Saturday, March 22, 2014

Russian Forces Storm Ukrainian Base In Crimea

Russian Forces Storm Ukrainian Base In Crimea

Russian Forces Storm Ukrainian Base In Crimea

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 10:45 AM PDT

Russian forces stormed one of the last Ukraine-held military bases in Crimea Saturday, as Russia strengthened its grip on the peninsula a day after formally annexing it.

Troops believed to be under Russian command fired automatic weapons and stun grenades when they entered the Balbek Air Base, one of the last military bases still held by Ukraine, Reuters reports. The Ukrainian base commander, Colonel Yuliy Mamchur, told Reuters that one serviceman was injured and that he was being taken by the Russian forces for talks.

He told Reuters that weapons on the base had been placed in storage.

Earlier this month, Mamchur marched his unarmed troops out of the base and toward Russian forces, challenging what had become a five-day siege. As a result of that gambit, the Russians allowed his men to retain at least symbolic control of the base.

Ukrainian defense secretary Andriy Parubiy said Wednesday the country was making preparations to remove its servicemen from the disputed region, but wanted Crimea to become a demilitarized zone before moving troops out of the area.


Pakistani Taliban to Hold Direct Talks With Gov’t

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 10:08 AM PDT

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A cleric representing the Pakistani Taliban says leaders from the militant will soon be holding direct talks with the government to find a way to end violence that has claimed thousands of lives in recent years.

Maulana Samiul Haq said Saturday that the Taliban have agreed to travel to an undisclosed “peace zone” in the next two or three days for the talks.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif since coming into power last year has been trying to negotiate an end to the years of violence.

The group recently named three clerics sympathetic to the Taliban to represent them. But the coming meeting would be the first time that Taliban leaders have sat across the table with the government in formal talks.

How Your Genes Help You Become A Good Parent

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 10:07 AM PDT

Scared expectant parents are always told that knowing how to take care of their offspring just comes naturally. Turns out a new study by Michigan State University psychologists backs up that theory with cold, hard facts.

A statistical analysis of 56 studies about the origins of parenting habits around the globe, involving more than 200,000 families, determined that genes play a big part in how adults choose to parent their children, according to Science Daily. The study, which was published in the Psychological Bulletin, a research journal of the American Psychological Association, found that our genetics control 23 to 40 percent of the positive and negative emotions that parents hold toward their children.

The results of this study also go against long-accepted conventional wisdom that nurturing is mostly determined by how parents were raised themselves. “The way we parent is not solely a function of the way we were parented as children,” said S. Alexandra Burt, associate professor of psychology and co-author of the study. “There also appears to be genetic influences on parenting.”

In reality, how parents choose to control their child’s behavior comes from a complex cocktail of environmental and genetic factors, including but not limited to how a child’s behavior and development influences the parent.

Kershaw, Dodgers Top D-backs in Australian Opener

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 09:54 AM PDT

(SYDNEY) — Opening day turned out to be a pretty g’day for the Los Angeles Dodgers and ace Clayton Kershaw.

Kershaw flashed his Cy Young form, Scott Van Slyke homered and the NL West champions opened the Major League Baseball season with a 3-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday night at Sydney Cricket Ground.

A crowd of about 40,000 watched as MLB played its first regular-season game in Australia.

Kershaw, who signed a seven-year, $215 million contract in January, allowed one run and five hits in 6 2-3 innings. Van Slyke hit a two-run homer and also doubled.

The first pitch was delayed because of rain for 14 minutes. By then, the long trip Down Under had taken even longer for some Arizona players.

A team bus had a flat tire, and the Diamondbacks said “a handful” of players decided to walk the last half-mile to the stadium instead of waiting for a replacement bus.

Kershaw was impressive while making his fourth consecutive opening-day start. He struck out seven, walked one and was pulled by manager Don Mattingly after throwing his 102nd pitch.

Quite a turnaround from spring training, when the two-time NL Cy Young winner went 0-3 with a 9.20 ERA in four starts.

“Sometimes you just need the adrenaline of a regular-season game, and I just kind of feel relieved to get this one under my belt,” he said.

“It’s always good to get results, obviously,” he said. “This one counted.”

In his previous opening-day starts, Kershaw was 2-0 with 19 strikeouts in 19 scoreless innings.

“Kershaw did a good job keeping us in the middle of the diamond,” Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said. “He threw a good ballgame against us. We know they’re always going to be close.”

Three relievers kept the Diamondbacks scoreless with hitless work. Chris Perez, a five-time All-Star with Cleveland before joining the Dodgers in the offseason, got the last out in the seventh.

Brian Wilson pitched the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen got the save. Jansen walked a batter before getting Gerardo Parra to ground out to end the game.

“Clayton was really good, kind of as always … kind of doing his thing,” Mattingly said. “He’s a tough guy to take out of the game, he always wants to stay in. And I thought our bullpen was really good tonight. Chris comes in and gets a big out for us there and Wilson did a good job and Jansen in closing the door.”

There were plenty of Dodgers and Diamondbacks uniforms in the crowd, some worn by American visitors and others by Australians who had flown across the country to watch the opener and Sunday’s second game, when another capacity crowd was expected.

They feasted on baseball-style treats like nachos stuffed in batting helmets and Cracker Jack, which is not usually sold in Australia. If you could afford the cost and the calories, a 2-foot-long hot dog sold for $36.

Kershaw ran like he’d eaten one of those hot dogs when he tried to stretch a one-out single in the seventh into a double, but was easily thrown out at second by left fielder Mark Trumbo.

“My baserunning needs some work,” Kershaw said, laughing. “I almost stopped at first base and then went to second, and that hesitation probably killed me. I’m not that fast, so I need all the help I can get. Fortunately, it didn’t hurt us very much.”

Van Slyke, playing because of an injury to Matt Kemp and paternity leave to Carl Crawford, nearly cleared the left-field fence in the second inning. His double set up a grounder by Andre Ethier that scored Adrian Gonzalez with the Dodgers’ first run.

In his next at-bat in the fourth, Van Slyke connected off losing pitcher Wade Miley for a drive over the right-field fence — just inside the foul pole — with Gonzalez again on base to put the Dodgers up 3-0.

“I thought that it was either going to be a foul or caught,” Van Slyke said. “I didn’t think it had a chance to go out. I felt more relaxed and had a little more energy and focus than I did in the exhibition games.”

Sydney Cricket Ground was refurbished two weeks ago to create the baseball diamond and an outfield with an 8-foot wall. It was 328 feet down the foul lines and 400 feet to straightaway center.

Miley, who came out for a pinch hitter in the fifth, got the opening day assignment because of a left elbow injury to Diamondbacks ace Patrick Corbin. Miley gave up three runs and three hits, striking out eight with two walks.

Both teams finished with five hits.

The Diamondbacks scored in the sixth after a double by Paul Goldschmidt, who had two hits. He moved to third on Kershaw’s wild pitch and scored on Trumbo’s infield out. The Diamondbacks were shut out 5-0 in an exhibition game Friday by Team Australia when they stranded 11 runners.

A series of thunderstorms but little rain around the stadium about two hours ahead of the start cut short the Dodgers’ batting practice and tarp was rolled on to the field. That caused the start of the game to be delayed and canceled the pregame ceremonies.

NOTES: Dodgers SS Hanley Ramirez gingerly walked off the field early in the game and may have tweaked a troublesome hamstring. He stayed in the game. … LA leadoff man Yasiel Puig was hitless in five at-bats, including three strikeouts. … On Sunday, South Korean lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, moved up in the Dodgers’ rotation because Zack Greinke injury his right calf, faces the Diamondbacks’ Trevor Cahill in the afternoon finale. … The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Sydney Swans Aussie rules football star Adam Goodes, picked as Australian of the year this season. It was a very off-speed strike. … Arizona’s Aaron Hill had an infield single for the first hit of the season.

Study: Powerful Painkillers Increasingly Prescribed In ERs

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 09:07 AM PDT

Emergency departments in America are increasingly prescribing strong painkilling drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin amid rising use of the medications nationally.

Prescriptions for narcotic painkillers, or opiates, in emergency departments rose 49 percent between 2001 and 2010, according to a study published in this month's issue of Academic Emergency Medicine.

Doctors have increasingly prescribed the potent painkillers in part because of a movement to improve pain management, according to CBS. But doctors are also increasingly incentivized to please patients—some hospitals offer pay incentives linked to patient satisfaction–and may prescribe the medication to patients who ask for it.

The rising use of narcotic painkillers has prompted concerns over the risks of addiction and misuse. Roughly 15,000 Americans die annually from overdosing, and some 12 million people abuse the medication, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

[CBS News]

Why Kids in Kansas May Learn How to Shake Hands but not How to Save and Invest

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 07:38 AM PDT

In Kansas, as in many states, lawmakers are wrestling with how to make personal finance instruction part of the school day. The pushback from those opposed or who favor only half measures reached a comical and illustrative standoff in recent days.

During debate, Rep. Ward Cassidy, a former school principal, took exception to an amendment that would have required Kansas's students to pass a one-semester course on things like budgets, saving and investing. To drive home his dissenting view he offered a proposal of his own: Let's also require kids to learn how to deliver a firm, professional handshake—and guess what, it passed.

"Hey, if we’re going to make kids do something, let’s make kids do something that really is good," Cassidy said, according to a report in the Topeka Capital-Journal. To be fair, Cassidy said his amendment was "somewhat facetious," and pretty much everyone in the statehouse expects the amendment to be stricken from a final bill. But that didn't stop Cassidy from speaking for five minutes on handshakes that are too strong, too weak or lack eye contact.

The point, he said, is that schools cannot be responsible for all a child must learn. Presumably, he wants financial education left mostly to parents. Again, according to the Capital-Journal, Cassidy explained, "I wish we could make a bill where every student would have somebody who loves them…It seems like every time there’s an ill that’s in society we’re going to find some way to make schools do a better job. I sort of have frustration with that."

The debate that day took several turns. Rep. John Bradford spoke in favor of financial education, and said failing to require it would put kids "on a glide path straight to jail." This comment elicited derision from the other side. “Ridiculous,” said Rep. Tom Burroughs. Okay, the glide path comment might have been overdone. But our jails really are filled with people who lack opportunity, and not understanding basic money concepts certainly qualifies as limiting.

Others argued there is no room in the school day for a stand-alone course in personal finance. For example, said Rep. Melissa Rooker, her own son was much too busy with college prep courses. She described him as "a student without a window in his schedule." That view reflects a common blind spot. When something is important you make room for it. And what about the 70% of kids that are on a different course in life, one that does not include a college degree? They won't have time and may not have the inclination to figure things out on their own before debt starts to consume them.

Nine in 10 high schools now offer a foreign language course; many have it as a requirement. Why? In the last few decades we collectively have decided that learning other languages gives students a competitive advantage in a global economy and helps build valuable cultural understanding. More recently, we've begun to offer more computer science courses. Why? The new economy demands these skills. So there is precedent for introducing new lines of study that emerge as critical. There is precedent for making room.

Interestingly, to make room for computer science at least some schools have called it a foreign language, allowing students to choose between, say, Spanish, and writing code. That's one way to find a window in a busy prep student's schedule. Another is to embed personal finance lessons in existing courses, which has its challenges but can work and is the direction that Kansas and other states seem to be headed.

The state-level debate in Kansas mirrors the national debate. Should saving and investing be part of what kids learn in school? Well, if they don't learn it there they probably won't learn it period. Most parents lack the confidence to try to teach their kids about things they feel even they do not truly grasp. Yet in our age of diminished safety nets financial awareness is now a highly critical life skill.

Globally, half of adults totaling some 2.5 billion people do not even have a bank account. This shuts them off from credit and savings opportunities; it hinders their rise to a better life and squanders the potential to convert hundreds of millions of people from economic drains into economic contributors. Some 40 million unbanked are in the U.S. They get their financing from pawn shops and payday lenders and resort to extreme measures like using the local GameStop as a savings bank. A little financial guidance in high school could go a long way for them—and for everyone.

The Free Marketing Gravy Train Is Over on Facebook

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 07:32 AM PDT

Facebook and its popular Pages platform have been a cornerstone of most companies' social media marketing strategies for years. But if the brands, organizations and celebrities that use Pages want to continue to reach Facebook's 1.23 billion monthly users in the future, they're going to have to pay up.

Over the last several months Facebook has been reducing the organic reach of Pages. Even if a person "Likes" a company or organization on the social network, they're unlikely to naturally see that Page's content in their News Feed. In a recent study of more than 100 brand pages, Ogilvy & Mather found that companies' posts dropped from reaching 12 percent of their followers in October to just six percent by February. The tech blog Valleywag reports that Facebook is planning to dial reach down to between one to two percent of followers eventually.

Facebook declined to comment on the percentage of fans that see posts from a typical Facebook page (the last publicly disclosed figure was 16 percent in the summer of 2012), but the company admitted in December that posts from Pages are reaching less users. Facebook attributes this change to increased competition as more people and companies join its service. The typical user is inundated with 1,500 posts per day from friends and Pages, and Facebook picks 300 to present in the News Feed. Getting squeezed out are both posts from Pages and meme photos as Facebook shifts its focus to what it deems “high quality” content.

The solution for brands with declining engagement, according to Facebook, is to buy ads. "Like many mediums, if businesses want to make sure that people see their content, the best strategy is, and always has been, paid advertising," a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

The transition to paid marketing on what has long been a free distribution platform may be a tough sell for some brands, particularly small organizations or individuals who have built up audiences over years. So far,though, pressing the screws to Pages hasn’t hurt Facebook’s bottom line—the company generated $7 billion in ad revenue in 2013, and research firm eMarketer projects that figure will grow to about $10.8 billion this year. That's good news for the company’s investors, but maybe less so for the people suddenly being asked to fund the social network's financial growth.

Michigan Weds First Gay Couple

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 07:27 AM PDT

Michigan county clerks opened their offices on Saturday to issue the state's first marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples, a day after a federal judge struck down a state ban on same-sex marriage.

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum issued a marriage license to Glenna DeJong, 53, and Marsha Caspar, 52, at 8 a.m., the first same-sex couple to marry in Michigan, the Detroit Free Press reports. At least three county clerk offices planned to open on Saturday.

Judge Bernard Friedman struck down Michigan's ban on Friday and did not allow for a waiting period to give the state time to appeal or implement the ruling, paving the way for the state to be the 18th in the country to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an emergency request late Friday for a stay pending an appeal, but it wasn’t clear if a federal court would accede to his request over the weekend.

[Detroit Free Press]

Michelle Obama Defends Free Internet In China Speech

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 07:18 AM PDT

First Lady Michelle Obama used a trip to China Saturday to promote the liberating “power of technology” in a veiled swipe at the harshly restrictive Internet and media environment in the country.

At her first—and only—major speech scheduled during her goodwill tour to China, Obama said that new technology can “open up the entire world and expose us to ideas and innovations we could never have imagined."

“It is so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the Internet and through the media,” she said. “Because that's how we discover the truth, that's how we learn what's really happening in our communities, in our country and our world.”

The First Lady spoke on March 22 at the Stanford Center at Peking University, China’s oldest national university set in a cherry-blossom and willow-tree enclave in northwestern Beijing. Speaking to a mix of Chinese and American students, Obama spent much of her speech to 200-odd people promoting the values of study-abroad programs that she, as a child of parents who had not attended college, never even considered.

For a lot of young people like me who are struggling to afford a regular semester of school, paying for plane tickets or living expenses halfway around the world just isn't possible. And that's not acceptable because study abroad shouldn't just be for students from certain background.

But it was the section about internet freedom that may raise eyebrows. Obama praised the technology’s power to spread freedom without mentioning the many ways in which the so-called Great Firewall limits Chinese access to the Internet, by blocking social-media sites like Twitter, Facebook and blogging software—plus various foreign news and human-rights websites considered too sensitive for domestic consumption.

The new U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus, the former Democratic Senator for Montana, also extolled the virtues of Twitter and Facebook in his introduction to Obama’s speech. Both of these sites, however, are blocked in China. Western businesses have complained that such restrictions are undercutting operational efficiency, even causing some to downsize their China operations for other Asian nations with better telecommunications.

But despite constantly shifting censorship directives, the hottest news in China now spreads on native social media platforms like Weibo or Weixin. The nation's official news agency is far behind both in terms of public trust and substantive stories. At the same time, the rise of yellow journalism in China, exacerbated by the tendency of poorly paid reporters to accept cash payments for showing up to a press conference, is compromising journalistic objectivity.

The First Lady praised a "new era of citizen diplomacy," a phrase she attributed to a naturalized American citizen whose parents arrived from Eritrea when he was a child and is now studying in China. But she also cautioned against a government's tendency to shield itself from criticism, even from scurrilous tabloids, for fear of denting media freedoms:

That's how we decide which values and ideas we think are best—by questioning and debating them vigorously, by listening to all sides of the argument and by judging for ourselves. And believe me, I know how this can be a messy and frustrating process. My husband and I are on the receiving end of plenty of questioning and criticism from our media and our fellow citizens, and it's not always easy but we wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Because time and again, we have seen that countries are stronger and more prosperous when the voices and opinions of all citizens can be heard.

Obama's speech was pointed, although it stopped short of naming China. The rest of the First Lady's trip—ranging from a tour of the Summer Palace and Great Wall in Beijing, to a stop to see the terra-cotta warriors in Xi'an and a cuddle with giant pandas at a reserve in Chengdu—is far less political than this Stanford Center at Peking University speech. Obama's defense of Internet and media freedom is only a small portion of her March 22 trip.

Nevertheless, Obama's first-ever trip to China, which she has embarked up with her mother Marian Robinson and daughters Malia and Sasha, had one further pointed stop. In Chengdu, which is not far from Tibetan regions where disaffected locals have self-immolated to protest repressive Chinese government rule, Obama will stop to eat at a Tibetan restaurant. Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is blessed with vibrant, spicy food. Tibetan cuisine, however, isn't considered one of the world's tastiest cuisines.

Nevertheless, the Obama women and girls are scheduled to tuck into a meal that will likely involve variations on tsampa, roasted barley flour, racks of yak meat, heavy dumplings and tea laced with salt and yak-butter. A senior Administration official cautioned against reading too much into Obama's Tibetan dining choice: "Tibetans are an important minority in China." And that was that. So much for imbuing further political meaning into the First Lady's goodwill tour.

Russia Will Allow International Monitors into Ukraine

Posted: 22 Mar 2014 06:58 AM PDT

Russia will allow international monitors into Ukraine amid concerns from Western countries that Russia might make a grab at more territory after it annexed the southern Crimea peninsula.

The Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Friday that 100 monitors will initially be sent to Ukraine, Bloomberg News reports. But monitors will not be allowed into Crimea, which Russia said is now part of its territory.

Russia's acquiescence could help cool international tensions after its annexation of Crimea, finalized Friday, spawned a tit-for-tat exchange of sanctions between the United States and European Union, and Russia.

But on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Lukashevich condemned the E.U.'s expanded sanctions—an additional dozen people were targeted by sanctions Friday–and threatened reprisal, the Wall Street Journal reports.

“It is a pity that the European Council took a decision that is divorced from reality," he said. “We believe that it is time to return to pragmatic areas of cooperation that serve the interests of our countries. However, it should be understood that Russia reserves the right to give an adequate response to these actions.”

President Vladimir Putin signaled on Friday that he wouldn’t escalate the war of sanctions between Russia and the U.S., reports the New York Times, though he did joke in televised remarks that he would open an account at a Russian bank sanctioned by the U.S.

Meanwhile, Russia tightened its grip on Crimea. The Ukrainian defense ministry said Saturday that pro-Russian forces stormed another military base in Crimea on Saturday, driving out Ukrainian soldiers who threw smoke bombs as they departed.



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