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10 things you need to know today: March 27, 2015

Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Week

1.French prosecutor says Germanwings co-pilot crashed plane deliberately
Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz locked himself alone in Germanwings Flight 9525’s cockpit and flew it into a mountainside in the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said Thursday. Lubitz, 28, appeared to have deliberately veered down to crash “for a reason we cannot fathom right now,” Robin said. The German tabloid Bild reported that Lubitz had undergone more than a year of treatment for depression six years ago, interrupting his training.

Source: Reuters

2.Senate minority leader Harry Reid announces he won’t seek re-election
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has announced that he won’t seek re-election next year. The Senate minority leader told The New York Times that his decision to retire was not due to his eye injury, which occurred in January in an exercise accident, or to his demotion from Senate majority leader after November’s midterm elections. Reid, who has led Senate Democrats since 2005 and has served in Congress for over three decades, told the Times, “I want to be able to go out at the top of my game.”

Source: The New York Times

3.Explosion and fire destroy New York apartment building
A five-story apartment building collapsed in Manhattan’s East Village on Thursday after an explosion inside touched off a seven-alarm fire. “I heard a big boom, and everybody went to see what had happened,” said Kate Walter, who had been eating at a restaurant two blocks away. More than 255 firefighters responded. Emergency officials said one person was missing and 19 injured, four of whom were hospitalized in critical condition.

Source: USA Today

4.Saudi Arabia continues airstrikes against rebels in Yemen
Saudi Arabia, leading a coalition of regional allies, continued its bombing campaign against Shiite Houthi rebel positions in neighboring Yemen on Friday. Airstrikes hit near the presidential compound and military installations in the capital, Sanaa. Egyptian warships headed toward Yemen to help. Saudi state TV said a ground offensive was being considered. Yemeni Foreign Minister Riad Yassin said in Egypt that the government was “forced to request” foreign help asrebels overran government facilities, but hoped a “short, sharp campaign” would turn the tables.

Source: The Washington Post

5.National Guard soldier accused of trying to join ISIS
A National Guard soldier was arrested on Thursday and accused of supporting the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Army National Guard Spc. Hasan Edmonds, 22, allegedly plotted an attack on a military post in Illinois. He was arrested at Chicago Midway International Airport while allegedly trying to fly to Cairo to join ISIS. An FBI task force also arrested his cousin, 29-year-old cousin, Jonas Edmonds of the Illinois Army National Guard, at his Aurora, Illinois, home.

Source: CBS News

6.Shiite militias abandon ISIS fight over U.S. role
Three major Shiite militias on Thursday backed out of the Iraqi military’s offensive against the Islamic State in Tikrit due to the participation of U.S. warplanes in airstrikes against ISIS holdouts there. A fourth Shiite militia said it would remain in the fight but threatened to fire on foreign members of the anti-ISIS coalition. Together, the four Shiite militias represented a third of the 30,000 fighters going after ISIS, so their absence could complicate efforts to push ISIS remnants out of the mostly Sunni city.

Source: The New York Times

7.Apple’s Tim Cook says he will give away his fortune before he dies
Apple CEO Tim Cook says he plans to give away his entire $800 million fortune before he dies. Cook told Fortune he would first provide for his 10-year-old nephew’s education. He did not say which charities would get the money, but he has spoken publicly about his support of human rights and equality, and the need to stop HIV/AIDS and climate change. In 2012, Cook donated $25 million to Stanford to build a new children’s hospital and $50 million to Project Red.

Source: Fortune, The Guardian

8.England’s Richard III reburied 530 years after his death
The remains of England’s King Richard III were reburied in Leicester cathedralon Thursday 530 years after he was killed in battle. The bones were discovered in 2012 during an archaeological dig in a parking lot, and scientists said DNA tests proved to near certainty that the remains were indeed those of Richard III, the last English king killed in battle. Queen Elizabeth II sent a note saying the event was “of great national and international significance.”

Source: Los Angeles Times

9. Kentucky continues its dominance in NCAA tournament
The undefeated, top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats showed off their dominanceThursday night with a 78-39 drubbing of fifth-seeded West Virginia in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s round of 16. The victory gave Kentucky a 37-0 record as they move into the Elite Eight. The game was a mismatch from the start, with Kentucky rocketing to an 18-2 lead and remaining ahead by as much as 41 through the game. Notre Dame and Wisconsin West Virginia also advanced to regional semi-final games.

Source: The New York Times, Sports Illustrated

10.Downton Abbey to end after next season
Downton Abbey‘s creative team confirmed Thursday that the popular British period drama would end after its upcoming sixth season. “Inevitably there comes a time when all shows should end and Downton is no exception,” said executive producer Gareth Neame in a statement. “We wanted to close the doors ofDownton Abbey when it felt right and natural for the storylines to come together. Neame said the last episodes would have “all the usual drama and intrigue, but with the added excitement of discovering how and where they all end up.”

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

10 things you need to know today: March 23, 2015

Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Week

1.Singapore’s founding father dies at 91
Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew died Monday more than a month after being admitted into a hospital with pneumonia. He was 91. Lee served as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, and has been credited with turning the small island trading outpost into one of the wealthiest and least corrupt countries in Asia. Lee’s government became known for its authoritarian rule, including tough law enforcement and limits on protests. He said the heavy-handed tactics were necessary for stability.

Source: The New York Times

2.Cruz officially enters 2016 race for the White House
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) made his presidential candidacy official on Monday, announcing with a Twitter post and video that he will run for the Republican nomination in 2016. Other big-name candidates are openly considering running, but Cruz, a Tea Party favorite, was the first major candidate from any party to jump into the race officially. Cruz, 44, promised to lead “a new generation of courageous conservatives to help make America great again.”

Source: Fox News

3.McCain tells Obama to end his “temper tantrum” over Netanyahu
Republicans sharply criticized President Obama on Sunday for saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had complicated peace negotiations with Palestinian leaders by saying there would be no Palestinian state as long as he was prime minister. Netanyahu made the statement in a last-minute appeal to conservative voters ahead of his party’s surprisingly strong win in last week’s parliamentary elections. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Obama should end his “temper tantrum” and accept the result of Israel’s “free and fair democratic election.”

Source: New York Daily News

4.Supreme Court hears argument on Texas Confederate flag license tag
The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments Monday on whether the state of Texas can refuse to issue license plates featuring the Confederate battle flag. The Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, backed by First Amendment advocates from the American Civil Liberties Union, says banning the plates is a violation of free speech. Texas counters that license tags, unlike bumper stickers, are government speech, so they should not include a symbol many see as racist.
5.Crowds line the streets for Richard III funeral
Richard III got a king’s funeral in England on Sunday, more than 500 years after his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field. The former king’s remains were excavated from a parking lot in Leicester in 2012 and identified. About 35,000 people, many tossing white roses symbolizing the House of York, lined the streets to watch the procession take the coffin from the University of Leicester to Leicester Cathedral. The casket was placed on public view until Monday. The notoriously brutal monarch will be reburied on Thursday.

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

6.Durst heads back to New Orleans court
Real estate heir Robert Durst returns Monday to a New Orleans courtroom where his lawyers plan to demand his release on the grounds that his arrest was illegal. Durst, 71, has spent nearly a week in a prison mental ward, but he is to appear in a preliminary hearing on new weapons charges filed after he was picked up on a Los Angeles warrant accusing him of killing family friend Susan Berman in December 2000. Defense lawyers say the arrest was a stunt timed to coincide with the airing of an HBO documentary in which Durst appeared to incriminate himself.

Source: The Associated Press

7.Seven children killed in fire mourned in Brooklyn
Thousands of New Yorkers on Sunday joined a grief-stricken father to mourn seven Orthodox Jewish children killed in an overnight fire the day before. The blaze was believed to have been started by an untended hot plate left on to warm food on the Jewish day of rest. The children died within minutes. Their mother, Gayle Sassoon, 45, and a 15-year-old sister survived by jumping out of second-floor windows. “There’s absolutely nothing to say!” the father, Gabriel Sassoon, wailed.

Source: The New York Times

8.Soldiers brush off ISIS “hit list”
An purported ISIS “hit list” of 100 U.S. service members has emerged online, but three soldiers named on the list said they were not concerned about the threat. The list, which included personal information allegedly linked to the targeted soldiers, was posted on a website by the “Islamic State Hacking Division,” a previously unknown group. The post urged “lone wolf” ISIS supporters to kill the soldiers on the list.

Source: ABC News

9. Starbucks ends its brief campaign against racism
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on Sunday ended his company’s brief attempt tospark a national dialogue about race, by encouraging baristas to write “Race Together” on their customers’ cups. Schultz said in a letter to employees that the project was designed to be a brief “catalyst” for a long-term conversation about race. “While there has been criticism of the initiative — and I know this hasn’t been easy for any of you — let me assure you that we didn’t expect universal praise,” Schultz said.

Source: The New York Times

10.Virginia and Kansas fall as March Madness upsets continue
In the latest upsets of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Michigan State, a regional No. 7 seed, beat the No. 2-seeded Virginia Cavaliers 60-54, and another No. 7 seed, Michigan State, knocked off Kansas 78-65 to advance to the Sweet 16. The Cavaliers also lost to Michigan State in 2014, that time in the Sweet 16. The loss came after Virginia won 30 or more games both seasons — the first such streak in the school’s history. Villanova on Saturday became the first No. 1 seed to fall.

Source: The Washington Post, The Associated Press

10 things you need to know today: March 9, 2015

The Week

1.Selma march over bridge marks Bloody Sundayanniversary
Thousands of demonstrators marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the brutal assault of civil rights activists in the same spot. Many sang “We Shall Overcome” at the scene of the 1965 clash, known as Bloody Sunday and commemorated in the film Selma. The attack helped galvanize support for the civil rights movement that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking in Selma, said was “under siege” by new state voting laws.

Source: Los Angeles Times, The New York Times

2.GOP Benghazi investigation chief finds gaps in Hillary Clinton’s emails
The Republican chairman of a House committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi attack said Sunday there were “huge gaps” in the emails then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton turned over to the committee. Clinton went to Libya after the attack, which left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. “We have no emails from that day,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). Clinton, under criticism for using a private email account instead of a government one, has asked the State Department to release all her emails.

Source: Reuters

3.Oklahoma fraternity closed over racist video
The national board of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity shut down its University of Oklahoma chapter after a video surfaced allegedly showing SAE members from the school riding a bus, chanting that “there will never be a n—er in SAE.” The board made the decision “with no mental reservation whatsoever that this chapter needed to be closed immediately,” SAE national president Brad Cohen said after an emergency board meeting Sunday night. The reaction came after The Oklahoma Daily student newspaper posted the video online.

Source: The New York Times, The Oklahoma Daily

4.Obama says the U.S. would “walk away” from a bad Iran nuclear deal
President Obama on Sunday said Iran must agree to stringent conditions in a potential nuclear deal or the U.S. will “walk away” from the negotiating table. For a deal to work out, the U.S. would have to “verify that they are not going to obtain a nuclear weapon, that there’s a breakout period so that even if they cheated we would be able to have enough time to take action,” Obama said on Face the Nation. “If we don’t have that kind of deal, then we’re not going to take it,” he added.

Source: CBS News, Voice of America

5.Protests continue in Madison over police shooting
More than 100 people protested in Madison, Wisconsin, on Sunday in the third day of demonstrations over the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Tony Robinson Jr. by a white policeman. Robinson, 19, was shot outside an apartment building after Officer Matt Kenny, 45, responded to a report of a man dodging cars in traffic and battering another person. The killing was the latest in a series of deaths of unarmed black men that have touched off nationwide protests of excessive force against African Americans.

Source: Reuters

6.Iraq closes in on Islamic State in Tikrit
Iraqi forces have dealt severe blows to the Islamic State fighters near the city of Tikrit a week into an offensive aiming to regain control over the city from militants, officials said Sunday. Government forces and allied militias, however, had not yet been able to enter the city. “It will still take days to completely liberate” the areas, said Ahmed al-Karim, head of the provincial council in the area. “There is resistance from [the Islamic State], but it is not at the level we expected.”

Source: The Washington Post

7.Apple to debut Apple Watch
Apple is unveiling its long-awaited Apple Watch on Monday in San Francisco. The iPhone and iPad maker’s CEO, Tim Cook, said in September that the company’s new wearable gadget would have features that included fitness tracking, messaging, and Apple Pay. The Apple Watch is expected to start at $349, but fans are still wondering about other details such as battery life and apps. The Apple Watch is the company’s first new device since the death of the company’s visionary co-founder, Steve Jobs.

Source: NBC Bay Area

8.Cosmos exhibition game to end Cuba sports embargo
The New York Cosmos will play the Cuban national soccer team in Havana this June in an exhibition match, ending a professional sports ban on the communist Caribbean island. The Cosmos will travel to Cuba during a break in their North American Soccer League schedule. The match will be the first pro sports exchange since the U.S. and Cuba announced renewed diplomatic relations in December. The last pro team to play in Cuba was the Baltimore Orioles, who beat Cuba’s national baseball team 3-2 in 1999.

Source: The New York Times

9. Report says cycling officials went easy on Lance Armstrong
Cycling’s international governing body gave Lance Armstrong special treatment and delayed addressing rumors that the now-disgraced former Tour de France champion had been doping, according to a new report by the Cycling Independent Reform Commission. The report says officials at the International Cycling Union (UCI) “exempted Lance Armstrong from rules, failed to test him despite the suspicions, and publicly supported him against allegations of doping, even as late as 2012.” The UCI set up the commission to investigate the causes of the sport’s doping scandal.

Source: CNN

10.Solar plane starts historic flight
A solar-powered plane with a 236-foot wingspan took off from Abu Dhabi on Monday, with the goal of becoming the first plane to travel around the world without any fuel. The Solar Impulse 2 will be piloted by André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, who will alternate flying the single-seat aircraft. The journey is expected to take several months, and the pilots hope the plane will make it back to Abu Dhabi by late July or August. The first stop is Muscat, Oman, where Borschberg is expected to land late Monday.

Source: The Associated Press

10 things you need to know today: February 20, 2015

The Week

1.Pentagon lays out plans, dates to retake Mosul from ISIS
In a briefing on Thursday, a U.S. Central Command official detailed how and when up to 25,000 Iraqi troops plan to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from Islamic State control, starting in April or May. Twelve brigades will be involved, the official said: five that will lead the attack, three acting as backup, three Kurdish peshmerga brigades to keep ISIS boxed in, and a force of former Mosul police and other leaders tasked with keeping control of the city once ISIS is pushed out. It is unusual for military officials to detail plans for an attack beforehand.

Source: The Associated Press

2.Record cold hits the East
A blast of Arctic air brought East Coast temperatures to record lows on Thursday, with still colder weather expected in some areas on Friday. In parts of the upper Midwest, Thursday temperatures plunged to minus 35 early Thursday. Sub-zero temperatures hit a broad area stretching from North Dakota south to Kentucky and east to New York. Chicago hit a record low for Feb. 19 at eight degrees below zero. All-time February lows are forecast from Ohio to Virginia early Friday.

Source: The Washington Post

3.Walmart promises to lift wages for 500,000 employees
Walmart pledged Thursday to raise the wages of a half million U.S. employees, boosting them to at least $9 an hour this year, and to $10 an hour by next February. Economists said the move by the giant retailer could signal that wage growth is finally picking up six years into the recovery from the Great Recession. The raises will affect about 500,000 of the company’s 1.4 million U.S. workers at Walmart and Sam’s Club stores.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

4.Caracas mayor arrested, accused of planning a coup
Venezuelan intelligence police on Thursday arrested Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, an outspoken critic of President Nicolas Maduro and his handling of the economy. In a televised statement, Maduro said Ledezma was detained on the public prosecutor’s orders for instigating a coup. “Enough already of vampires conspiring against the peace,” he said. Maduro also claimed the U.S. was attempting to destabilize his government, allegations the U.S. State Department called “baseless and false.”

Source: Bloomberg

5.Germany turns down Greece’s initial bailout extension terms
Germany rejected Greece’s proposal to extend its European bailout package for six months, saying Thursday that the new Greek government’s proposal was “not a substantial solution” because it did not stick to the austerity measures required under the original loan terms. Some analysts interpreted the rejection as a sign that Greece and its new anti-austerity government were destined to exit the eurozone. A senior Greek official said, however, that the two sides were near a deal heading into a Friday meeting.

Source: Reuters

6.Texas high court halts gay marriages
The Texas Supreme Court on Thursday halted gay marriages after a lesbian couple became the first same-sex partners to wed in the state. The Texas high court stayed two court rulings calling the state’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton declared the marriage of the couple — Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant — to be “void” after the Supreme Court decision. A county clerk in Austin had issued Goodfriend and Bryant a license because one had “severe and immediate health concerns.”

Source: NBC News

7.Bill O’Reilly accused of having his own “Brian Williams problem”
Mother Jones published an article Thursday accusing Fox News star Bill O’Reilly of claiming he was in the Falkland Islands during Argentina’s 1982 war with Britain, even though no U.S. reporters are believed to have made it to the islands. O’Reilly, who worked for CBS at the time, called the magazine’s assertion that he had a “Brian Williams problem” “a piece of garbage,” saying he never said he was in the islands. “I was in Buenos Aires,” O’Reilly said. “In Buenos Aires we were in a combat situation after the Argentines surrendered.”

Source: Mother Jones, Politico

8.Man arrested in connection with Las Vegas road-rage killing
Las Vegas police on Thursday arrested a 19-year-old man, Erich Nowsch, on suspicion of killing a Las Vegas woman, Tammy Meyers, after a road rage incident. Meyers was giving her 15-year-old daughter a driving lesson when the girl honked the horn at a car speeding by. The driver of the other vehicle stopped in front of the women and threatened them. Nowsch lives a block away from the Meyers’ house. Tammy Meyers’ husband said she knew Nowsch, and had given money and mentored him.

Source: CNN, The Associated Press

9. Giuliani defends controversial remarks about Obama
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) defended Thursday remarks he made about President Obama’s patriotism at a fundraiser Wednesdaynight for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R). During the event, he said, “I do not believe that the president loves America.” Giuliani told The New York Times on Thursday that he was not being prejudiced when he made the statement. “Some people thought it was racist — I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people,” he said. “This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.”

Source: The New York Times

10.Parks and Recreation exec Harris Wittels, 30, found dead
Parks and Recreation co-executive producer Harris Wittels was found dead Thursday at his Los Angeles home. He was 30. Police said they suspected a drug overdose, although the coroner’s office will have to perform an autopsy to confirm it. Amy Poehler, star of the NBC sitcom, mourned Wittels as a “dear, young friend in my life who was struggling with addiction.” Wittels also co-wrote the series and occasionally appeared as an animal control staffer. The show’s final season concludes Feb. 24.

Source: Los Angeles Times, Variety

10 things you need to know today: February 3, 2015

Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images

The Week

1.Second snowstorm hits already snow-covered Northeast
Boston authorities postponed a victory celebration for the New England Patriots after their Super Bowl victory, moving it from Tuesday to Wednesday due to a record breaking winter storm. The second blizzard to hit the Northeast in a week dumped another foot of snow on Boston, which was blanketed with two feet of snow last week, the most snow ever to fall on the city in seven days. The storm has been linked to at least 10 deaths, and forced the cancellation of 2,900 flights in Chicago, Newark, Boston, and New York.

Source: Reuters

2.Paul and Christie criticized for vaccine remarks
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, both potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates, faced criticism from medical experts on Monday after suggesting some child vaccinations should be made voluntary. Paul said some vaccines have caused “profound mental disorders.” Christie said parents need “some measure of choice” although, with a U.S. measles outbreak surpassing 100 cases, a spokesman said Christie believes “there is no question kids should be vaccinated” for measles. CDC director Tom Frieden said not vaccinating endangers other children.

Source: Fox News, The Washington Post

3.Obama sets new rules on NSA data mining
The Obama administration on Tuesday will announce new rules about how U.S. intelligence agencies manage the data they collect. The National Security Agency and other spy agencies will have to delete private information they collect about Americans that has no intelligence value, and do the same for foreigners after five years, The New York Timesreports. Obama will also begin a regular, formal White House assessment of NSA spying on foreign leaders.

Source: The New York Times

4.Obama releases his proposed $4 trillion budget
President Obama on Monday unveiled the specifics of a $4 trillion proposed budget that would roll back blanket spending cuts, raise taxes on wealthy Americans, and extend tax benefits to the middle class. “These proposals will put more money in middle-class pockets, raise wages, and bring more high-paying jobs to America,” Obama said in a statement. The budget covers the 2016 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The blueprint is largely a symbolic statement of the president’s priorities, as Congress will make significant changes to it over the coming months.

Source: The Associated Press

5.Google reportedly is developing an Uber rival
Google invested $258 million in Uber in August 2013, and put more money in the next year, but now the internet search giant reportedly is preparing to compete with Uber by starting its own ride-hailing service, possibly linked to its driverless car project. A person close to Uber’s board said David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer and an Uber board member, informed fellow Uber board members of the possibility. Uber leaders reportedly have seen a prototype app being used by Google employees.

Source: Bloomberg

6.Cuba publishes first photos of Fidel Castro since August
Cuba on Monday released the first photos of former president Fidel Castro seen since August. With Cuba’s communist government and the Obama administration attempting to renew diplomatic relations cut off in the Cold War, rumors have surfaced that Castro, 88, was dead or near death. Last week, Cuba released a letter attributed to Castro in which he said he didn’t trust the U.S. but advocated a “peaceful resolution to conflicts.” The photos, published in the official Granma newspaper, showed Castro in a meeting with a youth leader.

Source: The Washington Post

7.Bus firebombing kills seven in Bangladesh
Attackers hit a packed bus with gasoline-bombs in Bangladesh on Tuesday, killing at least seven people and injuring 16 others. The local police chief blamed the bombing on opposition activists, but they denied responsibility. At least 53 people have died in political violence, mostly vehicle firebombings, since the opposition launched a nationwide transportation strike in early January in a bid to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to resign.

Source: The Associated Press

8.Suge Knight charged with murder
Former rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight was charged with murder and attempted murder on Monday for allegedly running over two men with his truck, killing one and injuring the other. His $2.2 million bail was revoked because authorities considered him a possible flight risk. Police said Knight argued with the men on the set of Straight Outta Compton, a film about the group N.W.A., and later ran them over. Knight’s lawyer said he accidentally ran over the victims while trying to get away from two men trying to attack him.

Source: Los Angeles Times

9. Charles Manson’s marriage license expires with no wedding
Eighty-year-old mass murderer Charles Manson’s marriage license is set to expire on Thursday without a wedding. Manson and his fiancee, 26-year-old Afton Elaine Burton, missed their last chance to marry over the weekend — weddings are not performed on weekdays at the California prison where Manson is incarcerated. Burton, who uses the nickname Star, intends to get another 90-day license and proceed with the wedding plan, according to a source in contact with her.

Source: The Associated Press

10.Revenge-porn site creator convicted of extortion
A California court on Monday convicted revenge-porn site founder Kevin Bollaert, 28, on identity theft and extortion charges. He faces up to 20 years in prison. Bollaert set up one website,, where women’s former husbands and boyfriends posted nude photos of them, and he established another website,, where victims could pay up to $350 to get the photos taken down. “This is essentially 21st century blackmail,” Deputy Attorney General Tawnya Austin told jurors last week.

Source: NBC 7 San Diego, The Washington Post

10 things you need to know today – 1/26/2015


Secret Service Officers search south grounds of the White House on January 26, 2015 | (Photo: Susan Walsh, AP)

 The Week

(Via my email.  There is no longer access to the online version without a subscription.)

1. Radical Greek anti-austerity party wins parliamentary election

Greece’s radical left Syriza party, which is vowing to end the country’s tough austerity program, moved quickly to form a government Monday, a day after winning a decisive victory in Sunday’s parliamentary elections. Party leader Alexis Tsipras, at age 40 Greece’s youngest prime minister in 150 years, said the vote gave the party a clear mandate to end “five years of humiliation and pain,” signaling a showdown with lenders over the terms of Greece’s $270 billion international bailout. Greek stocks fell by five percent early Monday. [The Washington Post]

2. New York and the rest of the Northeast brace for historic storm

Airlines canceled nearly 2,000 flights on Monday ahead of a potentially historic winter storm headed into the Northeast. New Yorkers were expecting as much as 30 inches of snow to begin falling in early afternoon. New York City has only experienced two blizzards packing 26 inches of snow, one in 1947 and one in 2006. “Don’t underestimate this storm,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday. “My message for New Yorkers is prepare for something worse than we have ever seen before.” [ABC News, PBS Newshour]

3. Sixteen die in protests marking anniversary of Egypt’s uprising

At least 16 people were killed in Egypt over the weekend in clashes between police and protesters marking the fourth anniversary of the country’s revolution. At least 15 people, including three police cadets, were killed on Sunday. One woman, Shaimaa El-Sabbagh of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, was killed — shot by police, colleagues said — as she marched with a group heading to Tahrir Square. Police deny firing the shots, saying they only used tear gas. [CNN, BBC News]

4. New York Assembly Speaker Silver agrees to temporarily step aside

Longtime New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver agreed Sunday to step aside temporarily as he fights federal corruption charges. Silver was under increasing pressure from Democrats to give up his duties. One person familiar with the deal said Silver, who was arrested on Thursday, would “not specifically step down, but step back.” Democrats will hold a closed-door meeting on Monday afternoon to consider the plan. [The New York Times]

5. Small aerial drone found on White House grounds

A device believed to be a small aerial drone, was found on the grounds of the White House on Sunday. Obama administration officials said Monday that the device posed no threat. The discovery came as President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are in India, although their daughters, Sasha and Malia, did not travel with them. The news came as the Secret Service has been trying to regroup after several security breaches, including one in September when a man with a knife scaled a fence and ran into the White House. [The Miami Herald]

6. Christie forms PAC ahead of possible presidential bid

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has formed a political action committee in what has been interpreted as an early step toward launching a bid for the presidency in 2016. The move made Christie the third high-profile Republican to consider launching a campaign, behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, the GOP’s nominee in 2012. Launching the PAC, Leadership Matters for America, will let Christie recruit the staff and fundraisers he would need to start a campaign. [The Wall Street Journal]

7. Obama moves to expand protections in Alaska wilderness

The White House announced on Sunday that President Obama will ask Congress to classify 12 million acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska as wilderness. The designation would make it illegal to drill for oil and gas, or build roads on the land. The news was met with excitement from environmental groups and anger by Republican opponents, including Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who called the proposal “a stunning attack on our sovereignty.” [The New York Times]

8. Church of England consecrates its first female bishop

The Church of England is consecrating its first female bishop on Monday. The Reverend Libby Lane, 48, said her ordination as Bishop of Stockport is a “profound and remarkable moment,” as it ends an uninterrupted tradition of male-only leadership for the 500-year-old institution. The church announced Lane’s consecration last month after a divisive debate over whether to allow women to become bishops. Critics said Lane’s appointment was merely symbolic, but she said she may be “the first, but I won’t be the only.” [BBC News, The Associated Press]

9. Birdman takes top prize at SAG Awards

Birdman took the top prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday night, winning for outstanding ensemble in a motion picture. The prize boosted the film’s Oscar hopes, although its star, Michael Keaton, was upset by Eddie Redmayne, who took the best-actor award for his work in The Theory of Everything. Uzo Aduba took the prize for outstanding female actor for her role as “Crazy Eyes” in the Orange is the New Black. The series also won for best cast in a comedy. [CBS News, USA Today]

10. Duke’s Coach K gets his 1,000th win

The Duke men’s basketball team made a late-game comeback to beat St. Johns 77-68 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, giving the Blue Devils’ legendary coach, Mike Krzyzewski, the 1,000th win of his 40-year coaching career. Duke trailed by 10 with just over eight minutes remaining, then went on a 28-9 tear. Krzyzewski was already the winningest coach in Division I college men’s basketball. He won that distinction three seasons ago in the same arena with his 903rd win, surpassing his mentor, former Indiana coach Bobby Knight. [Raleigh News & Observer, Sports Illustrated]

‘Daily Show’ trolls NYPD ‘slowdown,’ invites you to ‘sh*ttier New York’

Jon Stewart hosts ‘The Daily Show’ on April 1, 2014.

The Raw Story

Daily Show host Jon Stewart took a more optimistic tack on the news that New York City police were intentionally cutting down on arrests as part of a grudge against Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“A slowdown sounds so negative,” Stewart said on Thursday. “It’s really more of a public safety stay-cation, if you will. It explains the NYPD’s new motto: ‘To chill and reflect.’”

Stewart and correspondent Jason Jones, along with the “committee for a sh*ttier New York,” then invited viewers to visit the city, now that Jones could act like he was negotiating drug deals in full view of an officer without any hassle.

“Catch the spirit of the city’s old-world charm, and also some chlamydia,” Jones said over footage of himself wearing a cardboard box instead of pants and inviting a man to his one-man “peep show.”

The “new New York,” Jones said, opened up new business opportunities, like selling bootleg copies of Stewart’s movie, Rosewater, on the street.

“I tell you what — you buy American Sniper, I’ll give you two Rosewaters,” he told a prospective customer.

Stewart noted that police have cut down drastically on arrests for minor offenses following the fatal shootings of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos on Dec. 20, accusing de Blasio of disrespecting them.

But at the same time, he said, the “slowdown” happened just as the city is boasting an overall decrease in the crime rate.

“Burglary — down. Assault — down. Remember that giant ape, used to be on the skyscraper? Gone,” he explained. “The only thing we have to deal with now is the occasional koala ruckus, which is really one of the more adorable problems our city has.”

Watch Stewart and Jones’ take on the “new New York,” as posted online on Thursday, here.

5 Policies That Defined Mario Cuomo’s Progressive Legacy

Former New York  Gov. Mario Cuomo (D)

Former Gov. Mario Cuomo (D) | CREDIT: LOUIS LANZANO/ AP

Think Progress

Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo (D) died of natural causes due to heart failure Thursday, the same day his son Andrew Cuomo was inaugurated for a second term as governor of New York. He was 82.

In a press statement issued Thursday, President Obama called Cuomo “a determined champion of progressive values, and an unflinching voice for tolerance, inclusiveness, fairness, dignity, and opportunity.” Echoing similar sentiments, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a statement saying that Cuomo’s “values, his vision, and his effectiveness for the people of New York were an inspiration around the world. In word and deed, Governor Cuomo challenged us to make real the American Dream for all who strive to realize it.” Other liberal heavyweights like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also weighed in, calling the former governor “compassionate.”

Hailed as a progressive giant, the former governor, who served three terms as the 52nd governor of New York between 1983 to 1994, championed the rights of working people, middle class families, women, and minorities, setting the stage for liberalism during a time that the political philosophy was “in decline,” the Washington Post pointed out. Cuomo’s “Shining City on a Hill” speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention — deemed one of the greatest speeches of all time — challenged then-President Ronald Reagan (R) to visit rural areas of America and to help lift working people into the middle class. Cuomo charged, “Mr. President you ought to know that this nation is more a ‘Tale of Two Cities’ than it is just a ‘Shining City on a Hill.’”

Here is just a short list of some of Cuomo’s most progressive causes and accomplishments:

1. Fought for legal abortion. In spite of his strong Roman Catholic belief, Cuomo fought for women to receive legal abortions in New York State. “Those who endorse legalized abortions — aren’t a ruthless, callous alliance of anti-Christians determined to overthrow our moral standards,” Cuomo said in a 1984 speech at the University of Notre Dame. “In many cases, the proponents of legal abortion are the very people who have worked with Catholics to realize the goals of social justice set out in papal encyclicals.”

2. Passed nation’s first mandatory seat-belt law. After a 11-year battle in the New York state legislature, Cuomo signed into law the nation’s first mandatory seat-belt law in 1984. Prior to the law’s passage, only about 12 percent of people buckled up, but that figure has since shot up to 91 percent in 2013 in New York state. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that seat belts have saved an estimated 11,949 lives.

3. Vetoed the death penalty. For the 12 years he served as governor, Cuomo vetoed the death penalty several times, against public mood at a turbulent time when the crime rate soared in New York. Calling the death penalty “corrosive” and a “stain on our conscience” in 2011, Cuomo lamented that the 48 executions in 2008 were “an abomination” and that the death penalty is unfairly applied across racial lines. Counting the last 18 people in New York State to be executed after 1963, Cuomo found that 13 individuals were black and one Hispanic, “an extraordinary improbability for a system operating with any kind of objectivity and consistency.”

4. Reshaped the New York State Court of Appeals with a diverse group of sitting judges. Cuomo appointed the state’s first African-American, a Hispanic, and two women justices to New York’s highest court, the State Court of Appeals. Judith S. Kaye was the first woman to serve as chief judge. According to a 2013 Albany Law Review piece, Cuomo “remains the last New York State Governor to appoint a Court of Appeals judge from the opposing political party.”

5. Supported banning assault weapons. The former governor has been a longtime opponent of banning assault weapons used in a quarter of the crimes committed in New York state. According to a 1994 New York Magazine article, Cuomo “has supported an assault-weapons ban that is far more serious than the federal one Bill Clinton is poised to sign — it would ban the guns used in a quarter of the crimes in New York — though so far the State Senate has blocked it.” Guns “encourage that instinct we have for brutality that’s everywhere around us,” Cuomo said in 2006 to a group called New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty. “My God. How do you justify it? You can’t move the NRA in Congress.”

10 things you need to know today: December 30, 2014

Relatives of passengers of the missing AirAsia flight react to news of bodies found.

Relatives of passengers of the missing AirAsia flight react to news of bodies found | (AP Photo/Trisnadi)

The Week

Bodies found in search for missing AirAsia jet, Rep. Michael Grimm resigns, and more

1. Bodies and wreckage found in AirAsia search
Indonesian search and rescue crews looking for a missing AirAsia jet have recovered 40 bodies from the Java Sea near Borneo, Indonesian naval authorities said Tuesday. The Airbus A320 aircraft was bound for Singapore when it disappeared from radar early Sunday with 162 passengers and crew on board after hitting a line of severe tropical thunderstorms. Rescuers spotted only bodies and debris believed to be from the missing plane. There was no sign of survivors. [The Globe and Mail]


2. New York congressman quits under fire
Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), who pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion two weeks ago, announced just before midnight Monday that he was resigning. Grimm previously said he would remain in office, but he reversed course shortly after meeting with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “I do not believe that I can continue to be 100 percent effective in the next Congress, and therefore, out of respect for the office and the people I so proudly represent, it is time for me to start the next chapter of my life,” he said. [The New York Times]


3. U.S. targets al-Shabab leader in airstrike
The U.S. targeted an al-Shabab leader in Somalia with an airstrike on Monday. The operation came four months after another U.S. airstrike reportedly killed the al Qaeda-linked Islamist terrorist group’s head, Ahmed Abdi Godane, following the capture of its intelligence chief. The U.S. designated al-Shabab as a terrorist organization in 2008. It has launched a string of attacks on civilians in Uganda and Kenya, including a 2013 siege at a Nairobi mall that killed more than 60 people. [The Wall Street Journal]


4. L.A. police officers shot at while on patrol
Two men shot at a police car patrolling a high-crime area in Los Angeles on Monday, stoking fears of attacks in the California city mirroring the recent murder of two officers in New York. “It was a complete unprovoked attack,” LAPD Deputy Chief Bob Green said immediately after the incident. Later reports suggested the officers might have been inadvertently fired at after driving into a violent clash. One man was arrested shortly after the shooting. [The Associated Press]


5. Scotland reports its first Ebola case
Scotland confirmed its first Ebola case on Monday. The patient — a female nurse — was diagnosed with the potentially deadly virus after returning from Sierra Leone, one of the West African nations hit hardest with this year’s Ebola outbreak — the worst in history. The woman has not been identified by name or nationality. She worked for Save the Children’s Ebola hospital in Kerry Town, near Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown. The patient is being transferred to a high-level isolation unit in London. [USA Today]


6. De Blasio heckled at New York City police cadet graduation
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was greeted with both boos and applause on Monday while addressing a group of graduating police cadets. The incident came two days after thousands of officers, who accuse de Blasio of fueling anti-police anger over recent killings of unarmed black men by white officers, turned their backs on de Blasio at a funeral for one of the two policemen killed by a gunman on Dec. 20. When de Blasio praised the cadets for confronting problems they “didn’t create,” a heckler said, “You created them!” [Reuters]


7. House majority whip admits speaking at a white nationalist group in 2002
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the House majority whip, acknowledged Monday that he had spoken at a gathering of white nationalists in 2002. At the time of the appearance at the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, which was founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, Scalise, 48, was a state representative. His office said he was not aware of the nature of the organization, which has been called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. [The Washington Post]


8. Oil prices continue falling to their lowest in five years
Oil prices dropped by more than $1 a barrel on Monday, reaching their lowest level since May 2009. Reported damage to Libya’s oil facilities briefly buoyed prices before the reality of a worldwide oil glut dragged prices down again. Brent crude fell $1.57 to $57.88 at the end of the day, and U.S. crude dropped $1.12 to $53.60 per barrel. “Every time the market tries to pick itself up, it’s just another wave of selling,” said Tradition Energy senior analyst Gene McGillian. [Reuters]


9. Australian teenage spear fisherman killed by shark
An Australian teenager was killed by a great white shark on Monday. The young man — Jay Muscat, 17 — was spearfishing with a friend when the shark, estimated to be between 13 and 16 feet long, attacked. The shark reportedly might have been injured by Muscat’s diving companion, who told authorities he fired a spear at it. Officials closed nearby Cheynes Beach in Western Australia’s south coast. Two weeks ago, an 18-year-old man was killed while spearfishing on eastern Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. [The Associated Press]


10. Mo’Ne Davis, 13, wins AP‘s Female Athlete of the Year
Thirteen-year-old Little League pitcher Mo’ne Davis has been chosen as the 2014 Associated PressFemale Athlete of the Year. Davis this year became the first girl to win a game pitching in the Little League World Series. The eighth grader, who also stars on her school’s high school varsity basketball team, appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, was named Sports Kid of the Year bySports Illustrated Kids, and has already met President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at the White House. [USA Today]

10 things you need to know today: October 26, 2014

Ukrainian voters head to the polls | David Ramos / Getty Images

The Week

Two dozen European banks fail a financial stress test, Ukrainians vote for a new parliament, and more.

1. 25 European banks fail stress test
Twenty-five of Europe’s largest banks flunked a financial stress test because they did not have big enough cash buffers to weather a hypothetical economic crisis, the European Central Bank said Sunday. The stress test examined 25 eurozone banks’ finances through the end of 2013. Among those that failed, 13 have still not raised enough capital to insulate themselves from a future crisis. In order to do so, the ECB said, they’ll need to raise another 10 billion euros, or $12.5 billion. [The New York Times, The Associated Press]


2. Ukrainians vote Sunday for new parliament
Ukrainian voters headed to the polls Sunday for the first parliamentary elections since protests ousted former president Viktor Yanukovich. Voters are expected to back candidates who align with President Petro Poroshenko and favor closer ties to the West. That would give Poroshenko broader authority to pursue his agenda, but it would likely further strain Ukraine’s rocky relationship with Russia. [Reuters]


3. U.K. ends combat mission in Afghanistan
Britain on Sunday officially ended its combat operation in Afghanistan when it turned over to Afghan forces its last military base in the country. The handover of Camp Letherneck and Camp Bastion, a sprawling base jointly run by the U.K. and the U.S., also marks the end of America’s involvement in Afghanistan’s war-torn Helmand province. Foreign troops are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of the year. [The Wall Street Journal , CNN]


4. Quarantined nurse criticizes Ebola policy
A nurse who was quarantined in New Jersey after treating Ebola patients in West Africa said the mandatory isolation policy treats health professionals like “criminals and prisoners.” “This is not a situation I would wish on anyone, and I am scared for those who will follow me,” the nurse, Kaci Hickox, who tested negative for Ebola, wrote in The Dallas Morning News. New York and New Jersey implemented the strict quarantine policy Friday after a doctor in New York City, who had been treating patients in Guinea, tested positive for Ebola. [The Dallas Morning News, CNN]


5. Federal government recognizes gay marriage in six more states
The federal government has added six more states to its list of those where same-sex couples can receive federal benefits, Attorney General Eric Holder said Saturday. The states are Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming, all of which had recently seen their gay marriage bans fall in the courts. Same-sex couples in 32 states may now receive federal benefits. [CBS]


6. Giants beat Royals, knot World Series
The San Francisco Giants trounced the Kansas City Royals 11-4 Saturday night to even the World Series at two games apiece. Giants ace Madison Bumgarner gets the ball Sunday night to try and put his team one game away from a third title in five years. [ESPN]


7. Army recruited football players with booze, women
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point’s football team treated prospective players to a booze-filled dinner and a party bus loaded with cheerleaders, according to documents obtained by The Colorado Springs Gazette. West Point confirmed the report, saying in a statement it “adjudicated this at the highest level of the disciplinary code.” The academy punished 20 cadets, two officers, and two coaches, though none were dismissed from the institution for violating NCAA recruiting rules. [Colorado Springs Gazette]


8. WHO raises Ebola death toll to nearly 5,000
The World Health Organization on Saturday said the global death toll from Ebola had risen to 4,922 out of a total of 10,141 confirmed cases of infection. All but 10 of the deaths were confined to three countries: Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. [NBC]


9. Cream bassist Jack Bruce dead at 71
Jack Bruce, bassist for the legendary supergroup Cream, died Saturday of liver disease. He was 71 years old. “The world of music will be a poorer place without him but he lives on in his music and forever in our hearts,” his family said in a statement. [The Guardian]


10. Google exec breaks skydive record with ‘near-space’ leap
Google executive Alan Eustace on Friday set a new record by skydiving from “near-space” at a height of 135,000 feet, or more than 25 miles above Earth. The leap bested the previous record of 127,852 feet, set by Felix Baumgartner in 2012. “It was beautiful,” Eustace told The New York Times. “You could see the darkness of space and you could see the layers of atmosphere, which I had never seen before.” [The New York Times]