Wednesday

10 things you need to know today: November 14, 2013

A billion dollars isn't as cool as it used to be. 

A billion dollars isn’t as cool as it used to be. (Jens Buttner/dpa/Corbis)

The Week

Healthcare.gov’s first month was officially a bust, Snapchat rejects Facebook’s $3 billion offer, and more

1. Just 106,000 picked health plans in ObamaCare marketplaces’ first month
The Obama administration said Wednesday that 106,000 people — far fewer than expected — selected health insurance plans through ObamaCare’s state and federal online marketplaces in their first month. Only 26,794 signed up through the troubled Healthcare.gov website. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused White House of “Enron-like accounting” for touting those who picked plans, rather than those who actually bought coverage. [New York Times]
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2. Snapchat spurns Facebook’s $3 billion offer
The fast-growing messaging service Snapchat has reportedly turned down a $3 billion buyout offer from Facebook. Young people are flocking to Snapchat, a mobile app that lets them trade messages or photos that disappear after a few seconds. Facebook has been losing young users, and wants Snapchat to bring them back. Snapchat co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel, 23, is hoping the company will keep growing and fetch an even bigger price later. [USA Today]
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3. American ships reach the Philippines with aid for typhoon victims
U.S. Navy ships, including an aircraft carrier and a 700-foot supply ship, arrived in the Philippines on Thursday to deliver badly needed food, water, and medicine to victims of Typhoon Haiyan. Despite a mounting aid effort, many survivors still haven’t received badly needed supplies, as debris from the massive storm is blocking roads, including the one connecting the devastated city of Tacloban with its airport. [CNNBBC News]
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5. Four Marines die in an accident at Camp Pendleton
Four Marines were killed Wednesday while performing maintenance on an artillery range at California’s Fort Pendleton. The accident was not caused by live fire. The names of the dead will be announced within 24 hours, after their families are notified. “Our first priority is to provide the families with the support they need,” Brig. Gen. John Bullard said. [Los Angeles Times]
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4. GOP lawmakers say they will try to impeach Holder
House Republicans say they plan to introduce articles of impeachment against Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday. They say Holder has failed to uphold federal laws — by declining to enforce laws on gay marriage, for example. They also accuse him of lying to Congress when he refused to give a congressional committee subpoenaed documents about the botched “Fast and Furious” sting that involved selling weapons to gun traffickers. [Reuters]
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6. Toronto council asks alleged crack-smoking mayor to quit
Toronto’s city council voted on Wednesday to ask scandal-plagued Mayor Rob Ford to step down. Ford and his brother voted against the motion, but it passed 37-5. Ford, who is refusing to resign despite admitting that he smoked crack, shrugged and said, “I effed up.” Later he confessed to buying drugs, and tried to introduce a motion calling for everyone on the council to undergo drug and alcohol testing, but his colleagues laughed at him. [National Post]
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7. Two Secret Service agents get kicked off Obama’s security team
The Secret Service, still bruised by a 2012 prostitution scandal, has removed two agents from President Obama’s security detail for alleged misconduct. Senior supervisor Ignacio Zamora Jr. allegedly tried to force his way back into a woman’s hotel room after leaving behind a bullet from his gun. The follow-up investigation uncovered sexually suggestive emails Zamora and fellow supervisor Timothy Barraclough sent a female subordinate. [Washington Post]
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8. Markets rise as the Fed signals continuing stimulus
Stocks rose around the world early Thursday after the Federal Reserve’s incoming chief, Janet Yellen, said in remarks prepared for her Senate confirmation hearing that the central bank would have to continue its huge asset-buying economic stimulus program for a while longer. Yellen said that with unemployment still high there was “more work to do.” The comments sent the Dow and S&P 500 indexes jumping to record levels late Wednesday. [Reuters]
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9. Alleged Baldwin stalker goes to jail for contempt
A Canadian woman accused of stalking actor Alec Baldwin got a 30-day jail term on Wednesday for contempt of court after she repeatedly interrupted another witness by saying, “I want to testify.” Genevieve Sabourin, 41, says she had a one-night stand with Baldwin and he promised her a lifetime of omelets. The actor says he never had a sexual relationship with Sabourin. [CNN]
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10. Diamond fetches record price at Swiss auction
The Pink Star diamond sold for a record $83 million at a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva. The old record for the most paid for a gemstone at auction was set three years ago when another diamond, the Graff Pink, sold for $46.2 million. That gem was half the size of the Pink Star, which measures 1.06 by 0.81 inches, and is set in a ring. The buyer of the Pink Star was New York diamond cutter Isaac Wolf. [BBC News]

10 things you need to know today: November 7, 2013

#TwitterIPO

#TwitterIPO (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The Week

Twitter stock goes on sale, a top HealthCare.gov official retires, and more

1. Twitter boosts its shares’ price before its IPO
Twitter priced its initial public offering of stock at $26 a share, giving the microblogging site a value of $14.4 billion. The 70 million shares begin trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. Despite years of negative cash flow, the company boosted the price at the last minute from an earlier range of $23 to $25. The deal is set to raise as much as $2.1 billion, making it the biggest tech IPO since Facebook’s last year. [Wall Street Journal]
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2. The top HealthCare.gov tech official retires
The chief information officer of the agency responsible for the botched rollout of the ObamaCare website is leaving the government at the end of next week, according to an internal memo reported Wednesday. The official, Tony Trenkle, was in charge of Deputy CIO Henry Chao, the point person on the launch of HealthCare.gov for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS declined to respond to questions about whether Trenkle was forced out. [Washington Post]
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3. Swiss investigators say Arafat was probably poisoned
A Swiss forensics team found high levels of radioactive polonium in the remains of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004, supporting the theory that he was poisoned, Al Jazeera reported Wednesday. Officially, the cause of death is listed as a stroke resulting from a blood disorder, but Arafat’s body was exhumed after Palestinians insisted he had been murdered. Israel said the investigation was “more soap opera than science.” [Los Angeles Times]
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4. Justices question a town board’s public prayers
The Supreme Court, wading into the controversial topic of public prayer, considered arguments Wednesday on the constitutionality of a New York town board’s practice of opening its meetings with prayers. Two people — one an atheist, the other Jewish — sued. The town said members of all faiths were welcome. A lower court ruled that since most of the prayers were Christian the practice amounted to an endorsement of a particular religion. [New York Times]
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5. Super typhoon hammers Pacific islands
With sustained winds topping out at 175 mph, super typhoon Haiyan barreled toward the Philippines early Thursday, after blowing through Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia. The storm could hit Manila, which has 12 million people, by late Friday or early Saturday. Thousands of villagers have fled their homes. Weather Channel lead meteorologist Michael Palmer said Haiyan could cause “a significant loss of life.” [USA TodayNBC News]
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6. Greek police remove occupiers from shuttered state TV station
Greek riot police raided former state broadcaster ERT’s headquarters on Thursday and removed 50 former employees who had been occupying the building since the government closed it down over wasteful spending. A replacement for ERT — Nerit — is scheduled to launch next spring. The raid prompted fresh protests outside the building by opponents of the debt-plagued government’s attempts to slash spending in exchange for a foreign bailout. [New York Times]
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7. Diplomats begin a second round of nuclear talks with Iran
The U.S. and five other world powers started two days of talks with Iran over its controversial nuclear program on Thursday. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said a deal was possible “if everyone tries their best.” European diplomats said they were cautiously optimistic. The meeting, in Geneva, marks the second round of talks since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected in June and began pushing for better ties with the West. [ReutersBBC News]
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8. A 1980s hijacker returns from Cuba to face justice
A former Black Panther militant who hijacked a plane to Cuba in 1984 returned to the U.S. on Wednesday, seeking “closure.” William Potts, now 56, had expected the Cuban government to train him for guerrilla warfare; instead, it jailed him for 13 years for piracy. He later settled in Havana. Now he says he’s ready to face the U.S. justice system. He hopes for leniency, and plans to return to Cuba once the case is settled. [BBC News]
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9. Blockbuster is closing its stores and focusing on video streaming
The parent company of Blockbuster announced that the once dominant video rental business isshutting down its 300 remaining stores. Leaders of DISH Network, which bought Blockbuster in 2011, said the move was necessary because consumers now want to download or stream videos — not rent them on DVDs. Blockbuster will continue its Blockbuster On Demand streaming service and Blockbuster @Home on DISH. Fifty independent stores might also remain open. [CNN]
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10. George Strait takes top honors at the Country Music Awards
Country legend George Strait, who is in the middle of a farewell tour, won entertainer of the year at Wednesday night’s 47th Annual Country Music Awards in Nashville. The night’s other big winners included Taylor Swift, who won the Pinnacle award, and newcomers Florida Georgia Line, who took the prize for vocal duo of the year, and single of the year for their hit “Cruise.” [Boston Globe]

 

10 things you need to know today: October 31, 2013

Ichiban!

Ichiban! (REUTERS/Greg M. Cooper – USA Today Sports)

The Week

The Red Sox win the World Series, Sebelius and Obama take responsibility for Healthcare.gov glitches, and more

1. Red Sox win the World Series at home
The Boston Red Sox won the World Series with a 6-1 victory in game six over the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday night. It was the first time since 1918 the team had sealed a Series championship at home. “It was just an unbelievable feeling to do this in front of our fans,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. The Red Sox, led by MVP David Ortiz, are the first team since the 1991 Twins to go from last in their division to a Series crown in one year. [Boston GlobeUSA Today]
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2. NSA reportedly intercepted information from Google and Yahoo users
The National Security Agency has secretly tapped into the system connecting Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing interviews as well as documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. One hand-drawn sketch created by a NSA worker portrayed how information from the Google Cloud could be intercepted. Two Google engineers erupted in profanities when they saw it. [Washington Post]
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3. Sebelius and Obama take responsibility for Healthcare.gov disaster
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took responsibility Wednesday for thebotched rollout of the ObamaCare website. “Hold me accountable for the debacle,” she told the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Furious Republicans want her to resign. CBS News says Sebelius gave the “all clear” even though the site crashed in tests days before launch. President Obama said he takes “full responsibility” for fixing the problems. [Associated PressCBS News]
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4. Fed policy makers keep the stimulus going
The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it was prolonging its campaign to boost the economy by purchasing $85 billion a month in bonds and other assets. The decision came after a two-day meeting of Fed policy makers, and provided little insight into when the central bank might make a change. The Fed said the job market was slowly improving, but that fiscal policy (meaning spending cuts, the shutdown, etc.) are “restraining economic growth.” [New York Times,CNN]
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5. New York ups the age for buying tobacco to 21
The New York City Council voted Wednesday to raise the legal age for buying cigarettes to 21, from 18, giving New York the toughest limit on tobacco sales of any major U.S. city. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he will sign the measure, which will take effect six months after he does. Critics say it’s unfair to tell people old enough to vote or join the military they can’t smoke, but advocates say higher age limits will keep many young people from getting hooked. [Associated Press]
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6. Syria disables its chemical weapon factories as promised
Syria has met a deadline to destroy or disable its chemical weapons production facilities, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Thursday. The watchdog, which won the Nobel Peace Prize this month, said its inspectors had confirmed the work. Syria’s next deadline under its ambitious disarmament push is Nov. 15, when it must agree to a detailed plan to destroy its 1,000-plus metric tons of chemical agents and weapons. [Reuters]
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7. China arrests suspects tied to Tiananmen crash and fire
Chinese authorities announced Wednesday that they had detained five suspects in connection with a fiery crash that killed five people, including two tourists, in Tiananmen Square this week. Investigators said the men, all ethnic Uighurs from China’s western Xinjiang region, were Islamic jihadists who got a man, his wife, and his mother to drive across a crowded sidewalk and toward the entrance to the Forbidden City. [New York Times]
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8. Iraq says it needs more U.S. military aid
Two years after the departure of U.S. troops following the collapse of security talks, Iraq reportedly plans to ask the Obama administration for more weapons and training to counter an increase in attacks by al Qaeda-linked suicide bombers. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki plans to discuss the request Friday with President Obama at the White House. A bipartisan group of senators said this week that the surge in violence was partly Maliki’s fault. [Al JazeeraCNN]
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9. Facebook stock rises, and falls
Facebook’s stock jumped by 15.5 percent on Wednesday after the social networking giant reported a sharp increase in profits and revenue that shattered Wall Street’s expectations. The shares hit an all-time high of $56.65 in after hours trading, but the euphoria didn’t last. Facebook shares dropped again in extended trading after the company acknowledged that usage by teenagers has decreased recently. [USA Today]
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10. Woman is fined for driving while wearing Google Glass
A California woman topped everyone ever busted for the dangerous habit of texting while driving. Cecilia Abadie, 44, got a ticket this week for motoring down a Southern California interstate while wearing a Google Glass headset computer. “Is Google Glass illegal while driving or is this cop wrong???” Abadie posted online. “Any legal advice is appreciated.” The state Highway Patrol said it’s illegal to drive with a video monitor on in the front seat. [Los Angeles Times]

Georgia school shooting suspect had nearly 500 rounds of ammo, police say

A sign welcomes Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy students as they return to classes at McNair High School on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 after a man with an assault rifle and other weapons entered the academy yesterday and shot at police from inside.

Yesterday tragedy was averted in an Atlanta school by a brave secretary in the McNair Elementary School office

NBC News

The suspect in a Georgia elementary school shooting who fired six rounds in a front office before surrendering to police had nearly 500 rounds of ammunition with him, authorities said Wednesday.

Michael Brandon Hill, 20, walked into Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., outside Atlanta with an AK-47 type assault rifle, along with bags containing hundreds of rounds of ammunition and a couple of magazines on Tuesday, DeKalb County officials announced at a press conference on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, DeKalb County lead investigator Ray Davis and police chief Cedric Alexander outlined what could have been a massacre for the school, but ended with nobody hurt. The suspect surrendered peacefully to police after exchanging gunfire with them.

“He walked in with 498 rounds of ammunition. Fortunately this came to an end quietly, without incident,” Alexander said. “I think we can all make a reasonable assumption he came here to do some harm.”

Hill “did not have anything else in the bag that would harm people,” Davis told reporters. Only one weapon was recovered, authorities said Wednesday, contradicting earlier reports that he had multiple firearms.

As part of their investigation, authorities are looking to locate the owner of the AK-47, who they believe is an acquaintance of Hill’s. Davis said officials believe Hill got the weapon from an acquaintance’s house, although he wouldn’t say whether the weapon was stolen or not.

A photo of Hill holding an AK-47, believed to be the same one used in Tuesday’s shooting, was found on Hill’s cellphone, Davis said.

Also Wednesday, the brother of Michael Brandon Hill, said Hill previously threatened to shoot him and that he suffers from mental disorders.

Timothy Hill told NBC News his brother “was bipolar and suffered from ADD,” and that the two have not spoken recently.

Davis said Hill told investigators he was on medication.

“He indicated that he was on medication and had stopped taking it,” Davis said.

Hill waived his first appearance in DeKalb Magistrate Court Wednesday afternoon.

Hill is charged with aggravated assault on a police officer, making terroristic threats and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He was questioned for hours by police, but police have no clear idea of what may be a motive or whether Hill has ties to the school.

Police chief Alexander said Hill “may have had prior contact” with someone at the school, but the investigation was still pending.

No other individuals are expected to be charged.

A sheriff’s official in Henry County, Ga., south of Atlanta, said Hill was also charged there in March with making terroristic threats — a felony in Georgia. The indictment is for an incident between Dec. 30 and 31 of 2012 to “unlawfully threaten to commit the crime of murder, a crime of violence, for the purpose of terrorizing another.”

Timothy Hill told NBC News the charge stemmed from Hill threatening to shoot him. Michael Hill was issued a no-contact order afterwards, Timothy Hill said.

Court records show that Hill pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years’ probation and anger counseling.

Buses transported elementary school students from their school to nearby McNair High School on Wednesday to resume classes, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, a day after a potential massacre was averted.

Students were greeted by counselors and a sign that read, “Welcome McNair Elementary School. Our prayers our with you,” WSB in Atlanta reported.

Continue reading here…

 

10 things you need to know today: August 8, 2013

.

This is not the jackpot winner

The Week

Obama’s canceled Russia summit imperils future arms cuts, three lucky winners hold Powerball jackpot tickets, and more

1. OBAMA’S CANCELED RUSSIA SUMMIT IMPERILS ARMS CUTS
President Obama’s Wednesday decision to cancel next month’s one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin “disappointed” the Russian leader, and potentially dooms further nuclear arms cuts. The immediate cause of this rift is Russia’s decision to grant temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, but Obama and Putin have butted heads over arms control, missile defense, Syria, trade, and human rights in the past. Obama will still attend the annual conference of the Group of 20 nations in St. Petersburg on Sept. 5 and 6. [The New York Times]

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2. DRONE STRIKE KILLS 6 IN YEMEN
A U.S. drone killed at least six suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen’s southeastern province of Maareb on Thursday. The strike follows Yemen’s announcement that it foiled a plot by al Qaeda to seize major oil and gas terminals and a provincial capital. The drone killings also come after warnings of potential attacks that pushed the U.S. to shut missions across the Middle East, and the U.S. and Britain to evacuate staff from Yemen. [Reuters]

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3. JPMORGAN REVEALS IT IS UNDER FEDERAL INVESTIGATION
JPMorgan Chase said Wednesday that it is under federal criminal investigation over selling mortgage securities, potentially making it the largest bank to face criminal sanctions over securitization practices that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis. The bank disclosed in a quarterly securities filing that the Justice Department told JPMorgan in May that prosecutors had “preliminarily concluded” that it violated civil securities laws from 2005 to 2007. [Huffington Post]

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4. THREE WINNING POWERBALL TICKETS WERE SOLD
Three winning tickets for the Powerball lottery’s latest jackpot — $448.4 million — were sold to still-unknown winners, one in Minnesota and two in New Jersey. The winning numbers in Wednesday night’s drawing: 05, 25, 30, 58, 59 and Powerball 32. It was the third-largest jackpot in Powerball history. [NPR]
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5. REBELS CLAIM ATTACK ON ASSAD’S MOTORCADE
Syria’s information minister denied rebel claims that they attacked President Bashar al-Assad’s convoy as it drove in an affluent, high-security area where the president has a home. Earlier, the militant Liwa al-Islam Brigade said the president’s motorcade was hit as it drove to a prayer service to mark the end of Ramadan. [BBC]
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6. WASHINGTON, OREGON ISSUE AMBER ALERTS FOR 2 MISSING KIDS
Oregon and Washington issued Amber Alerts for 16-year-old Hannah Anderson and her 8-year-old brother Ethan Wednesday as the search expanded for James Lee DiMaggio, who is suspected of abducting the siblings and is wanted in the death of their mother. A friend of Hannah’s said that DiMaggio “had a crush” on her. Police are searching for DiMaggio and his blue Nissan Versa. [Associated Press]
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7. FORT HOOD SHOOTER IS “WORKING TOWARD DEATH PENALTY”
After indications that Fort Hood shooting suspect Maj. Nidal Hasan wants a death sentence, his lawyers filed a motion asking the judge to modify their role on Wednesday. “It becomes clear his goal is to remove impediments or obstacles to the death penalty and is working toward a death penalty,” his lead standby attorney told the judge, adding that the strategy “is repugnant to defense counsel and contrary to our professional obligations.” The judge called a Thursday recess in response to the motion. [Associated Press]
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8. WILDFIRE RAVAGES HOMES IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
A quick-moving wildfire exploded and raced through several mountain communities near Palm Springs, Calif., on Wednesday, destroying homes and forcing hundreds of residents to flee. The still-spreading fire burned an estimated 5,000 acres (nearly eight square miles) in four hours. [NBC News]
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9. NIH MAKES PRIVACY AGREEMENT WITH LACKS FAMILY
Relatives of unknowing cell-donor Henrietta Lacks forged a historic privacy agreement with NIH over genetics studies based on her now-famous “HeLa” cancer cells that were the first to be immortalized in test tubes after she died of cervical cancer in 1951. The cells have become the center of recent debates over genetic privacy. [USA Today]
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10. SUN’S MAGNETIC FIELD WILL FLIP SOON
Measurements taken from NASA’s observatories suggest that the sun’s magnetic field is about to flip. This event happens roughly every 11 years and may affect the Earth’s climate. “It looks like we’re no more than three to four months away from a complete field reversal,” solar physicist Todd Hoeksema, director of Stanford University’s Wilcox Solar Observatory, said. [CBS News]

Wednesday Blog Roundup – 7-10-2013

America’s Secret Spy Court Has Been Radically Expanding The Powers Of The NSA

NY Times Editorial: The Laws We Can’t See

Pro-Hillary super PAC signs up top Obama aides

Snowden Asylum Applications Reveal More Stupidity

Insurer Refuses To Cover Gun-Carrying Kansas Schools

Perry decides not to seek another term as Texas governor

Defense in Zimmerman trial expects to rest its case Wednesday

Obama Calls On Congress To Help Streamline Government Services

Elisabeth Hasselbeck Joining Fox News, will Co-Host ‘Fox & Friends’

Dems to GOP: Your new anti-abortion push is dead on arrival in Senate

Media Matters staff: Limbaugh Walks Back His Criticism Of Fox, Declares “We’re On The Same Team”

 

10 things you need to know today: June 13, 2013

An airplane drops flame retardant over the Black Forest Fire north of Colorado Springs on June 12.

The Week

Snowden tells China the U.S. hacks its computers, Colorado wildfires destroy 100 homes, and more

1. SNOWDEN ACCUSES THE U.S. OF HACKING CHINA
NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden emerged briefly from hiding Wednesday to tell the South China Morning Post that the U.S. government has been hacking into computers in Hong Kong and mainland China for years. Snowden also told the newspaper that Washington is exerting diplomatic pressure on Hong Kong to extradite him. Chinese state media on Thursday suggested that Snowden’s revelations about U.S. monitoring of internet and telephone communications could damage U.S.-Chinese relations. [South China Morning PostNew York Times]
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2. LONGTIME CIA DEPUTY STEPS DOWN
The CIA’s deputy director, Michael Morell, is retiring after 33 years with the agency, and he’ll be replaced by Avril D. Haines, the top lawyer at the National Security Council, CIA Director John Brennan announced Wednesday. Haines will be the first woman to hold one of the agency’s top two jobs. Morell was at George W. Bush’s side during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and he was with President Obama during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden a decade later. [New York Times]
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3. SYRIA DEATH TOLL CLIMBS
The death toll from Syria’s two-year civil war climbed to at least 93,000 by the end of April, the United Nations’ human rights office said Thursday. More than 5,000 people have been killed monthly since July. Eighty percent of those killed have been men, but the U.N. said it had documented the deaths of more than 1,700 children under the age of 10. The last U.N. report, issued in mid-May, estimated the total death toll at 80,000. [BBC News]
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4. NSA DIRECTOR SAYS CONTROVERSIAL SPY PROGRAMS THWARTED TERRORISM
National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander defended two controversial surveillance programs before a Senate panel on Wednesday, saying they had helped prevent “dozens of terrorist events” in recent years. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last week leaked documents exposing the programs — one involving the collection of telephone call logs, the other tracking internet communications by foreigners outside the U.S. [Politico]
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5. COLORADO FIRES DESTROY 100 HOMES
Colorado wildfires, fueled by gusty winds and high temperatures, have destroyed 100 homes and forced thousands of people to flee, including 900 inmates evacuated from a state prison. Mandatory evacuation orders have been extended over a 55-square-mile area, affecting 9,000 people near Colorado Springs, and firefighters expect the infernos to grow. “This part, not knowing if I have a house or not, is the worst,” Paula Warren, forced to flee the Black Forest fire, says. [CNN]
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6. ARIEL CASTRO PLEADS NOT GUILTY
Ariel Castro pleaded not guilty Wednesday to kidnapping and raping three women he allegedly held captive in his Cleveland home for a decade. The women — Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight — were freed in May after neighbors heard Berry calling for help. Castro’s lawyers say they hope to avoid an “unnecessary trial” by reaching a plea deal, provided the death penalty is ruled out. Castro was charged with aggravated murder for allegedly forcing one of the women to miscarry. [Plain Dealer]
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7. GIRL GETS NEW LUNGS AFTER HER PARENTS FIGHT TRANSPLANT RULES
Sarah Murnaghan, a 10-year-old Pennsylvania girl with cystic fibrosis, received new lungs Wednesday days after a judge’s controversial ruling improved her shot at a lifesaving transplant. Federal rules require patients under 12 to receive organs from child donors, which rarely become available, but the girl’s parents got a judge to block the agency that oversees transplants from applying the rule, clearing the way for the girl to receive lungs from an adult donor. [CNN]
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8. TURKEY’S ERDOGAN DOUBLES DOWN AGAINST PROTESTERS
Turkish Prime Minister on Thursday ordered that all “troublemakers” be removed from Istanbul’s Taksim Square within 24 hours. The defiant move came as the European Parliament planned a resolution condemning Erdogan’s government for “the disproportionate and excessive use of force” to quell the protests, which began with calls to save a park in the square but snowballed into broad demonstrations against what activists call Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule. [CBC]
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9. NASCAR’S LEFFLER KILLED IN CRASH
NASCAR driver Jason Leffler died Wednesday after a crash in a dirt-track race in New Jersey. Leffler was driving a 410 sprint car in a qualifying race at Bridgeport Speedway, a 5/8-mile, high-banked dirt track, when he slammed into a wall. Rescuers had to extricate him, unconscious, from the wreckage. He was pronounced dead a half hour later at a hospital. NASCAR said Leffler “was a fierce competitor in our sport and he will be missed.” [USA Today]
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10. AUSTRALIAN BECOMES LATEST TO ATTEMPT TO SWIM ACROSS THE FLORIDA STRAITS
Australian Chloe McCardel became the latest endurance athlete to try, and fail, to swim cross the Florida Straits without a shark cage. McCardel, 28, abandoned her attempt Wednesday night due to debilitating jellyfish stings — on her back, legs, and arms — just 11 hours after entering the water in Havana, Cuba. Diana Nyad, who has failed three times to make the same crossing, tweeted support, calling McCardel “a superior swimmer and an exemplary spirit.” [Associated Press]

 

Gun Violence Victims Detained, Put Through Background Check For Yelling ‘Shame On You’ At Senators

Shameful…

Think Progress

“Shame on you!” Patricia Maisch and Lori Haas yelled in rapid succession at the 46 senators who had just voted to kill a compromise amendment to expand background checks for gun purchases at gun shows or online. The women were sitting in the gallery with a large group of gun violence victims as the Senate responded to the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut by defeating the measure advocates and law enforcement officials consider crucial to keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

The pair has first-hand experience with the consequences of the broken system. In 2011, Maisch was hailed as a hero for disarming Tucson shooter Jared Loughner by preventing him from reloading a fresh magazine. Haas’ daughter Emily was shot twice during the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 and survived, leading her to become a proponent of stronger gun regulations. But on Wednesday afternoon, the two women faced tighter scrutiny for interrupting a Senate proceeding than many individuals seeking to purchase guns.

As they left the Senate gallery, a police officer approached and asked them to follow him. The three walked downstairs to a public hallway, where they were peppered with questions: “What’s your name?” “Where are you from?” “What are your Social Security numbers?” The officer left to run a background check on the women, who were instructed to sit on a bench. Another uniformed officer watched over them, even escorted Haas to the bathroom and told her she couldn’t lock the stall door.

Sitting there, waiting for the officer to return, Haas stewed over the failed vote. “I just can’t fathom that these people don’t have a heart,” she told ThinkProgress in a phone interview. “If they had seen, just one miniscule of the pain I’ve seen from the Virginia Tech families and so many other families that I’ve worked with in the last 6 years, they couldn’t help but want to do something about stoping gun violence.”

An hour and a half later, another law enforcement official approached and quizzed the the two women further. He asked them about their intentions and where they were from, why they were in D.C., how long they planned to stay and when they were leaving.

The entire ordeal stretched for almost two hours — approximately 115 minutes longer than a background check at a federal gun dealer. Haas noted the irony of undergoing hours of questioning while permitting gun purchases without any screening at gun shows or online.

“The irony is not lost on me and it’s not lost on the American public,” Haas said. “Very ironic that an hour and a half investigation into two women shouting in the Senate gallery takes place and yet real criminals and other prohibited purchasers get willy nilly access to fire arms.”

10 things you need to know today: April 11, 2013

An ultra thin Samsung Notebook Series 9 laptop computer, left, running Microsoft Windows 8, sits next to an Apple Macbook Air.

G-8 leaders discuss how to handle North Korea, PC sales plummet, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion

The Week

1. JAPAN ASKS G-8 TO SHOW SOLIDARITY ON NORTH KOREA
Top diplomats from the G-8 group of nations are meeting in London on Thursday, and Japan is calling for a show of solidarity against North Korea, following reports that the country’s military has moved a mobile missile launcher into a firing position. South Korean officials say the odds are “very high” that the North, which has been threatening nuclear war, is on the verge of launching a missile test. Despite the ongoing threats, however, North Korea has begun welcoming visitors ahead of Monday’s celebration of the birthday of Kim Il Sung, the founding father of the country’s communist dynasty — the first sign of easing tension in weeks. [IndependentBBC News]
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2. GEORGIA MAN KILLED WHEN POLICE STORM HOUSE TO FREE HOSTAGES
Police killed a gunman and freed four suburban Atlanta firefighters he allegedly took hostage when they responded to a 911 call from a man who claimed to be having a heart attack on Wednesday. After a standoff that lasted several hours — during which the man let a fifth firefighter leave — a SWAT team used “flash-bang” grenades to distract the gunman and stormed his house. The suspect was shot and killed in an exchange of gunfire, and one officer was wounded. The firefighters sustained cuts and scrapes from the explosions. Police said the gunman had financial troubles, and was demanding that his power, cable TV, and cellphone be turned back on. [CNN]
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3. TORNADOES HIT MISSOURI AND ARKANSAS
Missouri officials declared a state of emergency Wednesday night after tornadoes and violent thunderstorms destroyed homes and businesses outside St. Louis and across the state. In Arkansas, at least three people were injured, three houses were flattened, and dozens more buildings were damaged by the same storm system. The storms popped up along the line where a cold front smashed into warm, humid air, leaving a 40-degree temperature difference in Arkansas on opposite sides of the boundary — Pine Bluff, in southeastern Arkansas, was at 80 degrees, and Fayetteville, in the northwestern corner, was at 40 degrees, according to Weather.com. [NBC News]
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4. CARSON CANCELS COMMENCEMENT SPEECH
Dr. Ben Carson, who’s enjoying sudden popularity as a conservative speaker, said Wednesday that he’s canceling plans to speak at Johns Hopkins University’s graduation ceremony because of a controversy over remarks he made recently against gay marriage. Carson said two weeks ago that traditional marriage is a “well-established, fundamental pillar of society, and no group — be they gays… be they people who believe in bestiality” — should be allowed to change how it’s defined. Students petitioned to have him removed as commencement speaker. Carson said he was stepping aside so the controversy wouldn’t “distract from the true celebratory nature of the day.” [Washington Post]
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5. PC SALES PLUMMET
Sales of personal computers dropped by 14 percent in the first three months of 2013 compared with the same period last year, according to newly released figures from research firm IDC, and some analysts are blaming Microsoft’s Windows 8 for the slump. With the economy improving somewhat, analysts had expected a decline of just 7.7 percent. The October release of Microsoft’s Windows 8 was also expected to boost PC sales. But the software got a lukewarm reception and appears to have actually hurt sales by confusing PC users, IDC says. [Telegraph]
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6. JEWELL CONFIRMED AS NEXT INTERIOR SECRETARY
Sally Jewell sailed to confirmation as President Obama’s new interior secretary on Wednesday, with an 87 to 11 vote in the Senate. All of the senators who opposed her were Republicans. Jewell, chief executive of outdoor retailer Recreational Equipment Inc., will replace outgoing Ken Salazar as overseer of the nation’s 500 million acres of national parks and other public lands, as well as more than a billion acres offshore. One of her first challenges will be finalizing a proposed rule requiring companies drilling for oil and gas on federal lands to disclose chemicals they use in hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Energy companies complained that an original draft of the rule placed too many burdens on them. [Boston Globe]
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7. IN CHINA, SCIENTISTS FIND OLDEST DINOSAUR EMBRYOS EVER
Paleontologists in China have discovered the world’s oldest dinosaur embryos, researchers reported in Nature on Wednesday. The fossilized remains were found in a bone bed dating to the Early Jurassic period, making them about 195 million years old. Most known dinosaur embryos date to the Late Cretaceous period, so the find pushes the record back by 100 million years. The researchers believe the newly discovered remains were those of a long-necked, plant-eating dinosaur called Lufengosaurus, which grew to 30 feet. “These things were growing faster than anything we’ve ever seen — faster than any living mammal or bird today or any known dinosaur,” said paleontologist Robert Reisz of the University of Toronto at Mississauga, who led the team that analyzed the specimens. [Nature]
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8. JAPANESE AUTOMAKERS ANNOUNCE RECALL OVER AIR BAGS
Toyota, Honda, and Nissan are recalling more than 3.4 million vehicles worldwide to fix a problem with their passenger-side air bags. The cars were manufactured between 2000 and 2004, and were fitted with air bags made by Japan’s Takata Corp. that have an inflator that could burst, sending plastic pieces flying. No injuries have been reported, but Toyota — which is recalling several models, including the Corolla, Tundra, and Lexus SC — said it had received five reports of air-bag malfunctions. The problems stemmed from two human errors — a worker forgot to turn on a system for spotting defects, and some parts were exposed to too much humidity because they were improperly stored. [CBS News]
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9. HERMIT ARRESTED AFTER 27 YEARS IN MAINE WOODS
A hermit who lived in the Maine woods for 27 years has been arrested and charged with the latest in a series of more than 1,000 burglaries he allegedly committed to stay alive since disappearing into the wilderness at age 19. Police say they caught Christopher Knight — known as the North Pond Hermit — last week after he tripped a sophisticated surveillance device while breaking into the Pine Tree Camp in Rome, Maine, to take meat and other provisions. Knight, 47, had a tent in the woods, and allegedly routinely pilfered provisions from other campsites and nearby buildings. Police say he confessed to stealing food, clothing, and propane tanks from the Pine Tree Camp 50 times. “He used us like his local Walmart,” said facilities manager Harvey Chesley. [Columbus Dispatch]
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10. CHINA YANKS DJANGO UNCHAINED
China pulled Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained from movie theaters on Thursday, its opening day. The move was unexpected, as some violent scenes were edited to suit Chinese censors. Authorities gave no explanation for the decision, although workers at two Beijing theaters told The Associated Press the importer, China Film Group, had pulled the film over technical problems. The film was heavily promoted ahead of the scheduled China debut, and no decision has been announced on when it will be cleared to appear in theaters. [New York Times]

Another day in the (gun crazy) U.S.A.

Gun Crazy Nation

Daily Kos is running a daily list on gun violence in America.  Following, is the latest installment…

Daily Kos

February 7, 2013 edition

Forest Meadows, Calif. — A 54-year-old man shot and killed his 17-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter with a Glock 9mm handgun before turning the weapon on himself late last week.

Plymouth, Wis. — A 59-year-old woman found dead in a barn about 8:30 a.m. yesterday was apparently shot by a male neighbor who later shot and wounded himself. He was listed in critical condition.

Los Angeles, Calif. — A former Los Angeles police officer wanted for the murder of a man and woman last Sunday has allegedly shot and killed a Riverside, Calif. police officer and wounded police officers from Riverside and Los Angeles. A manhunt is underway.

O’Fallon, Mo. — A 55-year-old woman was found dead at a home about 5:15 p.m. Tuesday. She had been shot multiple times in the head. Police are looking for her 63-year-old ex-boyfriend.

Jacksonville, Fla. — A 46-year-old man was fatally shot while driving on a city street in what might have been a case of road rage. He was found in the driver’s seat of a crashed pickup about 7:50 p.m. Police are looking for a vehicle seen following the man.

Sandpoint, Idaho — A confrontation of some sort about 6 p.m. Wednesday has left a 36-year-old man fatally shot and a 35-year-old man with a gunshot wound to his arm. No word on the condition of the wounded man.

Granite Falls, N.C. — A shooting about 6:30 p.m. today has left one person dead. Police are questioning a person of interest.

Houston, Tex. — A man found shot and lying on the ground outside an apartment complex about midnight last night later died at a hospital. He had been shot several times.

Cleveland, Oh. — A 22-year-old man was shot and killed about 8:40 p.m. yesterday. He had been shot several times

Philadelphia, Penn. — A 23-year-old man is dead after he was shot at least once in the chest in a second-floor apartment Wednesday night.

Washington, D.C. — A security guard was shot when a 28-year-old man armed with a 9 mm handgun entered the headquarters of a lobbying group and began verbally expressing opposition to the organization’s policies. The guard and others nearby managed to subdue the intruder until police arrived. He was listed in stable condition.

Plainfield, Ind. — A man was shot at an apartment complex Wednesday night. Police later pulled over a car matching the description of a vehicle spotted leaving the scene. No word on the victim’s condition.

New Orleans, La. — A man was shot multiple times around 11 a.m. yesterday.
No report on the man’s condition.

Buena Vista Township, Mich. — A 5-year-old boy and his 46-year-old grandfather were shot during a robbery about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. A man approached the grandfather and his wife in the driveway of a home and demanded money before opening fire, striking the grandfather. One of the bullets went through a wall of the house and struck the boy in the leg. The boy was hospitalized. The grandfather was treated at a hospital and released.

Camarillo, Calif. — A 22-year-old male was injured by gunfire. He was treated and released from a local hospital.

Little Rock, Ark. — One person was reported shot at an apartment complex today. Police are searching for a suspect. No other details are available.

Miami, Fla. — A robber yanked a gold chain off the neck of an 82-year-old man sitting in his front yard yesterday morning before shooting him in the leg and fleeing. No word on the victim’s condition.

Chicago, Ill. — A 23-year-old man was shot in the back of his thigh about 6:55 p.m. yesterday. He had exchanged words with three others when one of the three opened fire with a handgun. The victim was in stable condition.

Chicago, Ill. — A 22-year-old man was shot in the arm about 1:30 p.m. yesterday. No word on his condition.

Orlando, Fla. — Two people were shot and wounded after someone opened fire and sprayed their vehicle as they drove away from a nightclub about 4:50 a.m. this morning. The injuries were not considered life-threatening.

Tempe, Ariz. — Five schools were put on lockdown while police searched for a suspect who fired shots at a car on the freeway in an apparent road-rage incident about 1:20 p.m. today. Police have one person in custody and are looking for another.

Charlotte, N.C. — A 15-year-old high school student was arrested for bringing a loaded handgun to school in his backpack.

Today’s sources: Chicago Tribune, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Detroit Free Press, Florida Times-Union, Houston Chronicle, KABC – TV Los Angeles, KNXV-TV Phoenix, Orlando Sentinel, Philadelphia Inquirer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Times- Picayune, Washington Post, WISH-TV Indianapolis, WSVN-TV Miami

Addendum for February 7, 2013If you want to reduce this daily slaughter, please call, write, email, or FAX your representatives in Washington, D.C. and tell them to support common sense gun controls.

You can get contact information here:

http://www.contactingthecongress.org