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Kansas City Police Arrest Man Suspected in Highway Shootings

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 05:12

A suspect in the recent string of 20 shootings in and around Kansas City has been apprehended. Police Chief Darryl Forte said that the suspect was arrested but not yet formally charged.

The random shootings, mostly on highways and roads, started on March 8, leaving three people wounded and putting residents of the Kansas City area on edge. At least 12 of the shootings are believed to be connected.

“We wanted to make sure the residents and those people who travel through Kansas City know they are safe,” said Forte, praising the investigation’s swift development.

The suspect is known to be a man in his late twenties.

“The investigation is ongoing, we are still looking at evidence. I can’t say this is the only suspect. We are always looking,” Forte said.

Most of the 20 shootings occurred at night and on highways, though police have not revealed more details to explain the connection they found between 12 of them. Some of the motorists were struck by bullets a very short time apart.

There have been no more related shootings since Kansas City police went public with their investigation.

Categories: Magazines

India’s Antigraft Fighter Takes on Opposition Leader In the Battle For Varanasi

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 05:08

Congested and crisscrossed by narrow and often dark lanes, Varanasi’s air is a mix of wood smoke and incense. The green-brown Ganges, the busy colorful bazaars, the morning bathers and the nightly oil lamps make this picturesque place a draw for tourists from all over. There’s a timeless quality in this northern Indian city, said to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

But this month, the peace has been rudely shattered. Ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi decided to contest from Varanasi, and Arvind Kejriwal, chief of the newly-formed antigraft Aam Aadmi Party decided to take him head on, things in Varanasi have been as earthly as they can possibly be.

For the city’s 1.5 million voters, severely polarized on the basis of caste and religion, it’s going to be a tough call.

Varanasi is a bastion of Hinduism and with around 3,500,000 Brahmin votes has traditionally been a stronghold of the BJP. For the last 20 years, with the exception of 2004, they have won this seat. For Modi, who has elbowed aside member of Parliament and party old timer Murli Manohar Joshi to enter the fray, winning Varanasi should be a breeze — at least until Kejriwal decided to begin a David vs Goliath face-off.

While Modi can count on Varanasi’s staunch Hindu Brahmin population, Kejriwal, if he can position his campaign well, can appeal to a entire cross section of voters — the city’s 400,000 Muslims, for instance.

“Here is a person who is at the forefront of an anti corruption movement, former chief minister of Delhi, a person who has been highlighting issues relating to crony capitalism and arguing there’s little to differentiate between the [incumbent] Congress and BJP when it comes to policies,” points out Delhi-based independent political analyst, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta. “The fact he is personally contesting Modi, irrespective of the outcome, is very significant in itself.”

Kejriwal says he is not much after the seat as the platform that campaigning provides him. “I am not here to become a Member of Parliament. If that was my intent, I would have chosen a safe seat like most other politicians are doing,” he told a rally in Varanasi recently.

Meanwhile, the incumbent Congress party’s candidate, local politician Aay Rai, has been campaigning in the shadow of his counterparts. If Kejriwal eats into Modi’s vote bank, and if the regional Samajwadi party goes through with a proposal to withdraw its candidate and transfer support to Rai, then Congress just might pull it off. Either way, in Varanasi Kejriwal has the power to dent the spectacular win Modi envisioned for himself.

Categories: Magazines

Racist Internet Forums Linked to U.S. Hate Crimes

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 05:07

A white supremacist charged with killing three people this week had posted over 12,000 messages on the website Stormfront, which carries the slogan “No Jews, No Right,” according to an organization that tracks hate groups. Frazier Glenn Cross stands accused of killing three people near two Jewish community facilities in suburban Kansas City.

According to a report released Thursday by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit civil rights organization, there has been a developing online trend of posters on online hate forums being “disproportionately responsible” for mass killings and racist crime.

A community of “White Nationalists,” Stormfront describes itself as “the voice of the new, embattled White minority.”

Users of the website were responsible for over 100 murders in the last five years, claim researchers.

Past visitors include Wade Michael Page, an American veteran who killed six people in a mass shooting at a Sikh Temple in 2012. Another was Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian extremist who killed 77 people in a shooting spree at a youth summer camp in 2011.

“It has been a magnet for the deadly and deranged,” said Heidi Beirich, author of the report.

Don Black, owner of Stormfront, told Reuters that killers like Breivik have been banned from posting on the site. “We’re obviously a big website, and any site is likely to have a few unstable people pass through,” Black posted in a statement on his website.

Categories: Magazines

This is the Deadliest Day in Mt. Everest’s History

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 04:23

An early morning avalanche on the slopes of Mount Everest has killed at least 12 Nepalese Sherpas and left several more missing in what is being called the deadliest day in the mountain’s history.

A wall of snow overcame the local guides at 6:30 a.m. on Friday morning near the mountain’s Camp 2 as they were preparing ropes on the route to the summit ahead of the spring climbing season.

“Rescuers have already retrieved four bodies and they are now trying to pull out two more bodies that are buried under snow,” Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, told AFP.

Sherpas are famous for their ability to weather high altitudes and are widely regarded as some of the best mountaineers in the world. A Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, and New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary were the first people to summit the world’s highest peak.

Today, many Sherpa work under incredible pressure, pushing their bodies to their physical limits in order to maintain lucrative guide positions in the service of usually affluent foreign mountaineers, who climb in the Himalayas as a form of adventure tourism.

To date, more than 4,000 climbers have reached Everest’s summit. An estimated 200 have died in the attempt.

[AFP, AP]

Categories: Magazines

Ole Miss Fraternity Chapter Shuttered After Racist Prank

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 04:10

The University of Mississippi’s Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity chapter has been closed after three members are believed to have hung a noose around a bronze statue of civil rights icon James Meredith, the first black student admitted to the Oxford-based school.

“The decision is not a result of any individual incident, but a response to newly discovered, ongoing behavior that includes incidents of hazing, underage drinking, alcohol abuse, and failure to comply with the university and fraternity’s codes of conduct,” the fraternity said in a statement Thursday.

“Though the incident involving the James Meredith statue several months ago did not directly result in the chapter’s closure, it did mark the beginning of an intensified period of review.”

In February, a person or persons placed a noose around the campus statue and left behind a Confederate flag. In the wake of the incident, the fraternity decided to expel three students.

Categories: Magazines

Despair Turns to Anger in South Korea as Ferry Death Toll Reaches 28

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 03:48

Updated 7:37 a.m. ET

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The vice principal of the high school whose students made up the bulk of those aboard the stricken Sewol ferry reportedly committed suicide Friday after being rescued.

The death of Kang Min-Kyu, 52, is the 29th so far connected to the disaster, local news agency Yonhap reports, and with 270 people still missing, fingers are being pointed at the captain and crew, even as rescue attempts continue amid the murky and turbulent waters.

Officials are looking at whether a crewman’s decision to abruptly turn the 6,852-ton ship, bound for the southern resort island of Jeju, contributed to its sinking off the coast of South Korea on Wednesday. There were 475 passengers aboard, many of them high school students on a class trip. At present, officials say there are just 179 survivors, with the final death toll expected to climb considerably higher.

Divers have been continually buffeted by fierce currents, strong tides and bad weather, and have struggled to enter the now completely submerged hulk, with most recovered bodies being found floating in open water.

“We cannot even see the ship’s white color. Our people are just touching the hull with their hands,” Kim Chun-il, a diver from Undine Marine Industries, told relatives gathered nearby in the port city of Jindo.

Comparing eyewitness testimony from survivors with a transcript of a ship-to-shore exchange indicates that the captain delayed evacuation for about 30 minutes after a transportation official gave an order to prepare to abandon the 20-year-old vessel.

According to the Associated Press, at 9 a.m. — just five minutes after receiving a distress call — an official at the Jeju Vessel Traffic Services Center instructed that lifejackets be readied in preparation for evacuation. But a crew member on board replied, “It’s hard for people to move.”

Near the site of the tragedy, anxious and frustrated family members huddle to observe the faltering rescue attempts. “I want to jump into the water with them,” said Park Geum-san, the 59-year-old great-aunt of missing student Park Ye-ji. “My loved one is under the water … anger is not enough.”

The Japanese-made ship was three hours from its destination when it began to list heavily and fill with water, despite following a frequently traveled 300-mile route in calm conditions. Repeated attempts were made to right the vessel but failed even though it was apparently well within the 5% maximum list for such maneuvers to succeed.

Increasingly, relatives are venting anger at the authorities involved, and especially the ship’s captain, 68-year-old Lee Joon-seok, who was among 20 of the 29 crew members to survive, according to the coast guard.

“How could he tell those young kids to stay there and jump from the sinking ship himself?” said Ham Young-ho, grandfather of Lee Da-woon, 17, one of the young confirmed dead, reports Reuters.

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that some text messages, purportedly from survivors trapped within the vessel and saying “I am still alive” and “There are six of us in the room next to the dining hall,” were among many hoax messages that circulated in the aftermath of the disaster.

South Korea’s National Police Agency revealed there were no records of phone calls, SMS or other messages received from anyone listed as missing after noon on Wednesday — one hour after the boat overturned — further dashing hopes that anyone still inside the sunken hull is still alive.

Categories: Magazines

In India, 150 Million People Will Be Voting For The First Time This Year

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 03:18

It’s Thursday afternoon at the Youth Ki Awaaz (Voice of the Youth) office in New Delhi, and around ten young undergraduates are in deep discussion, brainstorming ideas for a voting drive known as the Youth Elect 2014 campaign. It’s been a busy month, with most of them putting in at least 35 hours a week – stolen from their social lives and impending examinations in May – to organize Google Hangouts, opinion surveys, and other initiatives to help young voters make informed choices for the elections, which began on April 7.

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The 2014 elections will see around 150 million voters, between the ages 18-23, head to the voting booths for the first time. As a voting class, young Indians have traditionally been apolitical. This year, however, they seem unequivocal about change.

“One of the biggest demands by young people is their participation in governance,” says Anshul Tewari, the 23-year-old who in 2008 founded Youth Ki Awaaz, as a platform for young people to discuss issues important to them. “They want to be a part of the system that decides for them.”

Events of the recent past – anti-graft protests in 2011 and mass demonstrations against sexual violence, sparked by the horrific Dec. 16 gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical intern in New Delhi — have transformed this one-time dispassionate generation into a politically sensitized group.

There have been other catalysts too. “Expenses are running out of hand,” says Azad Singh, a 23-year-old state gold-medal wrestler and first time voter from New Delhi. Rising inflation means his special athlete’s diet is bleeding him dry. We’re not talking about expensive protein shakes and supergreen food supplements, but a few kilograms of almonds every month and four liters of milk a day. Which is a lot of milk, but it ought to be within the grasp of somebody who self-describes as “middle class.” He says: “I want a leader who can fix all these.”

Young people want better security for women (“I am a young girl who is teased by lecherous men everyday on the roads,” says 20-year-old Anwesha Dhar, a student of English from Kolkata). They want a sustainable development model (“Small towns and villages grapple with poverty and ignorance every day,” says Mayank Jain, 20, final year student of business studies at Delhi University). They wnat basic human rights (“Child labor, malnourishment, trafficking are all pervasive and appalling and need immediate action,” says Meghana Rathore, 20, a political science student from New Delhi).

Issues like gay rights too, which hadn’t bothered young Indians much in the past, are important this year. The Supreme Court made gay sex a criminal offense in 2013, overturning an historical judgment by a lower court that had decriminalized homosexuality in 2009. “There has to be a change in the way society looks at us,” says a 20-year-old, gay student of fashion design, Shadwal Srivastava. “That can only come from raising awareness and stopping the comic and often trivial portrayal of gay people in television and movies.”

It is a heartening sign for the Indian democracy that first time voters like Srivastava are more forthcoming with their ideas on politics, politicians and their expectations. Wooed by political parties across the board as an important vote bank, they have been swayed equally by anger against the ruling Congress party, the rise of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, and the emergence of neophytes like Arvind Kejriwal, a middle class Indian who claims to represent the common man with his anti-graft Aam Aadmi Party.

“A few years back I thought my vote didn’t matter,” Srivastava says. “Today I know better. If we want change, we will have to work towards it.”

 

Categories: Magazines

U.S. Special Ops Are Soldiers Committing Suicide in Record Numbers

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 01:56

Updated: April 18, 6 a.m. ET

U.S. special operations forces personnel are committing suicide in record numbers, according to a top military official, due to the traumatic effects of years of war.

Admiral William McRaven, who leads the Special Operations Command, told a conference in Tampa, Fla. that members of elite units like the Navy SEALs and Army Rangers have proved prone to depression and self-harm over the past two years, reports Reuters. “And this year, I am afraid, we are on path to break that,” he said.

“My soldiers have been fighting now for 12, 13 years in hard combat—hard combat,” McRaven added. “And anybody that has spent any time in this war has been changed by it. It’s that simple.”

Although precise figures were not provided, it is well known that the U.S. military has been struggling with suicides for a long time. In 2012, the estimated 350 active duty servicemen and servicewomen across the American armed forces that committed suicide surpassed the number lost in combat.

[Reuters]

Categories: Magazines

The Reason We Can’t Find MH 370 Is Because We’re Basically Blind

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 01:06

Men have played golf on the moon. Images transmitted from the surface of Mars have become utterly commonplace. The Hubble Space Telescope can see 10 billion to 15 billion light-years into the universe.

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But a mere three miles under the sea? That’s a true twilight zone.

As the hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 demonstrates, at that depth — minuscule compared with the vastness of space — everything is a virtual unknown. A high-tech unmanned underwater submarine, Bluefin-21, has been dispatched four times to look for wreckage from the jet, but the crushing water pressure and impenetrability of this void mean that only its most recent pair of missions were completed. Scrutinizing dust and rock particles on the Red Planet, tens of millions of miles away, is a breeze. Understanding what’s on the seafloor of our own planet is not.

About 95% of deep ocean floor remains unmapped, but that’s almost certainly where the most sought after aircraft in history is going to be found. “Our knowledge of the detailed ocean floor is very, very sparse,” Erik van Sebille, an oceanographer at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, tells TIME.

The reason for our ignorance is simple. Virtually all modern communications technology — be it light, radio, X-rays, wi-fi — is a form of electromagnetic radiation, which seawater just loves to suck up. “The only thing that does travel [underwater] is sound,” says van Sebille, “and that’s why we have to use sonar.”

Sound is formed by mechanical waves and so can penetrate denser mediums like liquids: but at a 3-mile (5 km) depth, even sonar starts to have problems establishing basic parameters. The waters in which the search for MH 370 is happening, for example, were thought to be between 13,800 and 14,400 ft. (4,200 and 4,400 m) deep, because that’s what it said on the charts that had been drawn up over time by passing ships with sonar capabilities. It turns out those seas are at least 14,800 ft. (4,500 m) deep. We only know that now because that’s the depth at which Bluefin-21 will automatically resurface — as it did on its maiden foray — when onboard sensors tell it that it’s way, way out of its operating depth. The problems with Bluefin-21, van Sebille says, show us that “even our best maps are really not good here.”

The other issue affecting visibility is the sheer volume of junk in the ocean. About 5.25 trillion particles of plastic trash presently billow around the planet, say experts, weighing half a million tons. There are five huge garbage patches in the world’s seas, where the swirling of currents makes the mostly plastic debris accumulate. The largest of these is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a gyre measuring an estimated 270,000 to 5.8 million sq. mi. (700,000 to 15 million sq km). This refuse gets ingested by plankton, fish, birds and larger marine mammals, imperiling our entire ecosystem.

Flotsam debris has already impeded the hunt for MH 370. Hundreds of suspicious items spotted by satellite have sent aircraft and ships on hugely costly detours to investigate what turned out to be trash. (On Friday an air-and-surface search continued, with 12 aircraft and 11 ships scouring an area of some 20,000 sq. mi. [52,000 sq km] about 1,200 miles [2,000 km] northwest of Perth.) Officials are saying that such efforts are becoming futile.

For all we know, Bluefin-21 could also be confused by the sheer volume of garbage down there. According to a study by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute published last June, based on 8,000 hours of underwater video, an unbelievable quantity of waste is strewn across the ocean floor. A third of the debris is thought to be plastic — bags, bottles, pellets, crates — but there is a vast amount of metal trash as well, including many of the 10,000 shipping containers estimated to be lost each year. “I was surprised that we saw so much trash in deeper water,” said Kyra Schlining, lead author on the study. “We don’t usually think of our daily activities as affecting life two miles deep in the ocean.”

That’s because we can’t see it. It’s tempting to say that MH 370 might as well have vanished into space — only if it had, we’d have found it by now.

Categories: Magazines

RECAP: Parenthood Season Finale: The Tomato in the Room

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 00:48

The NBC family drama wrapped its fifth season — and possibly its last, as the show is currently on the bubble — with plenty of romantic revelations, mostly predictable but with one big surprise (at least for those who didn’t have it spoiled during last week’s preview).

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Prodigal daughter Haddie is back with a whole new look — and a big surprise. She comes home from college for summer break with her “best friend” in tow: blonde cutie “Lauren,” played by Tavi Gevinson of Rookie Magazine fame. She keeps the sexual nature of their relationship secret at first, then hints at their intimacy to her dad, but he doesn’t put two and two together until Lauren drops a heavier hint. Kristina finds out after Max, who has walked in on the two smooching, bluntly asks his mom, “If two girls are kissing, does that mean that they’re lesbians?” Though stunned, Kristina accepts and embraces the news in the family’s signature Berkeley way.

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It’s an odd choice on the writers’ part to so heavily feature a character who’s been absent all season in the finale. And Haddie’s not the only long-forgotten character to crop back up: Ryan, who was hospitalized last week but had been gone for months, has a large role in the episode when his mother arrives to take him home to Wyoming. After his medical discharge from the army, it seems he has no other choice — though a romp in the hospital bed with Amber confuses the matter and leads her to pick up a pregnancy test later in the episode. Though she’s smiling, it’s hard to root for a positive result knowing that he’s laid up from drunk driving.

As for the plot lines we’ve been focused on for the last stretch of the season, not much comes into focus. Adam and Kristina’s school plan gets no air time at all, much less a decision on whether Bob Little will lease them the property. And Joel and Julia all but fall back into each other’s arms after Victor wins an essay contest at school — emphasis on the “all but.” Even a bedtime story with Sydney, who throws a tantrum until Joel agrees to stay for the night, delivers nothing but smiles and meaningful eye contact. All that will-they-or-won’t-they tension, and all the viewer gets to show for it is an awkward Breyer’s commercial between segments in which a husband asks his wife, “Who’s hotter? Me or Joel?” (Joel, dude. Always Joel.)

The other will-they-or-won’t-they plot line, between Sarah and Hank, resolves as expected: with hesitation on her part, then talk of how much work it will be with his Asperger’s (a diagnosis he still hasn’t formally received), then a kiss. It’s nice to see one “tomato in the room” plucked, though not exactly cathartic to revisit a relationship that has failed once before, and was never especially passionate in the first place. Also in the category of relationships it’s hard to care about: Drew and Natalie. They were thrown together in the penultimate episode and are now apparently so in love that Zeek is inspired to loan Drew the freshly-finished Pontiac (which gives the episode its name) to drive up to see his girlfriend.

The real strength in this finale lies in its more quotidian moments — as is always the case for Parenthood. Adam and Crosby’s vigorous victory lap around their childhood home is sweet, and Zeek and Millie’s last dance through the empty living room is even sweeter.

In what may be the show’s final sequence, the Braverman clan gets together for one last feast on the lawn. Their dialogue is muted in favor of the soundtrack, a thoughtful cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin,’” putting special emphasis on one piece of advice — “your sons and your daughters are beyond your command” — that’s never been a great problem for the Bravermans. If there’s one thing they’re good at, it’s supporting for their children, no matter what’s going on in their own lives. This last barbecue, reminiscent of so many others on the show, doesn’t expand on the plot, but it does stay in line with the vibe. As Sydney tells her parents while begging them to get back to normal, “It’s not special, it’s how it’s supposed to be.”

Categories: Magazines

Scandal Watch: A Child For A Child, The True Explosion In The Season Finale

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 00:46

Beware, spoilers ahead. Because… this is a recap.

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Suffice it to say that for the past week Scandal producers have been building an exponential amount of hype, almost to eye rolling proportions, around how insane this season finale would be. “Watch tonight or hate yourself tomorrow,” warned teasers promising, “Twisty, crazy, OMG moments.”

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Kerry Washington said that the cast was “floored” over and over again during the table read. Scott Foley promised the Hollywood Reporter a “divisive” final moment that would leave people “up in arms” and cause “Twitter [to] explode. Explode!” So did it live up to the hype?

The end of last week’s episode left audiences with the promise that a literal ticking time bomb was going to go off (with Cyrus’ blessing) during a high profile funeral that could kill Sally Langston, Leo, Andrew (Mellie’s love interest). But that was not the real explosion, so to speak. In the opening minutes Jake warned Fitz, cops were called, and the bomb exploded only after all the main characters were evacuated. Cyrus’ soul is saved. But since this occurred in the very beginning, the end had to be even more dynamic. So the episode was jam packed with twist after twist, reveal after reveal, and the final moment didn’t go out with a boom — like James’ murder — but was rather a culmination of the sociopathy and moral depravity we have come to expect from the cast of characters.

What was the moral depravity? The murder of a child. After the explosion, when Sally Langston is shown making on-site tourniquets, it becomes clear that Fitz isn’t going to win the election. “Dad, I’m sorry you’re going to lose,” says his son Jerry, which become his final words before stepping onstage during a campaign event. Mid-speech, Jerry starts seizing and bleeding through his mouth and nose onstage and in spite of doctor’s best efforts, he dies. We soon find out that he was purposely infected with meningitis. Immediately we are led to believe Mama Pope is the culprit — which, in all honesty, doesn’t make total sense because isn’t her goal to cause havoc and ruin the presidency? While this would emotionally scar Fitz, it would win him an election. So Fitz reinstates Papa Pope/Eli in B613 to take control of the situation and towards the end of the episode we find out that, in fact, it was Eli who killed Jerry. Why? Well Olivia wanted Fitz to win presidency. Eli wanted to regain power. And as for poor Fitz? As Eli put it, incredibly chillingly, “He took my child, so I took his.”

Other key moments:

-When Fitz thinks he’s going to lose the election, he tells Liv that he’ll finally divorce Mellie, they can finally get married and move to Vermont to make jam. (If only the biggest scandal in season four could be a huckleberry shortage.) Unable to live in the reverie, Liv tells Fitz that Mellie was raped by Big Jerry. This led to a beautiful scene between Fitz and Mellie where he kisses the top of her head. Mellie tells him that Jerry is his son (“I don’t care,” says Fitz) and that “I fought him” (he holds her.)

-Huck and Quinn get caught having sex in the office. “Oh dear Lord my eyes,” Abby says. The voice of the people. They continue their affair, although Quinn shows Huck where his family, who was taken from him by B613, lives. Which will complicate things. Charlie gave Quinn the address, so I hope they don’t end up murdered.

-Mama Pope is back in a hole underground thanks to Papa Pope (who told everyone she’s actually dead).

-David has all the B613 files and Jake’s blessing to catch the bad guys

-Harrison might get murdered by Papa Pope, the newly instated head of B613.

And then there’s Olivia

-Olivia finally decided to take evil Papa Pope up on his offer of getting on a plane and leaving the country. When Abby (who needs more lines next season) demands to know why, Olivia gives one of the most gripping mini-monologues of the night: “I’m the thing that needs to be fixed. I’m the thing that needs to be handled. I’m the Scandal. And the thing to do with a Scandal is shut it down.” She flies off on a private plane with none other than… Jake.

So what say you? Great finale or was it overhyped?

Categories: Magazines

Divers Pumping Air Into Submerged S.Korean Ship

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 22:43

(MOKPO, South Korea) — Coast guard officials say divers have begun pumping air into a submerged South Korean ship 48 hours after it listed and sank. But it wasn’t immediately clear if the air was for survivors or for a salvage operation.

Strong currents and bad weather have so far prevented divers from searching for more than 270 people missing since the ferry listed and sank on Wednesday. Officials said Friday in a statement that divers were still trying to enter the ship.

There were fears that it may be too late. Officials say 25 have confirmed dead as of Friday.

Categories: Magazines

‘Mean Girls’ Is Not a Comedy. It’s Mythology.

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 22:23

Saturday marks the 10-year anniversary of the world premiere of Mean Girls at Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome. Decennials are often an opportunity for sober reflection, and in that spirit, I would like to suggest that the Lindsay Lohan vehicle has been with us far longer than a decade. The film is widely considered to be a comedy or even a “teen movie,” but in fact, it is neither. Mean Girls is American mythology. Let us examine the evidence.

In broad terms, Tina Fey’s first film adheres to the critical superstructure known as the “monomyth,” as described by 20th-century mythologist Joseph Campbell:

A hero [Lohan's Cady Heron] ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder ["Girl World"]: fabulous forces ["the Plastics"] are there encountered and a decisive victory is won [Regina George and Aaron Samuels break up]: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons [popularity] on his fellow man [Gretchen Weiners and Karen Smith].

There is no question that Cady views this new world as both mystical and possessing of separate natural laws. “Having lunch with the Plastics,” she says in voice over, “was like leaving the actual world and entering ‘Girl World.’ And ‘Girl World’ had a lot of rules.”

As with James Joyce’s Ulysses, Mean Girls imposes a mythological structure on the mundane concerns of its hero. The particular myth from which Mean Girls draws its inspiration is not so well telegraphed, though Fey leaves us several clear signposts.

Like the original Ulysses, Cady is recently returned from her own series of adventures in Africa, where her parents worked as research zoologists. It is this prior “region of supernatural wonder” that offers the basis for the mythological reading of the film. While the notion of the African continent as a place of magic is a dated, rather offensive trope, the film firmly establishes this impression among the students at North Shore High School. To them, Africa is a monolithic place about which they know almost nothing. In their first encounter, Karen inquires of Cady: “So, if you’re from Africa, why are you white?” Shortly thereafter, Regina warns Aaron that Cady plans to “do some kind of African voodoo” on a used Kleenex of his to make him like her—in fact, the very boon that Cady will come to bestow under the monomyth mode.

Where in Africa Cady hails from is never made explicitly clear, but several clues greatly reduce the universe of possibilities. In a brief flashback to her “one other crush,” Nfume, a young Cady is speaking Afrikaans (according to the subtitles). On her first day of school, Cady greets the Unfriendly Black Hotties with “Jambo,” a Swahili greeting. After Cady has carelessly cleaned up after a house party, her mother notices that her “fertility vases of the Ndebele tribe” are misplaced. The Ndebele tribes are native to Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa, all places were at least part of the population speaks Afrikaans. Both Swahili and the Ndebele languages belong to the Bantu family, a branch of the Niger-Congo languages spoken among a network of sub-Saharan ethnic groups. This makes Bantu folklore a logical place to start our search.

Like many contemporary ethno-religious traditions, Bantu folklore often makes use of anthropomorphized animals, a form mimicked in Mean Girls‘ reciprocal use of zoomorphism (the depiction of humans in animal form). On several occasions, Cady imagines her peers transmogrified into great cats, monkeys, and other jungle dwellers. At Halloween, Cady observes,”the hard-core girls just wear lingerie and some form of animal ears.” At the mall, Janis Ian compares their teacher (played by Fey) to “a dog walking on its hind legs.”

Cady’s surname, Heron, is also both the name of a bird and phonemically similar to “hare.” This latter similarity is of particular note because so many of the Bantu folktales feature rabbits.

Armed with that clue, I can say with some confidence that Mean Girls is a retelling of the traditional Bantu fable “Ozibane! Zibane! Zibane!,” or “Dance Like That!,” as anthologized in the 1921 compendium Specimens of Bantu Folk Lore From Northern Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe).

In the fable, Miss Rabbit encounters a group of girls drawing water at the river. The girls “gave some of their beads to Miss Rabbit, telling her to put them on. They further dressed her head with other beads, so that she looked just like a civilised little girl.” The ensemble then dances as the girls sing: “How well dressed she is! Uwî-i! Ozibane!”

Miss Rabbit returns the beads. The next day, the girls bring an apron for Miss Rabbit, redress her, and the dancing recommences. At the conclusion of the day Miss Rabbit does not return the clothes, but instead lures the girls into the forest, where they are devoured by hyenas. The story concludes: “nko kâfwida ka kâno:” “This is where the story dies.”

The corollary between the fable of the dancing rabbit and Mean Girls are nearly too obvious to state: An outsider is adopted by a group of girls who dress her up in their own clothes and adopt her into their social circle, while still regarding her as something of an outsider. (“I love her,” Regina says. “She’s like a Martian.”) Unbeknownst to them, the newcomer plans all along to sabotage them. She refuses to return clothes. (“I want my pink shirt back,” Damian shouts.) Instead, she leads them to ruin.

A few more corollaries: Close readers will hear an echo in Cady Heron’s mock-conclusion to the film in the fable’s final line: “And that’s how Regina George died.” (Here the expectations of modern cinema take over from the story’s natural conclusion.) The word for “bead” in Afrikaans, kraal, also bears a strong phonic similarity to “grool,” the portmanteau of “cool” and “great” that Cady accidentally coins in her first substantial conversation with Aaron. Finally, there is some suggestion that “hare” is a more accurate translation than “rabbit” given the available species of Leporidae in southern Africa.

The mythological record surrounding this particular tale is too scant to establish a phylogenic progression from Miss Rabbit (Hare) to Cady Heron, as is now all the rage among folkloricists. Having at least established Mean Girls‘ place in the broader context of Bantu oral traditions, we then turn its one role as a modern myth.

Carl Jung viewed myths as a portal into the “world of the archetype,” as the critic Stephen F. Walker phrases it, which compensates for the “imbalanced aspects of the individual conscious mind.” Mean Girls opens with a classic Jungian archetypal event: Separation from the parents. The film’s enduring popularity is owed in part to its satisfying the core aspect of a traditional myth: It is a story that offers us a way to navigate the “psychological dangers” of the world, to again quote from Campbell. The spectacular popularity of BuzzFeed’s “Which ‘Mean Girls’ Character Are You?” quiz is sufficient evidence that the film possesses a diversity of valid archetypes to which we might anchor ourselves.

The film satisfies several other aspects of valid mythopoeia: It has an internally consistent set of rules (“We only wear our hair in a ponytail once a week”), its own neologisms (grool, fetch, mathlete), and a battery of lines that are so easily repurposed that even the White House has gotten in on the fun. This is the essential aspect of the film that separates it from a movie that is merely popular. One who refers to “making fetch happen” is not merely quoting from a beloved movie. He or she is invoking a mythological story (that of trying, in vain, to pass off an invented motif as genuine), in the same manner that one might invoke Sisyphus to describe a never-ending labor. The great irony here, of course, is that Mean Girls is itself an invented mythology passing into the realm of folklore. Fetch, in other words, has happened.

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U.S.: Forfeiture Deal Over Iran Assets Sets Record

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 21:30

(NEW YORK) — A prosecutor says plans to sell a 36-story New York office building and other properties owned by Iran will produce the largest ever terrorism-related forfeiture.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara (buh-RAH’-ruh) says a federal judge Thursday approved a settlement with 19 holders of terrorism-related judgments against the government of Iran.

The settling creditors include families and estates of victims of the 1983 terrorist bombings of U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, the 1996 terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, and terrorist attacks in Israel and elsewhere.

Besides the Manhattan tower, buildings will be sold in California, Maryland, Texas and Virginia.

Prosecutors said funds will be added to accounts formerly in the name of entities that served as fronts for the Iranian government. The properties’ estimated total worth wasn’t provided Thursday.

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Isabel Allende on Gabriel García Márquez: ‘His Work Is Immortal’

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 21:05

Chilean writer Isabel Allende, whose novels incorporate the magical realist style perfected by fellow Latin American writer Gabriel García Márquez, issued the following public statement after García Márquez passed away on Thursday (click on text to view larger):

 

 

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The 600 Years of History Behind Those Ukrainian Masks

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 21:00

The reporter asked the masked pro-Russian separatist in the Ukrainian city of Slavyansk a simple question: why are you wearing a mask?

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“I’m sorry,” he responded, “but it’s a stupid question.”

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It sure is for anyone who pays attention to how Russia fights.

The mask-wearing militants who have appeared in eastern Ukraine and taken over government buildings represent the latest face of Russia’s tradition of maskirovka (mas-kir-OAF-ka). It’s a word literally translated as disguise, but Russia has long used it in a broader sense, meaning any military tactic that incorporates camouflage, concealment, deception, disinformation—or any combination thereof.

It describes everything from manufacturing tanks in automobile factories to shielding them under tree branches near the battlefield. It can be used to hide soldiers with smoke screens, and to build warships under awnings. It includes sending soldiers in white uniforms to invade snowbound Finland during World War II and creating mock weapons and bridges in hopes of drawing enemy fire away from the real thing.

The Soviets bought 100mm artillery pieces from Germany before the war. The Germans cranked the Russians’ use of those guns in their planning on how to invade Russian as part of Operation Barbarossa. But when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the Soviets surprised them with much more powerful 130mm guns. In a classic maskirovka move, the Russians had scrapped the guns they bought from Germany as they built their own bigger weapons.

Maskirovka (which is rooted in the English word, mask) is designed to sow confusion and frustration among opponents by denying them basic information.

A pro-Russian protester mans a barricade outside a government building in Donetsk. Konstantin Chernichkin / Reuters

The anonymous troops in eastern Ukraine say only that they’re “Cossacks,” but Ukrainian and Western officials believe many of them are led by Russian special forces. Yet the murkiness of their origin and sponsors inflates their menace, and makes it more difficult to figure out how to deal with them. Snipping puppet strings between Ukraine and Moscow may be easier than controlling indigenous separatists operating independently. A combination of both complicates matters still further.

Maskirovka may be conducted in any environment to deny information to sensors,” a 1988 Pentagon study of the technique said. What’s on display in Ukraine is maskirovka in its most basic form: physical masks, known as balaclavas (named for their use at the Battle of Balaclava, a Ukrainian town near Sevastopol, during the Crimean War) are designed to deny humans’ most fundamental sensor—the eye—critical information about the person on the other side (to complicate matters, some Ukrainian supporters also are wearing masks).

If the West won’t come to Ukraine’s aid even if columns of Russian tanks are streaming toward the capital of Kiev, they’re sure not going to lift a (trigger) finger against masked men operating in the shadows.

Think of it as a crafty way of getting your way. Russia is conducting a slow-motion invasion of Ukraine without thousands of troops riding hundreds of tanks. Instead, handfuls of Russian agents are whipping up nationalistic fervor among disgruntled eastern Ukrainians of Russian stock. Beyond the masks, the “troops” wear no insignia to betray under whose flag they’re acting.

It used to be that states waged wars. But since the end of the Cold War, so-called “non-state actors”—like al Qaeda—have loomed large. Now on the streets of Ukraine, non-state actors are acting on behalf of a state.

Maskirovka, Russian military texts say, must be seamless and complete. The Soviet Union used it to sneak their nuclear-tipped missiles into Cuba in 1962. But the Soviets didn’t bother to conceal the construction of their launch sites, which led U.S. intelligence to figure out what was happening.

Some Russian scholars say maskirovka dates back to the 1380 Battle of Kulikovo Field, 120 miles south of Moscow. Russian Dmitri Ivanovich divided his mounted fighters into two groups: one stood in the open field, vulnerable to attack from the Mongols’ Golden Horde, while the second hid in a nearby forest. Seeing only the Russians on the plains, the Horde’s soldiers attacked, only to be overwhelmed when the second Russian force rushed from their hiding place.

The technique certainly got Ronald Reagan’s attention.

“The Soviet Union has developed a doctrine of `maskirovka’ which calls for the use of camouflage, concealment and deception (CC&D) in defense-related programs and in the conduct of military operations,” Reagan wrote in October 1983’s National Security Decision Directive 108. “Several recent discoveries reveal that the Soviet maskirovka program has enjoyed previously unsuspected success and that it is apparently entering a new and improved phase.” The Top Secret document, declassified by the U.S. government three years ago, didn’t detail those successes.

Fast-forwarding to today, how can the West combat Russia’s penchant for maskirovka in Ukraine? Seeing as some credit Reagan for prevailing in the original Cold War, perhaps his orders in that 1983 directive offer a clue. “The Director of Central Intelligence,” he wrote, “in cooperation with other Departments and Agencies as appropriate, will:”

The rest of the directive is blacked out.

Think of it as a bit of Amerimaskitovka.

 

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Bad Weather Slows Search for South Korea Ferry Survivors

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 20:50

Murky waters and strong currents hampered the search on Thursday for survivors of the South Korean ferry that capsized. Though 179 people have been rescued since Wednesday’s disaster, emergency services say 25 people have been confirmed dead and 271 people are still missing.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye visited the wreckage site and emphasized the need for speed in the search, saying every second was important, according to the BBC. The ferry was filled mainly with high school students on their way to Jeju island.

But more than 500 military divers have had to struggle against high winds and tumultuous waves as they try to reach the vessel. They can’t access any of the cabins, said Kim Soo-hyun, chief of the West Regional Headquarters of South Korea’s coast guard. The coast guard has been using floodlights and flares to continue to search the ship. Altogether, the military had deployed 171 vessels and 29 aircraft in the search.

“We carried out underwater searches five times from midnight until early in the morning, but strong currents and the murky water pose tremendous obstacles,” Kang Byung-kyu, Minister for Security and Public Administration, told the BBC.

Investigators still have not determined what caused the ship to tip over. “I am really sorry and deeply ashamed. I don’t know what to say,” said the captain of the ship, Lee Joon-seok. He was reportedly one of the first people to escape the capsizing ship.

The U.S. Navy has sent an assault ship to aid in the search.

[BBC]

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Man Homesick for Prison Is Back Behind Bars

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 20:23

A 74-year-old ex-con said Thursday that he was hoping to return to prison by robbing a suburban Chicago bank. Walter Unbehaun, who has spent most of his adult life in jail, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for walking into a bank with a loaded revolver and no disguise, then taking $4,178 from a bank teller on Feb. 9, 2013.

The 74-year-old expressed joy at being arrested, according to police. “His first words were, ‘I just want to go home,’” his appointed attorney, Richard McLeese, told the court Thursday. No family or friends attended Unbehaun’s hearing. Boredom and loneliness apparently compelled him to try to get caught committing a crime so he could return to prison.

Unbenhaun first went to prison at the age of 23 for transporting a stolen vehicle. He has more than half a dozen convictions on his rap sheet, including escaping from prison. However, in court on Thursday Unbehaun said that although he would like to return to prison he did not want to die there, according to the Associated Press.

Lead prosecutor Sharon Fairley pointed out to the judge that sending the convicted man to prison in this case could be more a reward than a punishment. However, she also argued that letting him go might only lead him to commit another crime. “Did the system fail Mr. Unbehaun? Or was his inability to stay out of jail the result of his own free will?” she asked. “We may never know. But what we do know, clearly, is Mr. Unbehaun lacks the desire to lead a law-abiding life outside of prison walls.”

[AP]

 

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4th U.S. Navy Official Charged in Bribery Scheme

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 19:59

(SAN DIEGO) — Prosecutors say a fourth member of the U.S. Navy has been charged with conspiracy to commit bribery in a multimillion-dollar scheme involving a Singapore-based defense contractor accused of giving cash, vacations and the services of prostitutes in exchange for information.

The U.S. attorney’s office says Petty Officer First Class Dan Layug made his initial court appearance Thursday, a day after special agents arrested him in San Diego. A judge ordered him held on $100,000 bond and subject to GPS monitoring. He hasn’t entered a plea, and messages seeking attorney comment were not immediately returned.

Prosecutors allege the 27-year-old Layug, a Japan-based logistics specialist, revealed classified Navy information in exchange for cash, luxury travel and electronics from employees of the military contracting company at the center of the alleged scheme.

Categories: Magazines

Sony’s PlayStation 4 Was the Top-Selling Console in March, but Titanfall Was the Top-Selling Game

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 19:18

Xbox One owners, exhale: Microsoft had a very good March. While the company continues to cede the top monthly console sales spot to Sony’s PlayStation 4, its Xbox- and Windows-exclusive massively multiplayer first-person shooter, Titanfall, was tops in software sales.

That’s good news, as is Microsoft’s disclosure of a new sales figure: 5 million, or the number of Xbox Ones sold worldwide since launch. Yes, it’s some 2 million shy of Sony’s 7 million-selling PlayStation 4, but remember that Sony had a one-week lead, the PS4 is $100 cheaper and the company’s currently selling the PS4 in a whopping 72 countries and regions, while Microsoft’s only selling the Xbox One in 13. Microsoft plans to expand the Xbox One’s availability to 39 countries this September, but lopsided hardly begins to describe direct sales comparisons.

Retail (and burgeoning digital) sales tracker NPD Group says hardware sales were up 78 percent over March 2013 — no surprise, since hardware sales have been up year-on-year since the PS3 and Xbox One launched last November. That’s translating to across-the-board gains in hardware, software and accessories, which combined were up 3 percent year-on-year.

NPD confirms that both the PS4 and Xbox One are setting records: add both systems together through their preliminary five months of availability and you’re talking twice the sales of the PS3 and Xbox 360 for the same period. What’s more, if you run the same figure for retail software sales, combined PS4 and Xbox One software is up some 60 percent.

This sort of momentum’s never forever, but to all the naysayers who said this next generation of game consoles was going to flop, at least for now, crow’s still very much on the menu.

Sony hasn’t put up a blog post or dropped a press release yet, but fired this off through the PlayStation twitter account:

Breaking news: NPD confirms PS4 #1 in console sales for March – thank you! @LuckyLongworth @yosp http://t.co/pEQCLOQtyG
  (@PlayStation) April 17, 2014

Microsoft hasn’t manned the Twitter-cannon yet, but did offer more granular figures in an email, noting that it sold 311,000 Xbox Ones in the U.S. in March (60 percent higher sales than the Xbox 360 for the same period — forget the PS4, who can argue with that?), that it sold 111,000 Xbox 360s for March (holding the top seventh-gen console spot) and that it’s seeing attachment sales of nearly 3 games per Xbox One console sold.

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