confident that ultimately, after trial, Michelle Carter will be acquitted,” he said.

]]> 0, 01 Jul 2016 18:18:17 +0000
Yale professor facing drug charges after dog mauling death Fri, 01 Jul 2016 14:38:43 +0000 NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A Yale Medical School professor whose dogs mauled a Connecticut woman to death is facing drug charges.

WTNH-TV reports Hamilton Hicks will be in New Haven court Friday. Police say he had three bags of crack cocaine in his possession during the June 20 dog attack that killed 53-year-old Jocelyn Winfrey.

The 36-year old Hicks has not been charged in the dog attack, however. Police say they’ve closed their investigation, and the dogs were properly registered and vaccinated.

Winfrey had been visiting Hicks’ home when the dogs attacked. Hicks tried unsuccessfully to pull the dogs off Winfrey, who later succumbed to her injuries.

WTNH-TV says the dogs will be euthanized next week. Hicks and Yale Medical School haven’t commented.

]]> 1, 01 Jul 2016 11:05:10 +0000
Fourth-generation owner of landmark New York pizzeria shot to death Fri, 01 Jul 2016 14:31:54 +0000 NEW YORK — Authorities in New York are investigating the shooting death of the owner of a landmark Brooklyn pizzeria.

Police say L&B Spumoni Gardens owner Louis Barbati was shot twice in the torso in the backyard of his home in Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights section Thursday night. The 61-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene. Neighbors reported hearing several shots around 7 p.m.

Police are still searching for the gunman, who is believed to be in his 30s and wearing a black hoodie.

L&B Spumoni Gardens has been in business since 1939 and has been run by the Barbati family for four generations. It is known for its Sicilian pies and has been featured on several food shows.

]]> 0 Fri, 01 Jul 2016 10:43:24 +0000
France, Britain commemorate the deadliest battle of WWI Fri, 01 Jul 2016 12:38:12 +0000 THIEPVAL, France — One week after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, British Prime Minister David Cameron and members of the royal family were standing side-by-side with France’s president to celebrate their historic alliance at the centenary of the deadliest battle of World War I.

More than 1 million people were killed, wounded or went missing in the Battle of the Somme in northern France, pitting British and French troops against German ones from July 1 to Nov. 18, 1916.

Britain held a moment of silence Friday morning to mark 100 years since the bloodiest day of British military history — about 20,000 British soldiers alone were killed on the first day of battle.

The main ceremony started with the sound of cannon shots shortly after noon Friday at the monumental Memorial of Thiepval in northern France with the participation of 600 British and French children. Each of them laid a flower crown on the 600 British and French graves of the cemetery.

Many descendants of soldiers, often wearing poppy and cornflower pins — the British and French symbols to remember those who died— were attending the event.

Guests and dignitaries, including French President Francois Hollande, Cameron and Britain’s Prince Charles read texts describing the horrific scenes and the devastated landscapes of the front line in 1916.

The very solemn ceremony turned moving when French, British and Irish songs inspired by the war were sung.

The Memorial of Thiepval, built in 1932 by the British government, is dedicated to the 73,367 British and South African soldiers missing in the Somme area during World War I. Thousands of petals of poppies and cornflowers were released from the top of the monument in complete silence.

No speeches were programmed during the ceremony and Hollande and Cameron were not expected to speak publicly, yet they might hold informal discussions at lunch.

Despite the British vote to leave the EU and their opposite political views, the Socialist Hollande and the conservative Cameron wanted to seize the occasion to stress their World War I alliance and show their attachment to the ideas underpinning European unity.

“In many ways, there is a link between the current events we’re discussing and what happened 100 years ago. It’s the importance of keeping peace and security and stability on our continent,” Cameron told members of Parliament on Wednesday. “We’re going to be standing together and remembering the sacrifices all those years ago.”

Others at Friday’s event included Prince Charles’ wife Camilla, his sons Prince William and Prince Harry and William’s wife Kate, Irish President Michael D. Higgins and former German President Horst Koehler.

“History connects us,” Hollande said Wednesday at a tense and emotional EU summit focused on how to cope with Britain’s departure. “France and the United Kingdom are very close, connected by a tunnel, with a very significant presence of French people in the United Kingdom and of British people in France. … And we have with the British a very close economic relationship.”

British commuters were met by the eerie sight of WWI soldiers in uniforms as they made their way to work on Friday. Young men in vintage uniforms sat, stood and mingled with travelers at railway stations across the country during the morning rush hour. Some sang wartime songs, while others handed out cards bearing the names of the soldiers killed on the first day of the battle and the hashtag #wearehere.

Later Friday, Charles and Camilla will pay tribute to Northern Irish and Canadian soldiers in two separate events in Thiepval and in the nearby village of Beaumont-Hamel.

Last month, Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel commemorated together the centenary of the Battle of Verdun, the longest battle of World War I. The leaders praised their countries’ friendship, risen from the ashes of two world wars and strengthened through EU cooperation.

]]> 0, 01 Jul 2016 09:22:59 +0000
Fatal Tesla crash could slow automakers’ race toward driverless cars Fri, 01 Jul 2016 10:09:58 +0000 DETROIT — It was the crash the auto industry knew was coming but still feared.

The death of a driver who was using Tesla Motors’ semi-autonomous mode could add to the public’s apprehension of driverless cars even before they reach the road in big numbers. Most major automakers and technology companies, including Google and Uber, are working on fully autonomous cars, and have worried that a highly publicized crash could hurt those efforts.

Joshua D. Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio, died in the accident May 7 in Williston, Florida. According to a Tesla statement issued Thursday, the cameras on Brown’s Tesla Model S failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky and didn’t automatically activate its brakes. Brown didn’t take control and activate the brakes either, Tesla said.

Brown was an enthusiastic booster of his 2015 Tesla Model S and in an April video he posted online he credited its sophisticated Autopilot system for avoiding a crash when a commercial truck swerved into his lane on an interstate.

Automakers and analysts have said they need to be careful as they introduce more and more semi-autonomous features, from automatic braking to adaptive cruise control. People can quickly learn to rely on them, or assume they work better than they actually do. The possibility of a fatal accident was always a concern.

“For years people have been saying the technology is ready, and it’s one of my pet peeves, because no it’s not,” said Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina and an expert on autonomous driving issues.

Tesla stressed that its Autopilot system is new, noting that drivers must manually enable it and that they “must maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle” while using the system.

“Autopilot is getting better all the time, but it is not perfect and still requires the driver to remain alert,” the Palo Alto, California-based company said in a statement.

Karl Brauer, a senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book, said the accident is a huge hit to Tesla’s reputation.

“They have been touting their safety and they have been touting their advanced technology,” he said. “This situation flies in the face of both.”

Tesla’s shares dropped 3 percent in after-hours trading to $206.25 after the government said it would investigate how Tesla’s Autopilot system performed at the time of the crash.

But beyond Tesla, the accident could increase public skepticism about semi-autonomous and autonomous driving. In a survey released last month by the University of Michigan, two-thirds of drivers said they are moderately or very concerned about riding in a self-driving vehicle. Just 16 percent of the 618 drivers surveyed said they would rather ride in a self-driving car.

Walker Smith said it was inevitable that a semi-autonomous or autonomous car would crash. The Brown crash can help focus the discussion of regulators and others on driverless technology and its limitations, he said. It could also remind drivers that the technology isn’t perfect and they need to stay alert.

But Walker Smith said it would be unfortunate if public sentiment swung so far against driverless cars that people would never benefit from their lifesaving potential. On the day the Tesla driver died, he said, approximately 100 other people died on U.S. roads. No one knows how many of those deaths could have been prevented by cars that could predict crashes before they happen and brake by themselves.

“Driving today is dangerous, and there is no panacea. Every solution creates its own set of problems,” Smith said.

]]> 5, 01 Jul 2016 07:52:47 +0000
Former London mayor ends bid for prime minister Fri, 01 Jul 2016 00:15:48 +0000 LONDON — Britain’s victorious anti-EU campaigner Boris Johnson saw his chances of leading his country evaporate Thursday after the defection of a key ally.

The former London mayor dropped his campaign to become Conservative Party leader and prime minister after Justice Secretary Michael Gove abruptly withdrew his support for Johnson and announced he would run himself.

Johnson, a prominent campaigner for Britain’s withdrawal from the 28-nation European Union, told a news conference where he was expected to announce his candidacy that the next Conservative leader would need to unite the party and ensure Britain’s standing in the world.

“Having consulted colleagues and in view of the circumstances in Parliament, I have concluded that person cannot be me,” he said to the astonishment of gathered journalists and supporters.

Johnson paraphrased Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” saying it was “a time not to fight against the tide of history but to take that tide at the flood and sail on to fortune.” It appeared to be a dig at Gove – the reference is to a line spoken by Brutus, the Roman leader’s ally turned assassin.

Others drew a more contemporary parallel.

“It makes ‘House of Cards’ look like ‘Teletubbies,”‘ Conservative lawmaker Nigel Evans told the BBC.

Johnson’s departure makes Gove and Home Secretary Theresa May the favorites among five contenders to lead the Conservatives.

It is an unexpected twist in a career that has seen the 52-year-old Johnson serve as journalist, lawmaker and mayor, building a public profile on Latin quips, cycling and rumpled eccentricity while nurturing a poorly concealed ambition to lead his country.

Johnson’s decision to break with longtime ally Prime Minister David Cameron and back the “leave” side in Britain’s EU referendum seemed to have paid off when Cameron announced he would resign after last week’s vote in favor of exiting the bloc. The announcement triggered a Conservative leadership race in which Johnson was expected be a front-runner.

]]> 7, 01 Jul 2016 07:58:13 +0000
Palestinian kills Israeli teenager while she sleeps Thu, 30 Jun 2016 23:59:20 +0000 JERUSALEM — A Palestinian youth sneaked into a fortified Jewish settlement in the West Bank on Thursday, broke into a home and stabbed to death a 13-year-old Israeli-American girl as she slept in bed before frantic security guards arrived and killed him.

The girl, identified as Hallel Yaffa Ariel, became the youngest Israeli victim of a nine-month wave of violence that has seen dozens of Palestinian attacks.

The early-morning stabbing, carried out by a 17-year-old Palestinian high school dropout, was among the most brazen attacks so far, drawing angry accusations and calls from Israeli leaders for the world to condemn the incident.

Israel has a large community of dual American citizens, numbering in the tens of thousands.

]]> 2 Thu, 30 Jun 2016 19:59:20 +0000
Likely oldest living porter dies at 106 Thu, 30 Jun 2016 23:56:07 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Lee Wesley Gibson, believed to have been the oldest living Pullman porter, died as he lived – calm, quiet and in control – sitting in a chair at home Saturday with family members at his side.

Gibson was 106 years old.

“He had just celebrated his birthday five weeks earlier and he thanked everyone,” said friend Rosalind Stevenson.

Gibson began work as a coach attendant with Union Pacific Railroad in 1936. He was later promoted to Pullman porter, one of the uniformed railway men who served first-class passengers. It was a much-coveted job for African-Americans.

During a 38-year career, Gibson traveled the country, rubbing shoulders with celebrities and taking pride in the role. Porters were required to respond to the name “George” after the founder of the Pullman Palace Car Co., George Pullman.

“It was hard, but it was fun,” Gibson told the Los Angeles Times in a 2010 interview.

Gibson purchased a new family home in 1945 in South Los Angeles and lived in it until his death.

Lee Gibson was born May 21, 1910, in Keatchie, La. After his parents separated, his mother moved with the children to Marshall, Texas.

In 1927, he married Beatrice Woods, his wife of 76 years. They had four children.

Gibson worked various jobs until 1936, when a church deacon who worked for the Union Pacific Railroad asked Gibson’s wife if her husband would be interested in a job on the trains.

Pullman ended operation of sleeping cars in 1968 and its porters were transferred to Union Pacific and Amtrak. Gibson retired from the railroad in 1974, but kept working in business and as a volunteer.

Most recently, Gibson was featured in a TV commercial for Dodge titled “Wisdom,” which honored centenarians.

]]> 1 Fri, 01 Jul 2016 07:58:54 +0000
Algae threatens Florida’s Atlantic beaches Thu, 30 Jun 2016 23:55:12 +0000 STUART, Fla. — A smelly, “guacamole-thick” muck is fouling a stretch of beaches promoted as Florida’s “Treasure Coast,” where lawmakers and residents blame the federal government, saying the algae crisis is fueled by freshwater flows controlled by Army officials to protect an erosion-prone dike.

The blue-green algae is the latest contaminant featured in yearslong arguments over water flowing from Lake Okeechobee, which is critical to South Florida’s water supply and flood control systems.

At Central Marine boat docks in Stuart, pea-green and brown algae coated the water Thursday and smelled like cow manure. Blooms that started last week in the St. Lucie River continue to spread, threatening Atlantic beaches expecting crowds for the holiday weekend.

Sarah Chaney, a receptionist at Central Marine, said boaters and fisherman are canceling reservations after seeing reports of the algae, which she called “horrible and disgusting.”

“I would describe them as guacamole-thick. And it stinks,” said Gabriella Ferrero, spokeswoman for Martin County.

Florida’s U.S. senators, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson, have joined Martin County commissioners in calling for the Army Corps of Engineers to stop the flow of water between the river and lake.

Residents and business owners blame the algae on pollutants streaming from the lake.

In a news release Thursday afternoon, the Corps said it would begin reducing the flow from the lake Friday.

After touring the St. Lucie River as it passes through downtown Stuart, Nelson said the problems can be traced to Florida’s history of diverting water to the ocean.

“We need to repair 75 years of diking and draining, but that takes time,” he said. He called on Florida’s Legislature to spend money approved by state voters for environmental projects, such as purchasing land around Lake Okeechobee for water storage instead of diverting the funds to pay for administrative costs. Rubio will visit the area Friday.

When Gov. Rick Scott declared a state emergency for the area Wednesday, he blamed the federal government for neglecting repairs to the lake’s aging dike that’s considered one of the country’s most at-risk for imminent failure.

Some residents blamed Scott instead. He hasn’t done enough to curb pollution from farms north of the lake or purchase land farther south where lake waters could be stored and cleaned, said Irene Gomes, owner of the Driftwood Motel in Jensen Beach.

]]> 0, 01 Jul 2016 07:59:15 +0000
Driver of Tesla killed with car on autopilot Thu, 30 Jun 2016 23:36:07 +0000 A Tesla driver was killed in a collision in Florida with a tractor trailer while the vehicle was in “Autopilot” mode, the car maker announced Thursday.

It is the first known fatality in more than 130 million miles driven with autopilot activated, Tesla said in a statement which also expressed condolences to the driver’s family.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it was investigating the fatality to see if the autopilot system was to blame. But Tesla acknowledged that the accident might have been the fault of the computer.

“NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation will examine the design and performance of the automated driving systems in use at the time of the crash,” administration spokesman Bryan Thomas said in a statement. “During the Preliminary Evaluation, NHTSA will gather additional data regarding this incident and other information regarding the automated driving systems.”

The crash occurred May 7 when Joshua David Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio, was behind the wheel of his black 2015 Model S Tesla, while in Autopilot mode on Route-27 in Williston, Florida, and hit the side of a tractor trailer that was crossing the road to make a turn.

“Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied,” Tesla said in a blog post entitled “A Tragic Loss.”

The Model S passed under the trailer, crushing the top of the car and the windshield. “Had the Model S impacted the front or rear of the trailer, even at high speed, its advanced crash safety system would likely have prevented serious injury as it has in numerous other similar incidents,” Tesla said.

]]> 2 Thu, 30 Jun 2016 19:36:07 +0000
Pentagon ends ban on transgender service members Thu, 30 Jun 2016 23:20:42 +0000 Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter repealed the Pentagon’s long-held ban on transgender people serving in the military Thursday, ending a year-long process that was bogged down by internal conflict and concerns among senior service officials about how the change could be made.

Carter said at a news conference that the policy change will take place over the next 12 months, beginning with guidance issued to current transgender service members and their commanders, followed by training for the entire military. Beginning Thursday, however, service members can no longer be involuntarily separated from the services solely on the basis of being transgender, he said.

“Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who can best accomplish the mission,” Carter said. “We have to have access to 100 percent of America’s population for our all-volunteer forces to be able to recruit from among them the most highly qualified — and to retain them.”

The decision marks the latest way in which the military has blazed new trails in the last few years on issues that have divided the country. In 2011, the Obama administration repealed the “don’t ask, don’t tell,” policy that prohibited gay service members from serving openly. More recently, Carter lifted a ban on women serving in units in ground combat assignments last year.

For decades, the Pentagon considered transgender people to be sexual deviants who had to be discharged from service. The military decided last year to move the authority to discharge to higher ranking commanders, making it tougher to force out those came out as transgender. Still, many service members have been living in limbo.

The Pentagon chief said that a Rand Corp. study commissioned by the military found that there are currently about 2,500 transgender service members among the 1.3 million active-duty members of the military, and an additional 1,500 among reserve units.

The “upper end of their range of estimates” found that there about 7,000 transgender troops on active duty and 4,000 in the reserves, Carter said. Other organizations studying sexuality, such as the Palm Center, have found that were about 15,500 transgender service members a few years ago, and 12,800 now due to reductions in the overall size of the force.

In a sign of how much the country has changed, there was a relatively muted reaction to the announcement on Capitol Hill, with critics of the change saying they were unlikely to mount an effort to stop the administration.

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R.-Calif., a Marine Corps veteran who played a key role in a failed effort five years ago to slow the demise of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” discussed what to do with his staff and decided it was better to focus on other issues, according to his chief of staff, Joe Kasper.

“He’s thought about it. We talked about it,” Kasper said. “But he’d likely be alone in the effort. On these issues – most members won’t touch them with a 10-foot pole. Hunter will, but if he can’t get others on board.”

Rep. Mac Thornberry, R.-Texas, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called Carter’s decision the latest example of the Pentagon and President Obama prioritizing politics over policy.

“Our military readiness — and hence, our national security — is dependent on our troops being medically ready and deployable,” he said in a statement. “The Administration seems unwilling or unable to assure Congress and the American people that transgender individuals will meet these individual readiness requirements at a time when our Armed Forces are deployed around the world.”

The details of the transgender policy change appeared to strike a compromise between some issues at play. Notably, transgender people who want to join the military will be required to wait 18 months after a doctor certifies that they are stable in their new gender before they can enlist. Defense officials familiar with the discussions have said that the Army and Marine Corps pressed to wait two years, while the Navy and Air Force thought 12 months were sufficient.

Carter, who appeared Thursday without any military leaders in uniform alongside him, said the decision to make the change in policy was his. But he added that he tried to build consensus among military officials before forging ahead.

“I have a general principle around here, which is that it’s important that people who have to implement decisions be part of the decision making, and the armed services are the one who are going to have to implement that,” he said. “They’ve been a part of this study, but now they are a critical part of implementation.”

The decision was greeted with jubilation from existing transgender service members, who have lived in an awkward world over the last year in which Carter acknowledged their difficulties, but no policy change had been made.

“We all knew the change was coming ever since he acknowledged our service,” said Staff Sgt. Patricia King, a transgender member of the Army infantry who recently was assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Her new unit was prepared for her when she arrived and has treated her warmly, she said.

“All they saw was a soldier and woman ready to do her job,” King said.

Many policy details still need to be decided, however. Over the next 90 days, the Pentagon will follow up by completing and issuing a commander’s guidebook for leading current transgender service members and medical guidance to military doctors for providing gender transition care if required for those already in uniform. The Defense Department also will immediately initiate changes so that transgender troops can alter their gender in personnel management systems.

Beginning in October, the services will begin training rank-and-file service members about the change. By no later than next July, the military services will begin allowing transgender service members who meet all standards to openly join the military, provided that they are considered stable in their identified gender for 18 months, as certified by their doctor and verified by a military doctor.

Following Carter’s announcement, the Defense Department released a new 18-page document outlining one of the most complicated issues involved: Swapping genders while serving on active duty. It calls for the Pentagon and the military departments to institute policies by which service members can do so, and states that if a military medical provider determines it is necessary they will receive treatment.

“Commanders will assess expected impacts on mission and readiness after consideration of the advice of military medical providers and will address such impacts in accordance with this issuance,” the document states. It adds that commanders “will not accommodate biases against transgender individuals.”

Carter had progressively faced more pressure from advocates for the ban’s repeal over the last few months. He announced last July that he was forming a working group to study the issue over the following six months, but the deliberations extended for more than a year as service officials raised a variety of concerns.

Defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal Pentagon discussions, said that commanders will have significant discretion in making sense of how and when gender transition for a service member will occur, particularly if there is gender reassignment surgery involved.

“Each case is going to be unique, and each piece of treatment is going to be subject to decisions not only by doctors, but by commanders,” one official said.

“To do this successfully, it will require understanding, coordination, and discipline,” said Lt. Col. Eric Dent, a Marine Corps spokesman. “As we develop our implementation plan, we will pay particular attention to maintaining our readiness and standards, while respecting those who share the esprit de corps to serve as Marines. We fight and win as a team. In that, we will continue to treat all Marines with dignity and respect.”

]]> 25, 01 Jul 2016 08:22:18 +0000
U.K. stock rebound seen as deceptive Thu, 30 Jun 2016 23:12:47 +0000 LONDON — Don’t be fooled: The rebound in Britain’s main stock market to where it was before the vote to leave the European Union does not mean all is now fine for the country’s economy.

The index is dominated by multinationals that do not reflect the national economy, which the Bank of England’s chief said Thursday would need more monetary stimulus after last week’s vote plunged Britain into an existential crisis and opened up new uncertainties for businesses.

“The bank has identified the clouds on the horizon,” Mark Carney said in a speech. “The economic outlook has deteriorated and some monetary policy easing will likely be required over the summer.”

That could mean a cut to interest rates or an injection of billions more into the financial system at the next meeting in two weeks.

He warned, however, that the central bank could not protect the country entirely from an economic shock. And he stressed it was important for the government to have a plan in how to navigate the country through uncertainty – a thinly veiled dig at the disarray engulfing Britain’s main political parties.

Britain’s economy is facing a drop in investment among businesses as it remains unclear what trade relationship Britain will have with the rest of the EU. Some have frozen hiring and issued warnings that their earnings will be lower than expected. Others are considering relocating some jobs to mainland Europe.

Carney’s highly anticipated speech came as the FTSE 100 index rebounded to levels above where it was before last week’s vote. Some politicians interpreted that as evidence that there is renewed optimism about the country’s future, even outside the EU.

The FTSE 100 was up 2.3 percent Thursday at 6,504, above the 6,338 level before the vote.

The index, however, is a poor indicator for the U.K. economy, experts say, as many of its listed companies are multinationals that do most of their business outside the country and benefit from the pound’s big slide since the vote, include an 11 percent drop against the dollar.

Oil companies BP and Royal Dutch Shell make their money in dollars, the currency in which crude is priced internationally. So when they bring that money back to Britain and translate it into pounds, their revenues will be higher..

]]> 0, 01 Jul 2016 08:00:51 +0000
Adnan Syed of ‘Serial’ podcast is granted new trial Thu, 30 Jun 2016 21:20:14 +0000 BALTIMORE — After spending 16 years in prison for the killing of his former high school girlfriend, the man at the center of popular podcast “Serial” has a chance at freedom.

Retired Baltimore Circuit Judge Martin Welch ruled Thursday that Adnan Syed, 35, deserved a new trial because his lawyer didn’t challenge testimony in the case that became the focus of the podcast, which captivated millions of listeners around the world.

Syed was convicted in 2000 of murdering Hae Min Lee a year earlier and burying her in a shallow grave in a park in northwest Baltimore. He was sentenced to life in prison.

During a post-conviction hearing in early February, Syed’s attorneys argued he deserved a retrial on the grounds that his original attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, did not contact Asia McClain Chapman, an alibi witness who said she saw Syed at the Woodlawn library about the same time prosecutors say Lee was murdered.

Syed’s current attorneys also argued that cell tower data linking Syed’s phone to the burial site on the day of Lee’s murder was misleading because it was presented to jurors without a cover sheet warning that incoming call data was unreliable.

In Welch’s order, he disagreed that Gutierrez erred when she failed to contact Chapman, or that prosecutors breached their duty by withholding exculpatory evidence. But Welch did agree that Syed’s attorney provided “ineffective assistance for the failure to cross-examine the state’s cell tower expert about the reliability of cell tower location evidence” that placed him near the burial site.

The state had argued that because Syed didn’t raise the issue of his trial attorney’s failure to cross-examine the state’s cell tower expert in a prior proceeding, he waived his right to make it an issue now. But the judge ruled that Syed didn’t “intelligently or knowingly” waive his right to raise the issue, noting that he never completed his high school degree.

“Requiring a layman who lacks a complete high school education to understand the intricacies of cellular network design and the legal ramifications of trial counsel’s failures to challenge the evidence would be inconsistent with the spirit of the Sixth Amendment,” the judge wrote.

The judge said the attorney’s performance “fell below the standard of reasonable professional judgment” when she failed to confront the state’s expert about the reliability of the cell tower evidence.

Syed’s attorney, Justin Brown, trumpeted the news in a tweet Thursday afternoon: “WE WON A NEW TRIAL FOR ADNAN SYED!!! #FreeAdnan.”

At a news conference, Brown said he “fully expects” the state to appeal the judge’s decision. But he said he and the rest of the defense team have “dug our heels in” and remain determined to fight on Adnan Syed’s behalf, including requesting that Syed be released from jail while he awaits retrial.

“This is obviously an incredible victory,” he said. “We know the state is not going to give up, and we’re ready.”

Brown said earning a new trial in Baltimore is “very difficult.”

“This was us getting over the hill,” he said. “There’s a lot more work to be done, but we’re feeling pretty confident.”

Calls, emails and text messages to officials in the state attorney general’s office were not immediately returned.

During the extensive hearing, defense attorneys and prosecutors called witnesses and vigorously cross-examined others.

Chapman spent nearly two days on the stand, testifying she and Syed spent about 15 minutes chatting in the library on Jan. 13, 1999, but that despite repeated efforts to reach Syed’s defense team at the time with an offer to be an alibi, she was never contacted. Chapman wrote a pair of letters and sent them to Syed in jail days after the man’s arrest, detailing their meeting.

This was Syed’s second attempt at a new trial. Welch denied the earlier post-conviction relief bid in 2014 after determining that Gutierrez’s decision not to pursue Chapman was the result of reasonable trial strategy, not neglect.

In his Thursday order, Welch reiterated his stance that failing to contact Chapman didn’t constitute a failure of duty because her testimony, which pertained to the time of the Lee’s murder, had little to do with Syed’s defense strategy — instead pertaining primarily to the timeline of Lee’s murder.

Brown also called witnesses to testify that cell tower data — an important piece of the state’s case against Syed — should have never been presented to jurors without an instruction sheet warning that any incoming call data is inconclusive.

Brown showed the judge an affidavit from the radio frequency technician who testified at Syed’s trial for the prosecution that said his testimony would have been different had he seen the instruction sheet prior to taking the stand. But prosecutors countered that the instructions didn’t pertain to any relevant data placing Syed’s phone in Leakin Park during the time Lee was buried.

This was the issue that persuaded Welch to grant Syed a new trial.

The judge wrote, “there is a substantial possibility that the result of the proceeding would have been different but for trial counsel’s failure to cross-examine the State cell tower witness about the disclaimer.”

The podcast, which debuted in the winter of 2014, attracted millions of listeners and shattered records for the number of times a podcast has been streamed and downloaded. The loyal army of listeners often acted as armchair detectives, uncovering new evidence and raising new questions about the case.

When asked if Syed would have likely won a new trial without the fanfare surrounding “Serial,” Brown said, “I don’t think so.”

But in his ruling Welch directly addressed the issue.

“Regardless of the public interest surrounding this case, the court used its best efforts to address the merits of the petitioner’s petition for post-conviction relief like it would in any other case that comes before the court; unfettered by sympathy, prejudice or public opinion,” he wrote.

In a footnote, he added that he didn’t listen to the podcast because it is not part of the evidentiary record.

]]> 0, 01 Jul 2016 07:54:26 +0000
Farmers, lumberjacks, fishermen are occupations with highest suicide rates Thu, 30 Jun 2016 19:23:18 +0000 NEW YORK — Farmers, lumberjacks and fishermen kill themselves most often, according to a large new study of workers in the U.S. that showed enormous differences of suicide rates across jobs.

Researchers found the highest suicide rates in manual laborers who work in isolation and face unsteady employment. High rates were also seen in carpenters, miners, electricians and people who work in construction. Mechanics were close behind.

Dentists, doctors and other health care professionals had an 80 percent lower suicide rate than the farmers, fishermen and lumberjacks.

The lowest rate was in teachers, educators and librarians.

Thursday’s report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is perhaps the largest U.S. study to compare suicide rates among occupations. But it is not comprehensive. It only covers 17 states, looking at about 12,300 of the more than 40,000 suicide deaths reported in the entire nation in 2012.

Because of the limited data, they could only calculate suicide rates for broad occupation categories, but not for specific jobs. The categories, which sometimes seem to group professions that have little to do with each other, like athletes and artists, are based on federal classifications used for collecting jobs-related data.

So it’s not clear what the suicide rate is just for farmers. Or for mathematicians. Or journalists.

Suicide is the nation’s 10th leading cause of death. Public attention often focuses on teens and college students, but the highest numbers and rates are in middle-aged adults. Suicide is far more common in males, and the rankings largely reflect the male suicide rates for each group.

The highest female suicide rate was seen in the category that includes police, firefighters and corrections officers. The second highest rate for women was in the legal profession.

It’s not the first time a suicide problem has been noted for some of the jobs. In the 1980s, media reports detailed high suicide rates in Midwestern farmers. That was attributed to a tough economy and farmers use of pesticides that scientists have theorized may cause symptoms of depression.

The CDC’s occupational suicide list:

1. Farmworkers, fishermen, lumberjacks, others in forestry or agriculture; 85 per 100,000.

2. Carpenters, miners, electricians, construction trades; 53.

3. Mechanics and those who do installation, maintenance, repair; 48.

4. Factory and production workers; 35.

5. Architects, engineers; 32

6. Police, firefighters, corrections workers, others in protective services; 31.

7. Artists, designers, entertainers, athletes, media; 24.

8. Computer programmers, mathematicians, statisticians; 23.

9. Transportation workers; 22

10. Corporate executives and managers, advertising and public relations; 20

11. Lawyers and workers in legal system; 19

12. Doctors, dentists, and other health care professionals; 19

13. Scientists and lab technicians; 17

14. Accountants, others in business, financial operations; 16

15. Nursing, medical assistants, health care support; 15

16. Clergy, social workers, other social service workers; 14

17. Real estate agents, telemarketers, sales; 13

18. Building and ground, cleaning, maintenance; 13

19. Cooks, food service workers; 13

20. Childcare workers, barbers, animal trainers, personal care and service; 8

21. Office workers, administrative support; 8

22. Education, training, librarians; 8

]]> 1, 30 Jun 2016 16:32:11 +0000
NYC could follow Boston’s lead with sunscreen dispensers in parks Thu, 30 Jun 2016 18:49:04 +0000 NEW YORK — New York City’s comptroller has proposed placing free sunscreen dispensers at all city public parks, beaches, pools and playgrounds to help reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Comptroller Scott Stringer made his proposal in a policy brief released Wednesday.

“Skin cancer is a serious public health concern, and it demands government attention,” he said.

The dispensers could be installed “at virtually no cost” to the city through public-private partnerships, said Stringer.

He said New York City should look closely at similar programs that are run by Boston and Miami Beach.

Boston’s program is funded by public health organizations. It has about 20 free sunscreen dispensers in city parks and plans to expand the program this summer.

In Miami Beach, the city has a licensing agreement with a private company that operates the dispensers to produce Miami Beach brand sunscreen at no cost to taxpayers.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 5.4 million skin cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

Stringer said research shows that 30-plus SPF sunscreen can provide necessary protections against the sun’s harmful rays and drastically reduce the risk of skin cancer.

The New York Times reports that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said it would review Stringer’s proposal.

]]> 0 Thu, 30 Jun 2016 14:49:04 +0000
NASA spacecraft nears Jupiter, to begin yearlong orbit Thu, 30 Jun 2016 15:07:07 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Jupiter takes center stage with the arrival next week of a NASA spacecraft built to peek through its thick, swirling clouds and map the planet from the inside out.

The solar-powered Juno spacecraft is on the final leg of a five-year, 1.8 billion-mile voyage to the biggest planet in the solar system.

Juno promises to send back the best close-up views as it circles the planet for a year. Jupiter is a gas giant made up mostly of hydrogen and helium unlike rocky Earth and its neighbor Mars. The fifth planet from the sun likely formed first and it could hold clues to how the solar system developed.

As Juno approaches Jupiter late Monday, it will fire its main rocket engine to slow down and slip into orbit around the planet. This carefully orchestrated move, all preprogrammed, is critical because Juno will zip past Jupiter if it fails to brake. The engine burn — lasting about a half hour — is designed to put Juno on a path that loops over Jupiter’s poles.

Since it takes 48 minutes for radio signals from Jupiter to reach Earth, mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory won’t be able to intervene if something goes awry. They’ll watch for beeps from Juno that’ll signal whether the engine burn is going as planned.

Spacecraft have visited Jupiter since the 1970s, but there are still plenty of questions left unanswered. How much water does the planet have? Is there a dense core? Why is its signature Great Red Spot — a hurricane-like storm that has been raging for centuries — shrinking?

During the mission, Juno will peer through Jupiter’s dense clouds, flying within 3,100 miles, closer than any other spacecraft.

Earlier visitors included the Voyagers and Pioneers, Galileo, Ulysses, Cassini and most recently, New Horizons, which reached Pluto last year. Most were quick flybys en route to other destinations. Only Galileo — named for the Italian astronomer who discovered Jupiter’s large moons — orbited the massive planet and even released a probe.

Named after the cloud-piercing wife of the Roman god Jupiter, Juno carries nine instruments to map Jupiter’s interior and study its turbulent atmosphere. Also stowed aboard are three mini figures of Jupiter, Juno and Galileo designed by the Lego Group. The Italian Space Agency donated a plaque inscribed with Galileo’s writings.

Previous trips to Jupiter have relied on nuclear power because of the distance from the sun. Juno is the first spacecraft to venture this far out on solar power. Juno, about the size of an SUV, has three tractor-trailer-size solar wings that extend outward like blades from a windmill. The solar panels are designed to face the sun during most of the mission.

After its launch on Aug. 5, 2011, Juno took a roundabout journey to Jupiter, swinging around the inner solar system and using Earth as a gravity boost to the outer solar system.

The Hubble Space Telescope and other spacecraft have returned stunning pictures of Jupiter, including a new photo released Thursday of its northern lights. But scientists said the best views are yet to come. Juno will get in closer and will provide the most detailed look at the planet’s polar regions, clouds and auroras.

The camera onboard — the JunoCam — has been snapping pictures of Earth, Jupiter and its moons along the way. But the camera and other instruments were turned off this week to avoid any interference during the critical arrival. So there won’t be images at the nail-biting moment when Juno enters orbit around Jupiter.

The public can also vote on where to point the camera. NASA has said pictures from the mission won’t be publicly released until late August at the earliest.

Once Juno wraps up its work, it will deliberately dive into Jupiter’s atmosphere and burn up. The fiery finale — expected in 2018 — ensures that the spacecraft doesn’t accidentally crash into Jupiter’s moons, particularly the icy moon Europa, a prime target for future missions.

]]> 0, 30 Jun 2016 12:43:59 +0000
Navy report: U.S. sailors ill-prepared for Iran encounter in Gulf Thu, 30 Jun 2016 14:40:00 +0000 WASHINGTON – The 10 U.S. sailors captured and humiliated by Iran after mistakenly steering their boats into Iranian waters in January were beset not just by poor judgment and faulty equipment. They also showed a remarkable lack of curiosity about potential dangers in one of the world’s more dangerous waterways, according to an in-depth Navy investigation.

In deviating from their planned Persian Gulf route from Kuwait to Bahrain – without asking approval or notifying superiors – they passed an island to their east and wondered whether it might be Saudi territory, rocks or oil platforms. The crews of both boats consulted their navigation systems, which depicted the mass as a small purple dot.

Despite being unsure of their surroundings, the sailors did not adjust their on-board navigation displays to enlarge the purple dot; if they had, they would have seen that it was labeled Farsi Island, a well-known base for the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy.

“No crewmembers on either (boat) utilized a paper navigational chart in order to plot their exact location or to identify the island they had seen, even though the charts were available” on their boats, known as Riverine Command Boats, the investigation report said. No crewmember even bothered to log the fact that they had seen the island.

“Crewmembers lacked navigational awareness, proper communication with higher authority, and appreciation of the threat environment throughout the transit,” the report said.

A short time after coming within view of Farsi Island, one of the boats suffered an engine problem. Both boats cut their engines while the crew troubleshot the problem, even though standard procedure was to maneuver to a safe location using the unaffected engine. Neither boat captain ordered his gunners to stand lookout or to man their weapons for purposes of self- defense.

An estimated five to 15 minutes later, two armed Iranian boats approached from Farsi Island, about 1.6 miles away. The coxswain, or driver, of one of the Navy boats later told investigators he thought they were seeing “just people on the boats, nothing in my mind said they were Iranian or anyone like that or military, just normal boats.”


The Iranians boarded the U.S. boats, confronted the sailors at gunpoint and took them to Farsi Island, where they were fed, interrogated and kept overnight before being released after Washington intervened. The incident caused uproar in the United States, coming on the day of President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address. Republicans criticized the administration’s response, which included thanking Iran for releasing the sailors.

“The Navy investigation confirms what has been obvious from the beginning: that Iran’s obstruction, boarding, and seizure of sovereign U.S. Navy vessels at gunpoint and the detention, interrogation, and recording of 10 American sailors were flagrant violations of international law,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said. “Yet five months later, the administration has shamefully failed to retract its craven statements of gratitude and praise for Iran’s illegal behavior.”

The investigation concluded that while the boat crews erred in entering Iranian waters, the Iranians violated international law by impeding the boats’ “innocent passage,” and violated U.S. sovereign immunity by boarding and seizing the boats.

“Those boats and crewmembers had every right to be where they were that day,” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, told a Pentagon news conference, even though they got there by mistake.

Richardson outlined the investigation’s results but declined to go into some details, saying he must avoid being seen as influencing the outcome of disciplinary actions that in some cases have not been completed.


Six officers and three enlisted sailors have been disciplined or face disciplinary action. The report said the boat captains and crews were “derelict in performing their duties.” It also cited their “lack of preparedness and warfighting toughness,” while adding that those problems do not seem to be widespread within the Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Last week, the Navy announced the firing of Capt. Kyle Moses, who was commander of the Navy task force that was in charge of the boats during their mission. The officer who was executive officer of the squadron at the time of the incident, Cmdr. Eric Rasch, was removed from his position in May.

The partially censored Navy report cited instances of unnamed sailors violating the military’s code of conduct while in captivity. One sailor made “statements adverse to U.S. interests” during interrogation. A different sailor encouraged fellow crewmembers to eat food offered to them while being videotaped by the Iranians.

A sailor was said to have failed to uphold the code of conduct standards when he ordered crewmembers to cooperate with the Iranian video production and “acquiesced” in making an Iranian-scripted statement on camera in exchange for the crews’ release.

Officials said that as a result, the Navy is stepping up training in adherence to the code of conduct.

The trouble for Riverine Command Boats 802 and 805, each with five sailors aboard, began even before they left port in Kuwait Jan. 12 on a short-notice, 300-mile journey to Bahrain. They were delayed, unprepared, poorly supervised and ill-suited for the mission, the report said.

At least one sailor had been up all night with boat repairs. Their higher headquarters failed to arrange air or surface monitoring of the boats’ transit. Such monitoring “would likely have prevented” the sailors’ capture by the Iranians, according to the report.

Richardson said the scope of problems uncovered in the investigation was so great that the episode will become a case study.

“This will be something we can mine for a lot of lessons,” he said.

]]> 0, 30 Jun 2016 16:18:20 +0000
Report of shooter at Andrews Air Force Base turns out to be false alarm Thu, 30 Jun 2016 13:48:00 +0000 JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. – The military base outside Washington where the presidential plane Air Force One is stationed was temporarily locked down Thursday after an “active shooter” report that turned out to be a false alarm.

The report stemmed from someone who made a distress call after seeing security forces doing a routine inspection. The confusion was heightened by a planned active-shooter drill at Joint Base Andrews that had not yet begun. Officials said in a Facebook post Thursday that there was no shooter and no threat to the base or workers there.

The base about 20 miles from Washington was placed on lockdown about 9 a.m. About an hour and a half later, the military post tweeted that the lockdown had been lifted, except for the medical building where the active shooter was reported. In a later statement, the base confirmed there was no gunman and no threat to public safety.

“Fortunately, this was not a life-threatening situation,” Col. Brad Hoagland, 11th Wing and base commander, said in the post. “We take all threats seriously and reacted to ensure the security of those on the base.”

Joint Base Andrews is home to the presidential air fleet, and the president, vice president and other senior government officials fly in and out of the base. Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to leave from Andrews on Thursday morning, but his trip was delayed by the lockdown. Biden was due in Columbus, Ohio, for a midday campaign event for former Gov. Ted Strickland, who is running for Senate.

President Barack Obama was last at the base Wednesday night when he returned from a trip to Ottawa, Canada.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the situation was handled relatively well, despite the apparent communication problem that led to the false report.

“I think we need to pay attention to how to minimize the chances of false alarms like that,” Carter said. “At the same time, I think it’s important to have a reasonable level of awareness of the possibility of this kind of event and what to do, and I thought the response was strong and solid.”

Emergency vehicles in the area of the base had on lights Thursday, but no sirens. At least three people in camouflage and helmets could be seen walking working dogs around the three-story medical building. About 10:15 a.m., a few people could be seen walking out of the building, including a person being moved in a wheelchair.

Chris Grollneck, an active-shooter-prevention consultant who has worked on training at Army and Air Force bases, said the response to the report at Andrews was well-orchestrated and shows how much the military’s training for active-shooter situations has improved. He also said the person who reported the shooter should be praised for taking the “see something, say something” message seriously.

“There was no catastrophic failure,” Grollneck said. “Everybody took a pause, everybody evaluated what was going on and they started bouncing information off one another and realized there was no shooter.”

Rodney Smith, the patient advocate at the Andrews medical facility, said he knew about the scheduled active-shooter exercise but then got reports of a real shooter and was told to stay in place.

“First it was an active-shooter exercise. Then it came back ‘real world,”‘ Smith said by phone during the lockdown Thursday morning.

Nuckols reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield, Robert Burns and Eric Tucker in Washington.

This story has been corrected to show that Ted Strickland is a former, not current, governor of Ohio.

]]> 2, 30 Jun 2016 17:02:29 +0000
Roller coaster strands riders, 8 rescued Thu, 30 Jun 2016 13:34:37 +0000 OKLAHOMA CITY — No one was injured when a roller coaster at an Oklahoma City amusement park stalled out and stranded eight people, including seven children.

Oklahoma City Fire Department District Chief Benny Fulkerson says firefighters walked the stranded riders down a catwalk to safety Wednesday afternoon after the Frontier City ride became stuck.

The riders, which included children ages 7 to 15, were stranded on the coaster for about an hour Wednesday.

Fulkerson says the Silver Bullet roller coaster at Frontier City “just didn’t make it over a hill” and became stuck.

Fulkerson says power to the ride was shut off and the cars were chained to the rail before the stranded riders were escorted down one at a time.

]]> 0, 30 Jun 2016 09:54:43 +0000
Turkey says suicide attackers were from Russia, central Asia Thu, 30 Jun 2016 11:27:23 +0000 ISTANBUL – As the death toll from the Istanbul airport attack rose Thursday to 44, a senior Turkish official said the three suicide bombers who carried it out were from Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and police raided neighborhoods looking for suspects linked to the Islamic State group.

Turkish authorities have said all information suggested the Tuesday night attack on Ataturk Airport, one of the world’s busiest, was the work of the Islamic State, which boasted this week of having cells in Turkey, among other countries.

The police raided 16 locations in three neighborhoods on both the Asian and European sides of Istanbul, rounding up 13 people suspected of having links to the Islamic State group.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility by the militant group, which has used Turkey as a crossing point to establish itself in neighboring Syria and Iraq. The Islamic State group has repeatedly threatened Turkey in its propaganda publications, and the NATO member has blamed the group for several major bombings in the past year in both Ankara and Istanbul.

The senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because government regulations did not authorize him to talk to the media, said the attackers were from Russia and the Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. He could not confirm media reports that the Russian was from the restive Dagestan region in the Caucasus mountains.

A medical team was working around the clock to identify the attackers, the official said, noting their bodies had suffered extensive damage.

Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry denied that an attacker came from that country, saying its representatives had talked to Turkish officials who said the identities were still to be determined.

Asked about the possible involvement of a Russian in the attacks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had no information on the issue.

There was no comment from Uzbekistan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that between 5,000 and 7,000 people from Russia and other nations of the former Soviet Union have joined the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Many Muslims from Russia’s southern region of Chechnya have settled in Turkey since the time of the Chechen separatist wars, and Moscow has repeatedly accused Turkey of failing to cooperate in tracking down suspected terrorists.

People from Chechnya and other provinces in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region have had a visible presence among Islamic State fighters. Tarkhan Batirashvili, who took the nom de guerre Omar al Shishani, or Omar the Chechen, an ethnic Chechen from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, rose to the rank of a senior IS commander before he died of wounds suffered in a U.S. airstrike in Syria earlier this year. Al-Shishani served as a magnet for jihadi fighters from the former Soviet Union.

Turkish state media said the death toll in the attack rose to 44 after a 25-year-old airport worker succumbed to his wounds.

Interior Minister Efkan Ala said the dead included 19 foreigners. Dozens from the 230 people initially reported wounded are still hospitalized.

Two memorial services for victims were held at the airport, one of them honoring taxi drivers slain in the attack. Five funerals were held elsewhere, including for four members of the Amiri family.

Abdulmumin Amiri escaped death because he went to look for a taxi while his relatives watched their luggage. “At that time, the bomb went off,” he told The Associated Press. “I was about four or five meters away.”

Nilsu Ozmeric wept over the coffin of her fiancee, Jusuf Haznedaroglu, a 32-year-old airport worker who was fatally wounded in the attack while waiting for a bus to go home.

“The wedding was next week,” sobbed his mother, Cervinye Haznedaroglu, as visitors offered condolences.

In Paris, Deputy Mayor Bruno Julliard said the Eiffel Tower would be illuminated in the red and white colors of the Turkish flag to honor the victims in Istanbul and as “a reminder of the unbreakable support” of his city.

Unconfirmed details of the attack flooded Turkish media. The private Dogan news agency said the Russian attacker had entered the country one month ago and left his passport in a house the men had rented in the neighborhood of Fatih.

The Karar newspaper, quoting police sources, said the three attackers were part of a seven-member cell that entered Turkey on May 25. The assailants raised suspicions of airport security on the day of the attack because they wore winter jackets on a summer day, media reported.

Turkish media also praised police officer Yasin Duma as a hero. He was wounded in an exchange of gunfire with one of the attackers and reportedly saved many lives by shouting, “Bomb!” and alerting others to get away.

Turkey’s interior minister said the explosives were a mix of RDX, TNT and PETN that were “manufactured.” That combination is military-grade, raising the question of how the attackers obtained the bombs, said Jimmie Oxley, a chemist and explosives expert at the University of Rhode Island.

The Dogan news agency broadcast video of the Istanbul police raids showing a special forces team carrying what appeared to be a steel shield to protect it as it entered a building.

In separate police operations, nine suspects believed to be linked to the IS group were also detained in the coastal city of Izmir. It was not clear if the suspects had any links to the airport attack.

The Izmir raids unfolded simultaneously in the neighborhoods of Konak, Bucak, Karabaglar and Bornova, according to the Anadolu Agency. Police seized three hunting rifles and documents relating to the Islamic State.

The report said the suspects were in contact with IS militants in Syria and were engaged in “activities that were in line with the organization’s aims and interests,” including providing financial sources, recruits and logistical support.

On June 25, security forces killed two suspected IS militants trying to cross the border illegally after they ignored orders to stop, local media reported. One of the two militants was wanted on suspicion that he was planning a suicide attack in Ankara or the southern city of Adana, Anadolu said.

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Zeynep Bilginsoy, Bulut Emiroglu, Cinar Kiper and Bram Janssen in Istanbul, Lori Hinnant in Paris and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed reporting.

]]> 0, 30 Jun 2016 13:56:06 +0000
In shocking twist, Brexit champion Boris Johnson won’t seek party leadership Thu, 30 Jun 2016 11:04:53 +0000 LONDON – In a real-life political drama mixing Shakespearean tragedy with “House of Cards,” Britain’s victorious anti-EU campaigner Boris Johnson saw his chances of leading his country evaporate Thursday after the defection of a key ally.

The former London mayor dropped his campaign to become Conservative Party leader and prime minister after Justice Secretary Michael Gove abruptly withdrew his support for Johnson and announced he would run himself.

Johnson, a prominent campaigner for Britain’s withdrawal from the 28-nation European Union, told a news conference where he was expected to announce his candidacy that the next Conservative leader would need to unite the party and ensure Britain’s standing in the world.

“Having consulted colleagues and in view of the circumstances in Parliament, I have concluded that person cannot be me,” he said to the astonishment of gathered journalists and supporters.

Johnson paraphrased Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” saying it was “a time not to fight against the tide of history but to take that tide at the flood and sail on to fortune.” It appeared to be a dig at Gove – the reference is to a line spoken by Brutus, the Roman leader’s ally turned assassin.

Others drew a more contemporary parallel.

“It makes ‘House of Cards’ look like ‘Teletubbies,’ ” Conservative lawmaker Nigel Evans told the BBC.

Johnson’s departure makes Gove and Home Secretary Theresa May the favorites among five contenders to lead the Conservatives.

The decision by Johnson, 52, is an unexpected twist in a political career that saw him serve as journalist, lawmaker and mayor, building a public profile on Latin quips, cycling and rumpled eccentricity while nurturing a poorly concealed ambition to lead his country.

Johnson’s decision to break with longtime ally Prime Minister David Cameron and back the “leave” side in Britain’s EU referendum seemed to have paid off when Cameron announced he would resign after last week’s vote in favor of exiting the bloc.

Cameron’s announcement triggered a Conservative leadership race in which Johnson was expected be a front-runner, with Gove as his campaign manager.

The two men had campaigned together to yank Britain from the EU. But since their unexpected victory, they have been accused of failing to lay out concrete plans for Britain’s divorce from the EU.

Johnson addressed the issue in a Daily Telegraph column that seemed to say Britain would continue to enjoy most of the benefits of EU membership – a claim dismissed by European leaders as wildly unrealistic. That fueled concern among Conservatives who felt Johnson lacks the attention to detail to be a leader.

Gove, a former journalist on the Rupert Murdoch-owned Times newspaper, had long disclaimed any ambition to be Britain’s leader. Asked earlier this month if he would run, he said: “Count me out.”

Gove tried to explain the 180-degree turn Thursday, saying the country “needed someone who would be able to build a team, lead and unite.”

“Boris is an amazing and an impressive person, but I’ve realized in the last few days that Boris isn’t capable of building that team and providing that unity,” he said.

The first public signs of a split between Johnson and Gove came in an email from Gove’s wife, newspaper columnist Sarah Vine, obtained by Sky News on Wednesday. It suggested that Gove should ensure he had specific guarantees from Johnson before backing the latter’s bid. Vine added that influential media barons Murdoch and Paul Dacre, editor of the right-wing Daily Mail, “instinctively dislike” Johnson.

Steven Fielding, professor of politics at the University of Nottingham, said Johnson “wasn’t trusted enough by the people who really wield power in British politics – Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre.”

“Gove, as Rupert Murdoch’s representative in politics, basically knifed him,” Fielding said.

The drama was a reminder of the ruthlessness of internal politics in the Conservative Party, which has a history of overturning its leaders. Even its most successful prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, was ousted by her own party in 1990.

Britain’s main opposition Labour Party is also in turmoil, but is finding it harder to change its leadership. Party chief Jeremy Corbyn is under intense pressure to resign after losing a confidence vote among his lawmakers. He says he still has the support of the party rank-and-file and of several influential trade unions.

By Thursday, the situation had reached a stalemate: Corbyn would not resign and no Labour legislator had yet come forward to challenge him.

Apart from Gove and May, contenders for the Conservative leadership are Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb, Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom and former Defense Secretary Liam Fox.

Conservative lawmakers will choose two finalists before more than 100,000 party members select the winner in a postal ballot. The result will be announced on Sept. 9.

The bookies’ early favorite is 59-year-old May, who is seen by many in the party as a safe pair of hands as the country struggles to disentangle itself from the EU. Her six years as Britain’s interior minister, considered one of the toughest jobs in politics, gives her credibility to deal with the EU on the issue of immigration, sure to be one of the thorniest topics in the exit talks.

Although May supported remaining in the EU during the referendum campaign, she said she would respect the result of the vote.

“The United Kingdom will leave the EU,” she said, pledging to create a new government department devoted to negotiating Britain’s “sensible and orderly” departure from the bloc.

The new prime minister will also have to deal with an economy weakened by the EU vote. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said Thursday that the economy had suffered a “large, negative shock.”

“The economic outlook has deteriorated and some monetary policy easing will likely be required over the summer,” he said – but cautioned there was only so much the central bank can do to ease the pain.

What, if any, role Johnson will play in a new government is unclear. Johnson has bounced back before, dismissing gaffes – from suggesting people in Papua New Guinea were cannibals to insulting the entire population of Liverpool – with a shrug or an apology.

His latest move infuriated pro-EU Conservatives including former Cabinet minister Michael Heseltine, who said Johnson had “ripped the party apart. He’s created the greatest constitutional crisis of modern times, he’s knocked billions off the value of the nation’s savings” – and then fled the scene.

“I have never seen so contemptible and irresponsible a situation,” Heseltine told the BBC.

But Johnson remains a member of Parliament, and few would rule out an eventual return to front-line politics by one of Britain’s great political survivors.

“Knowing Boris Johnson, he probably doesn’t think this is the last chance for him,” said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London. “This is Boris! He’s going to leave his colleagues to clear up the mess he himself helped create, and in a few years he might have another crack at it.”

Associated Press writers Gregory Katz and Raphael Satter contributed to this report.

]]> 11, 30 Jun 2016 13:47:11 +0000
Grizzly bear kills mountain biker near Glacier National Park Thu, 30 Jun 2016 09:45:29 +0000 HELENA, Mont. — A grizzly bear attacked and killed a 38-year-old mountain biker as he was riding along a trail just outside Glacier National Park, Montana authorities said.

Brad Treat and another rider were in the Halfmoon Lakes area of the Flathead National Forest Wednesday when they apparently surprised the bear, Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry said.

The bear knocked Treat off his bike, and the second rider left to look for help, Curry said.

Authorities found Treat’s body at the scene, but not the bear. Wildlife and law-enforcement officials were searching for the grizzly Wednesday evening.

Treat was a law-enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service.

“Brad was an integral member of our area law enforcement team and a friend to us all,” Curry said.

Treat grew up in nearby Kalispell, where was a standout distance runner in high school, his former coach, Paul Jorgenson, told the Flathead Beacon newspaper.

“He was a really good runner but he was also a kind-hearted person who cared about people,” Jorgenson told the Beacon.

The second rider, who was not identified, was not injured. Authorities have closed the area, which is about 3 miles away from Glacier’s west entrance, for public safety.

Grizzlies in the Lower 48 states have been designated a threatened species since the 1970s, but their numbers are increasing and so are conflicts between humans and bears.

The grizzlies in the Glacier area among about 1,000 bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which also includes the Bob Marshall Wilderness south of the park. At least 700 more grizzlies live in and around Yellowstone National Park, which is roughly 360 miles south of Glacier.

Six people have been fatally mauled by bears in the Northern Rockies since 2010, but those deaths were mainly in the Yellowstone area. Glacier officials say there are usually one or two non-lethal encounters between bears and humans each year inside the park.

Before Wednesday, there had been 10 bear-related human deaths in Glacier since the park was created in 1910. The last was in 1998, when three bears killed and partially ate a park vendor employee while he was hiking.

In the most well-known Glacier attacks, bears killed two people in different parts of the park in a single night in 1967. Those attacks became the subject of a 1969 book by Jack Olsen titled “Night of the Grizzlies,” and later a documentary by the same name.

]]> 4, 30 Jun 2016 07:58:42 +0000
Poll shows gun ownership in decline Thu, 30 Jun 2016 02:47:48 +0000 The percent of American households owning guns is at a near-40 year low in the latest CBS News poll released this month.

According to the survey, which was conducted among 1,001 Americans in the aftermath of the Orlando, Florida, nightclub shooting, 36 percent of U.S. adults either own a firearm personally, or live with someone who does. That’s the lowest rate of gun ownership in the CBS poll going back to 1978. It’s down 17 points from the highest recorded rate in 1994, and nearly 10 percentage points from 2012.

Different national polls tend to show slightly different rates of gun ownership. The latest household gun ownership rate in the General Social Survey, in 2014, was 32 percent. The October 2015 Gallup survey showed a higher rate of 43 percent, including guns kept on property outside of the home.

But the downward trend in gun ownership remains consistent across the national polls. According to Gallup, gun ownership has fallen by about 10 percentage points since its peak in 1993. The General Social Survey shows a 20-point drop since the mid-1970s.

But gun purchases, as measured by FBI firearm background checks, are at historic highs. And data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms shows that gun manufacturers are churning out record numbers of guns. Many gun rights advocates argue that these figures mean that the overall number of gun owners is growing: If more guns are being sold, more people must be owning guns.

But the declining rates of gun ownership across three major national surveys suggest a different explanation: that most of the rise in gun purchases is driven by existing gun owners stocking up, rather than by people buying their first gun. A Washington Post analysis last year found that the average American gun owner now owns approximately eight firearms, double the number in the 1990s.

Other research bears this out as well. A 2004 survey found that the average gun owner owned 6.6 firearms, and that the top 3 percent of gun owners owned about 25 guns each. More recently, a CBS News poll taken in March of this year found that roughly 1 in 5 gun owners owned 10 guns or more.

Gun owners remain a potent political force in the U.S., due largely to the successful efforts of advocacy groups like the NRA. But survey data showing declining gun ownership suggests that the NRA has been successful largely by channeling the energy and intensity of an existing gun-owning base.

]]> 33, 30 Jun 2016 08:03:35 +0000
Clinton staffer says email format caused miscue Thu, 30 Jun 2016 02:28:39 +0000 Problems related to Hillary Clinton’s private email setup got in the way of State Department business on at least one occasion, prompting the then-secretary of state to miss a call with a foreign government official, a top Clinton aide testified under oath this week.

The aide, Huma Abedin, questioned as part of a public records lawsuit brought by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch, said she and her boss were “frustrated” by the episode in which Clinton’s email messages were being blocked by spam filters.

As a result, Abedin recommended that Clinton consider getting a government email account that she could use alongside the personal system –an alternative that Abedin said was never implemented.

“She wasn’t able to do her job, do what she needed to do,” Abedin said, according to a deposition transcript released Wednesday.

Abedin’s testimony came amid a stream of other revelations regarding Clinton’s emails that have continued to dog the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee as she tries to put the controversy to rest.

Using a private email server for official and personal business was Clinton’s decision, Abedin said, according to the transcript.

Abedin answered questions during a 5 1/2-hour deposition Tuesday at her attorneys’ law firm.

Abedin, Clinton’s then-deputy chief of staff as secretary and now vice chair of her Democratic presidential campaign, told lawyers with Judicial Watch that, to her knowledge, Clinton never had an official account during her time in the Senate nor a 2008 presidential campaign account.

“From my understanding, I just saw it as continue doing what she was doing before she arrived at the State Department” and served from 2009 to 2013, Abedin said. “She had always had a personal device since she had started using email. That’s what she used when she was in the Senate.”

Abedin is the only other State Department employee known to have an account on the server.

Abedin testified that she was never asked to respond to a public records request during her time at the State Department and did not consider how emails sent on a private account might be searched in response to requests.

In 2015, two years after leaving office, Abedin testified that she was asked to turn over all federal records in her possession to the State Department. In response, she handed over a BlackBerry, two laptops and some paper files to her attorneys and asked them to search the contents and turn over all State Department-related material to the agency.

The State Department has, in turn, been releasing those records to Judicial Watch in batches over time. The process is still underway, but Judicial Watch said Wednesday that it had so far located 127 of Clinton’s emails in those records that had not been among those Clinton herself gave to the State Department in 2014.

The new findings raise questions about the process her lawyers used to sift her work correspondence from personal notes she said she deleted.

]]> 1, 30 Jun 2016 08:04:35 +0000
Panel advises against annual pelvic exams 
for many women Thu, 30 Jun 2016 02:17:01 +0000 There’s great news for women who dread that annual pelvic exam (i.e. basically everyone). On Tuesday, a panel made up of medical experts that advise the government said that there’s not enough evidence to support doing them for women who are healthy and not pregnant.

The conclusion, issued as a draft recommendation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, is a strong endorsement of the recent evidence that has been building against the practice that is performed 63 million times annually and is estimated to cost $2.6 billion. This is the first time the task force has made a statement related to pelvic exams for gynecologic conditions and is likely to impact what millions of women decide to do about the test and what insurers will cover.

“The Task Force is calling for more research to better understand the benefits and harms of performing screening pelvic exams in women without any complaints or symptoms,” Task Force member Francisco García said in a statement.

In 2014, the American College of Physicians, which is made up of internists, expressed similar reservations about the procedure. The group said that in reviewing 60 years of research they did not find support for the idea that it helps catch cancer or other conditions in women who do not have symptoms such as bleeding or pain.

However, the ACP said the test does cause harm because of the invasive nature of the procedure and because it sends many women down a rabbit hole of tests and surgeries when their condition is actually benign.

The ACP’s statement has put it at odds with another medical group, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which has said the test builds trust and that the decision about whether to screen or not screen is an individual one that should be left up to doctors and their patients.

]]> 1 Thu, 30 Jun 2016 08:05:24 +0000
NASA’s Juno spacecraft to enter an orbit of Jupiter on July 4 Thu, 30 Jun 2016 01:59:15 +0000 This Independence Day, millions of Americans will look to the sky to watch dazzling fireworks. But across the country, scientists will be looking up for an entirely different reason: On July 4, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will enter an orbit of Jupiter, giving us an unprecedented window into the history of our solar system’s oldest planet.

Jupiter is a strange world, but Juno will make it a little more familiar. In doing so, it could give scientists valuable insight into our own origin story – and clues in the ongoing hunt for alien life.

Jupiter is a planet unlike any other. If every other planet in our solar system teamed up to form one massive monolith of a world, Jupiter would still be two and half times heavier. That incredible mass only becomes more impressive when you consider the fact that Jupiter is a gas giant: With the exception of a rocky core that may or may not exist at its very center, the planet is made entirely of gaseous and liquid elements. When a quarter of your mass comes from helium molecules, it takes a lot of space to carry any real weight. More than 1,300 Earths could fit inside it.

At that size, Jupiter comes close to being more of a sickly star than a powerful planet. In fact, scientists have found many alien stars that bear a striking resemblance to the fifth planet from the sun. Some even have raging storms like Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, which has been churning in the planet’s atmosphere for hundreds of years.

“Jupiter is a planet on steroids,” principal investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute said during a June 16 press briefing. “Everything about it is extreme.”

Add to these superlatives the fact that Jupiter was likely the first planet to form in our solar system – perhaps even pushing some other early comers out into space with its incredible gravity, paving the way for the planets we know today – and it’s no wonder that scientists want to know more about the planet.

Enter Juno. Launched in 2011, the basketball-court-sized spacecraft will be the eighth vessel to visit Jupiter but the first to probe below the gas giant’s thick cloud cover, giving scientists a peek at what lies beneath. It will also make the very first passes over the planet’s north and south poles. And it will do all this while surviving radiation levels and a magnetic field like no probe has seen before. Barring the sun itself, Jupiter’s radiation levels are the harshest in our solar system. Over the course of its year-long primary mission, Juno will be exposed to the equivalent of over 100 million dental X-rays.

The planet is surrounded with electrons, protons and ions that zip around almost at the speed of light. Scientists believe that this hostile environment is created by a layer of liquid metallic hydrogen that sits below Jupiter’s cloud cover. It’s under so much pressure that it conducts electricity, when combined with Jupiter’s super-quick rotation, this creates a massive magnetic field.

This field creates stunning aurorae like our Northern Lights when confronted with excited particles spewed by Jovian moon Io’s volcanic activity.

]]> 0, 30 Jun 2016 08:06:34 +0000
FDA requests scientific data on popular hand sanitizers from manufacturers Thu, 30 Jun 2016 01:35:39 +0000 The colorful gels have become the front lines in our fight against germs. Antiseptic hand sanitizers in greens, blues and reds are now ubiquitous in schools, workplaces and hospitals. They are must-haves in moms’ pocketbooks. And they have been distributed around the world.

While these products were designed to be used when old-fashioned soap and water aren’t available, many people use them multiple times a day even when a sink is nearby under the belief that they are killing more bacteria.

The Food and Drug Administration says the problem is that we still don’t have enough information to know whether these products present unknown safety and efficacy concerns, and on Wednesday, the agency asked manufacturers to provide scientific data for three active ingredients: alcohol (ethanol or ethyl alcohol), isopropyl alcohol and benzalkonium chloride. They are looking for information that the ingredients are safe, effective and reduce bacteria on skin. The FDA’s request also applies to hand wipes.

The FDA emphasized that it does not mean it believes the products are ineffective or unsafe, and it is not asking for them to be removed from store shelves.

The FDA expressed particular interest in information about repeated exposure and use by pregnant women and children.

–The Washington Post

]]> 0, 30 Jun 2016 08:07:09 +0000
EU shows united front, sets challenge to Britain Thu, 30 Jun 2016 01:29:54 +0000 BRUSSELS — European Union leaders drew a stark line along the British Channel on Wednesday, telling the U.K. that it cannot keep valuable business links with its former continental partners in a seamless single EU market, if it doesn’t also accept European workers.

The challenge cuts to the heart of the British vote to leave the bloc following a virulent campaign where migration from poorer EU countries was a key concern. It also sets the scene for the complex departure negotiations facing departing Prime Minister David Cameron’s successor, for which nominations opened in London on Wednesday.

Meeting for the first time without the U.K., the 27 other EU nations set out a united strategy to face the next British government which will seek to salvage as many of the EU rights as possible while reneging on a maximum amount of obligations.

They emerged from the summit insisting that the “four freedoms” central to European unity are indivisible: the free movement of people, services, goods and finances.

The most palpable remaining link to Britain at the summit was the English language used. The remaining presidents, chancellors and prime ministers showed a firm common resolve, committing to be “absolutely determined to remain united,” EU Council President Donald Tusk said.

The leaders sought to dispel any notion that the referendum result will amount to their Waterloo.

“With a disunited United Kingdom, we need a united Europe more than ever,” Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said.

Tusk convened a special EU summit on Sept. 16 in Slovakia’s capital Bratislava to work out a plan to keep the EU united.

]]> 0 Thu, 30 Jun 2016 08:08:46 +0000
Istanbul airport attack ‘bears the hallmarks’ of Islamic State, says CIA director Thu, 30 Jun 2016 00:39:33 +0000 WASHINGTON — CIA Director John Brennan said Wednesday that the attack in Istanbul has the earmarks of strikes by Islamic State militants and that the group is likely trying to hit the United States in the Middle East and on U.S. soil.

He said Tuesday’s attack at Istanbul’s busy Ataturk Airport that killed 41 people and wounded hundreds “bears the hallmarks of ISIL’s depravity.”

“If anybody here believes the U.S. homeland is hermetically sealed and that ISIL would not consider that, I would guard against it,” Brennan said, using another acronym for the group.

Earlier this month, Brennan told Congress that the U.S. battle against the Islamic State has not yet curbed the group’s global reach and that it is expected to plot more attacks on the West and incite violence by lone wolves. He said the Islamic State has a large cadre of Western fighters who could potentially act as operatives for attacks in the West.

On other issues, Brennan said Britain’s vote to leave the European Union means Europe is entering a period of uncertainty, but that intelligence sharing with Britain would not be affected.

He chided Russia, saying that Moscow could do more to help end the conflict in Syria. Brennan has said that Russian military forces have bolstered Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and are carrying out attacks against the U.S.-backed forces trying to unseat him. According to Brennan, Assad is in a stronger position now than he was a year ago.

Brennan said the greatest threat of nuclear proliferation comes from North Korea. He said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un mistakenly believes the international community will not be able to stay united in keeping North Korea from being a nuclear state.

“He seems to be exceptionally stubborn and not a very good listener,” Brennan said at an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

]]> 0, 30 Jun 2016 08:10:52 +0000
Airport attack may deepen Turkey’s role in Syria war Thu, 30 Jun 2016 00:38:23 +0000 ISTANBUL — The brazen assault by three suicide bombers on Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport has set the stage for a more violent conflict between Turkey and the Islamic State, a development that would deepen Turkish involvement in the Syrian war.

There has been no claim of responsibility for Tuesday’s carnage, but Turkish officials blamed the Sunni extremists for the attack, which killed 41 people and injured at least 239.

The raid marked the fifth bombing attack in Istanbul this year, and struck the country’s most important transportation hub. While Kurdish militants have also recently attacked targets in Istanbul, analysts said the operation bore all the hallmarks of the Islamic State.

On Wednesday, a senior Turkish official gave a timeline of the attack: First, a militant detonated explosives in the arrivals area on the ground floor of the international terminal. A second attacker exploded minutes later in the departures area upstairs, the official said. Finally, a third bomber detonated in the parking area amid the chaos and as people fled to escape the attacks inside.

It was unclear at what point security forces exchanged gunfire with the attackers, according to the official’s timeline. But witnesses on Wednesday spoke of scenes of panic, fear, and wounded fellow travelers.

But even as the country reeled from the violence, the assault on one of the world’s busiest airports – and symbol of Turkey’s modern economy – threatened to propel the country into a wider war with the Islamic State.

The airport handles more than 60 million passengers each year, and is a hub for Turkey’s official carrier, Turkish Airlines.

“If the Islamic State is indeed behind this attack, this would be a declaration of war,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “This attack is different: the scope, impact and deaths of dozens in the heart of the country’s economic capital.”


“It will have widespread ramifications,” he said. And Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has depicted himself as a strong, conservative leader, “cannot afford to let this go.”

Turkey has taken steps to battle the Islamic State, which grew strong amid the bloody civil war in neighboring Syria. But critics have blasted Turkey for its reluctance to take the fight to the extremists.

For years, Turkish security forces turned a blind eye to the militants that slipped across the border, where mostly Islamist rebels have been battling forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey wanted the Syrian leader to step down, and also saw the Sunni rebels as a bulwark against Syria’s own autonomy-seeking Kurds. Turkey’s ethnic Kurdish population has long sought greater independence from the Turkish state. And the rise of a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria worries nationalist Turks who fear it will inspire the Kurds in Turkey.

The jihadists gathering on the Turkish-Syrian border – many of whom eventually joined the Islamic State – used Turkey as a crucial route for weapons, recruits and supplies.

But lax enforcement along the frontier allowed the militants to develop sprawling networks inside Turkey, even as they grabbed land across Syria and Iraq.

And when the détente between Turkey and the jihadists came to an end – when Turkey joined the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State and opened its Incirlik Air Base to U.S. aircraft – the networks were tapped for the new battle with the Turkish state.

The Islamic State has either claimed or been blamed for at least five major suicide attacks in Turkey in the past year, including the assault at the airport and two bombings in Istanbul earlier this year.

Now, the two sides are edging toward full-fledged conflict, analysts say.

“They went from a Cold War, to a limited war, and are now moving towards full-scale war” with each other, Cagaptay said of Turkey and the Islamic State.

But among the questions is whether Turkey, a NATO member and U.S. ally, could actually escalate its role in the campaign in Syria.

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Facebook changing news feed format Thu, 30 Jun 2016 00:19:48 +0000 Facebook will make changes to its news feed rankings, highlighting posts from friends and family over those from publishers and brand pages that users have “liked.”

The company said it’s making adjustments after receiving feedback from users who complained that they sometimes miss important updates from the people closest to them. The changes will penalize some online publishers that rely on traffic from people who follow their pages.

Corporate pages on Facebook may see a decline in the number of people who see their content and in referral traffic to links they post, according to a company blog post. Facebook said links shared by its 1.65 billion users on their personal profiles can continue to go viral and reach large audiences.

Facebook has drawn media companies and brands to create pages on the social network in recent years by offering exposure to huge groups of people. For example, BuzzFeed posts dozens of links a day to the 7.4 million people who “like” its page on Facebook. CNN, with 22 million followers, and The New York Times, with 11 million, also update their pages frequently throughout the day.

“We appreciate Facebook’s transparency and we intend to closely monitor this situation,” Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, said in a statement. “We very much value our audience on Facebook. Still, while we are not yet in a position to forecast exactly what the change will mean to us, our subscription model and levels of direct traffic make us less dependent on Facebook than some other publishers.”

BuzzFeed and Business Insider declined to comment on the changes. Representatives of Vice Media Inc. and the Huffington Post weren’t able to be reached for comment.

To accumulate more followers, many organizations have purchased Facebook advertising. But the value of a “like” has been on the decline as Facebook has slowly prioritized posts from friends or other initiatives, such as live video.

“We’ve heard from our community that people are still worried about missing important updates from the friends they care about,” Lars Backstrom, engineering director at Facebook, wrote in the blog post. “We encourage pages to post things that their audiences are likely to share with their friends.”

Adam Mosseri, the vice president for product management of the news feed, wrote a separate post explaining that the amount of data flowing through the world’s largest social network has grown substantially since the early days of Facebook, generating far too much information for any one person to consume. Facebook has learned that people want to see posts that are authentic, not promotional, he said.

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Subway cars: Down, but not really dirty, say researchers Thu, 30 Jun 2016 00:01:54 +0000 What microbes are lurking in the Boston subway system? A team of scientists armed with sterile cotton swabs and a bit of soap rode the Red, Orange and Green lines of the T to find out.

What they discovered surprised them.

It turns out that the slick metal poles and well-worn hand grips used by hundreds of thousands of riders each day are not hotbeds of pathogenic bugs as the researchers originally suspected.

Instead, they say the microbes on most of the sampled surfaces – including subway seats, touch screens and the walls of indoor and outdoor ticketing machines – look a lot like what you’d find on healthy human skin.

“From what we found, the bugs you encounter riding the T is not any worse than what you would expect from shaking someone’s hand,” said Curtis Huttenhower, a computational biologist at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. “Sure, a lot of microbes are involved, but it’s nothing to worry about.”

Huttenhower is the senior author of a paper published Tuesday in mSystems, the American Society for Microbiology’s journal, that describes the findings.

His group also detected a smattering of microbes that usually live in our mouths on the poles and hand grips (about sneeze and cough level), as well as some vaginal microbes on the seats. The authors said genital-related microbes can be transferred through clothing.

The researchers weren’t specifically looking for the types of bugs that make us sick, but they did check for obvious pathogens.

“Our conclusion is that even though the subway can seem like a ‘dirty’ environment, it’s not strikingly different from a conference room at work,” Huttenhower said.

The study is part of an effort financed by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to better understand what microbes are living in built environments like malls, office buildings, transit systems and even our homes.

The microbes in, on and around us have evolved to live in natural environments such as in soil, on plants and in our guts, mouths and skin. But what happens when those microscopic bugs land on an electronic touch screen or a vinyl subway seat or a piece of drywall?

Do they live? Or die? Do they eat? Do they multiply?

“That is still a big open question,” Huttenhower said. “And it is a difficult thing to measure.”

So far, there have been only two other studies that looked at microbial communities in subway systems – one in New York, the other in Tokyo.

The authors of the New York study reported the presence of scary-sounding pathogens in the subways, but those findings were later revised.

In the future, it is possible that researchers could keep tabs on the microbial composition of subway surfaces and use it as a way to tell whether flu symptoms are on the rise, Huttenhower said.

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Alvin Toffler, author of ‘Future Shock,’ dies at 87 Wed, 29 Jun 2016 23:41:05 +0000 NEW YORK — Alvin Toffler, a guru of the post-industrial age whose million-selling “Future Shock” and other books anticipated the disruptions and transformations brought about by the rise of digital technology, has died. He was 87.

He died late Monday in his sleep at his home in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, said Yvonne Merkel, a spokeswoman for his Reston, Virginia-based consulting firm, Toffler Associates.

One of the world’s most famous “futurists,” Toffler was far from alone in seeing the economy shift from manufacturing and mass production to a computerized and information-based model. But few were more effective at popularizing the concept, predicting the effects and assuring the public that the traumatic upheavals of modern times were part of a larger and more hopeful story.

“Future Shock,” a term he first used in a 1965 magazine article, was how Toffler defined the growing feeling of anxiety brought on by the sense that life was changing at a bewildering and ever-accelerating pace. His book combined an understanding tone and page-turning urgency as he diagnosed contemporary trends and headlines, from war protests to the rising divorce rate, as symptoms of a historical cycle overturning every facet of life.

“We must search out totally new ways to anchor ourselves, for all the old roots — religion, nation, community, family, or profession — are now shaking under the hurricane impact of the accelerative thrust,” he wrote.

Toffler offered a wide range of predictions and prescriptions, some more accurate than others. He forecast “a new frontier spirit” that could well lead to underwater communities, “artificial cities beneath the waves,” and also anticipated the founding of space colonies — a concept that fascinated Toffler admirer Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker and presidential candidate. In “Future Shock,” released in 1970, he also presumed that the rising general prosperity of the 1960s would continue indefinitely.

“We made the mistake of believing the economists of the time,” Toffler told Wired magazine in 1993. “They were saying, as you may recall, we’ve got this problem of economic growth licked. All we need to do is fine-tune the system. And we bought it.”

But Toffler attracted millions of followers, including many in the business community, and the book’s title became part of the general culture. Curtis Mayfield and Herbie Hancock were among the musicians who wrote songs called “Future Shock” and the book influenced such science fiction novels as John Brunner’s “The Shockwave Rider.” More recently, Samantha Bee hosted a recurring “Future Shock” segment on Comedy Central.

Toffler is credited with another common expression, defining the feeling of being overrun with data and knowledge as “information overload.”

In the decades following “Future Shock,” Toffler wrote such books as “Powershift” and “The Adaptive Corporation,” lectured worldwide, taught at several schools and met with everyone from Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to network executives and military officials. China cited him along with Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Gates and others as the Westerners who most influenced the country even as Communist officials censored his work.

In 2002, the management consultant organization Accenture ranked him No. 8 on its list of the top 50 business intellectuals.

His most famous observation: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

After “Future Shock,” Toffler also continued to sketch out how the world was changing and how to respond. In “The Third Wave,” a 1980 best-seller that AOL founder Steve Case would cite as a formative influence, he looked to a high-tech society that Case, Steve Jobs and others were just starting to put in place. He forecast the spread of email, telecommuting, teleconferences, interactive media, devices that remind you “of your own appointments” and online chat rooms.

Overall, he pronounced the downfall of the old centralized hierarchy and looked forward to a more dispersed and responsive society, populated by a hybrid of consumer and producer he called “the prosumer.”

Case told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Toffler was a “real pioneer in helping people, companies and even countries lean into the future.”

“He will be missed,” Case said.

Toffler collaborated on many of his books and other projects with his wife, Heidi, who survives him. He is also survived by a sister, Caroline Sitter. Toffler’s daughter, Karen, died in 2000.

Toffler, a native of New York City, was born Oct. 4, 1928 to Jewish Polish immigrants. A graduate of New York University, he was a Marxist and union activist in his youth, and continued to question the fundamentals of the market economy long after his politics moderated. He knew the industrial life firsthand through his years as a factory worker in Ohio.

“I got a realistic picture of how things really are made — the energy, love and rage that are poured into ordinary things we take for granted,” he later wrote.

He had dreamed of being the next John Steinbeck, but found his talents were better suited for journalism. He wrote for the pro-union publication Labor’s Daily and in the 1950s was hired by Fortune magazine to be its labor columnist. The origins of “Future Shock” began in the 1960s when Toffler worked as a researcher for IBM and other technology companies.

“Much of what Toffler wrote in ‘Future Shock’ is now accepted common sense, but at the time it defied conventional views of reality,” John Judis wrote in The New Republic in 1995.

“Americans’ deepest fears of the future were expressed by George Orwell’s lockstep world of 1984. But Toffler, who had spent five years in a factory, understood that Americans’ greatest problem was not being consigned to the tedium of the assembly line or the office. As he put it: ‘The problem is not whether man can survive regimentation and standardization. The problem … is whether he can survive freedom.'”


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Boston city official arrested on extortion charges Wed, 29 Jun 2016 23:35:53 +0000 BOSTON —Another top official at Boston City Hall has been arrested for pressuring music festival organizers to hire union workers.

Timothy Sullivan, the acting director of intergovernmental affairs, was arrested Wednesday, following a federal grand jury indictment, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office announced.

The 36-year-old Boston resident faces conspiracy to extort a company and extortion charges. He was arraigned Wednesday in Boston federal court.

Mayor Marty Walsh, a former labor union leader, said he’s “deeply concerned” about the allegations. He told reporters at an unrelated appearance Wednesday that Sullivan and Kenneth Brissette have been placed on paid administrative leave, pending the criminal cases.

“There is no room in my Administration for the type of behavior that is alleged here,” Walsh said in a statement. “It is a great privilege to serve in City Hall and I will not allow anyone to squander that privilege.”

Sullivan’s arrest comes after Brissette, director of the city’s Office of Tourism, Sports, and Entertainment, was arrested and charged with extorting the same company in May.

Brissette, 52, has pleaded not guilty.

The two men are accused of pressuring the Boston Calling music festival’s production company into hiring workers with Local 11 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees by withholding required city permits and approvals in 2014.

The multiday rock and pop music festival has taken place on City Hall Plaza in downtown Boston twice a year since it debuted in 2013.

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