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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

McConnell’s Democratic Challenger Outraises Him in First Quarter

McConnell’s Democratic Challenger Outraises Him in First Quarter


McConnell’s Democratic Challenger Outraises Him in First Quarter

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 11:12 AM PDT

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes reported raising over $2.7 million in the first quarter of 2014, beating Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell's haul of $2.4 million.

McConnell is facing a primary challenger, Matt Bevin, who raised $1.2 million this cycle. McConnell has raised a total of $22.3 million this cycle, but has also had a high burn rate, spending more than $12 million already. The Senate minority leader spent nearly $3 million in the first quarter, about 120% the amount he took in.

McConnell leads Bevin by more than 30 points in polls ahead of the May 20 primary. But he trails Grimes by 0.5% in a Real Clear Politics average of Kentucky polls. "McConnell's spent more than $12 million and he's still behind Alison in the polls," Grimes senior adviser Jonathan Hurst tells TIME.

Although Grimes outraised McConnell this quarter, the Kentucky senator can still boast $10.4 million cash on hand to Grimes' nearly $5 million.

Grimes reported more than 45,000 donors, hailing from all 50 states and all 120 Kentucky counties.

Not Even the Threat of War in Europe Can Unite the E.U.

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 10:51 AM PDT

When it comes to assigning blame for the volatile situation in eastern Ukraine, European politicians are united: it is all Russia’s fault. That’s about where the unity ends, as became clear after a meeting of foreign ministers from European Union member states on Monday. When they shuffled out of their meeting, their joint communiqué was as familiar as it was inconclusive. A few Russian names would be added to a list of people with their assets frozen, ever so slightly expanding the mild sanctions that Russia has so far mocked and ignored. Then came more threats of deep economic sanctions at an unspecified time and with no clear trigger for such measures.

This may seem like a rather restrained response to the specter of a military Russian assault on Ukraine – German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said at an event in Berlin on Monday that Russia “was clearly prepared to allow tanks to roll across European borders” – but the E.U.’s 28 member nations are struggling to get past their widely differing political and economic concerns. Hitting the E.U.’s €400bn annual trade with Russia would require serious economic sacrifices at home, and the bloc has so far been hoping that its cocktail of threats, mild sanctions and a few diplomatic snubs would be enough to contain Russia’s possible territorial ambitions.

The problem, says Stefan Wolff, a professor of international security at the University of Birmingham, is that Russian President Vladimir Putin does not "reason and rationalize in the same way," and has proved ready to jump on any public splits and timidity.

Ever since the E.U. provoked Moscow’s ire with plans to sign a trade pact with Ukraine in November, Russia has always seemed one step ahead. Putin persuaded then-President Viktor Yanukovich to jettison the deal; when Yanukovich was ousted by protests a few months later, Russia took advantage of the chaos and seized Crimea. Now Russia is accused of orchestrating the unrest in eastern Ukraine – claims Russian officials strongly deny.

The E.U.’s strongest reaction so far – visa-bans and asset-freezes on 33 Russian and Ukrainian individuals – came after the annexation of Crimea. Now the problem is getting the member states to agree at what stage the Kremlin’s alleged engineering of events in eastern Ukraine warrants the most serious sanctions against key economic sectors that include energy, arms and financial services.

Such sanctions would have a widely different impact across Europe. In the east, nations like Hungary and Bulgaria, which are heavily reliant on Russian oil and gas, would suffer if Moscow responded to any sanctions by halting supplies. Cyprus, Greece and Spain, still struggling from the euro zone crisis, have a lot of Russian money in their banks. German industry has firm business relations with Russian companies.

The result is a diverse bloc arguing for diplomacy to be given more time. The more bullish nations are also acting with a degree of self-interest: Estonia and Latvia share borders with Russia and fear designs on their own territory. The United Kingdom – leading the calls for more sanctions – has its reputation as a forceful world player to maintain.

Russia has shown a willingness to exploit these splits, last week sending a letter to 18 E.U. nations reliant on its energy and making veiled threats to the supplies. Officials in Washington have urged their partners in Europe to stay united and have pushed them toward imposing deeper sanctions. But the United States has both less to lose, and less sway.

"From an economic perspective the U.S. cannot impose strong sanctions on Russia," says Georg Zachmann, a research fellow at the Brussels-based Bruegel think tank, citing the U.S.’s modest trading relationship. In 2012, Russian exports to the U.S. totalled $13 billion. The same year Russia sent goods worth €213 billion ($294 billion) to the E.U. The sale of oil and gas accounts for 50% of Russia’s federal budget reserves, and most of that goes to Europe. So the E.U. does have a hefty weapon in its toolbox.

The next few days will be crucial. Ministers from Russia, the E.U., the U.S. and Ukraine will meet in Geneva on Thursday. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said that unless they get an acceptable response from Russia, the E.U. heads of state could call an emergency meeting in Brussels next week.

The threat of holding yet another meeting may seem a typical example of the E.U. meeting aggression with bureaucracy. But if they use that opportunity to make good on their threats and approve the next phase of sanctions, Russia finally might start paying attention.

Watch the Trailer for Reproductive Rights Rom-Com Obvious Child

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 10:44 AM PDT

The new trailer for Obvious Child — starring Jenny Slate and Jake Lacy of The Office fame — doesn’t shy away from the signs that it’s a comedy. Farting? Check. Stand-up sets? Check. Bad break-ups and silly dates? Check and check.

Unplanned pregnancy and abortion? Those too. (And yes, it’s still a romantic comedy — not an advocacy film.)

Slate plays Donna, a New York comedian struggling with her career, her relationships, her family and pretty much everything else. When she meets Max, played by Lacy, it seems like he might take her mind off things — until their fun night has some major consequences. The movie also stars Gaby Hoffman, Polly Draper, Richard Kind and David Cross, to add to the comedy checklist, and arrives in select theaters June 6.

US Airways Investigates How It Accidentally Tweeted a Pornographic Picture to a Customer

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 10:39 AM PDT

US Airways said Tuesday that it is investigating how the airline, which boasts 475,000 Twitter followers, managed to accidentally tweet out a pornographic image to a unsatisfied customer.

A Twitter user with the alias @ElleRafter was complaining about a flight delay Monday when she received an official response from US Airways that read, “"We welcome feedback, Elle. If your travel is complete, you can detail it here for review and follow-up,” accompanied with a perplexing pornographic image of a women with a plane in between her legs. The tweet was quickly erased and an apology has been retweeted more than 13,000 times in less than a day, but not before the mishap went viral.

A spokesperson for the airline Davien Anderson said that the image had originally be sent to the airline by a different Twitter user. US Airways then went on to capture the tweet and flag it as inappropriate. What’s unclear is how that captured image was then added on to a completely separate tweet. “We deeply regret the mistake and we are currently reviewing our processes to prevent such errors in the future,” he said.

Yahoo reports that the very same image was sent to American Airlines, which is merging with US Airways, earlier Monday.

What’s Next For That Actor From Game of Thrones?

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 10:16 AM PDT

Note: Spoilers ahead.

Many fans who saw Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones, where the series’ resident psychopath King Joffrey was poisoned and killed at his own wedding, are still reeling. But the actor who plays Joffrey is already moving on.

For the past three years, Irish actor Jack Gleeson has masterfully embodied evil as the spoiled brat who becomes the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Yet after his character’s ghastly death, the 21-year-old actor says he plans to retire completely from acting.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in the wake of the pivotal episode, Gleeson explained, “I've been acting since age eight. I just stopped enjoying it as much as I used to. And now there's the prospect of doing it for a living, whereas up until now it was always something I did for recreation with my friends, or in the summer for some fun. I enjoyed it. When you make a living from something, it changes your relationship with it. It's not like I hate it, it's just not what I want to do.”

Gleeson, who comes across as gracious and humble in interviews, started his on-screen acting career with roles in Batman Begins and A Shine of Rainbows. But it was his turn as Joffrey in Thrones that really put him on the map. In a show filled with amoral or despicable characters, Gleeson’s character stood apart as the worst of the pack, a sadistic and cowardly fiend with unmitigated power to boot.

In fact, George R. R. Martin, the author of the GoT books from which the HBO series is based on, even admitted to EW that he feared Gleeson’s experience playing such a hated character could have put him off of acting. “He created someone that everyone hates, and everyone loves to hate, and that’s a considerable feat of acting,” said Martin. “I feel a little guilty that he’s quitting acting now. I hope that playing Joffrey didn’t make him want to retire from the profession because he does have quite a gift for it.”

“He's very perceptive and he played this loathsome character and somehow made him more loathsome. He created someone that everybody hates, and loves to hate, and that's a considerable feat of acting.

“I feel a little guilty that he's quitting acting now. I hope that playing Joffrey didn't help make him want to retire from the profession because he does have quite a gift for it and could have a major career as an actor.”
Read more at http://www.entertainmentwise.com/news/146682/Did-Playing-Joffrey-Make-Jack-Gleeson-Quit-Acting-Game-Of-Thrones-Author-George-R-R-Martin-Hopes-Not#xdoUGvYXFcJrUH1t.99

“He's very perceptive and he played this loathsome character and somehow made him more loathsome. He created someone that everybody hates, and loves to hate, and that's a considerable feat of acting.

“I feel a little guilty that he's quitting acting now. I hope that playing Joffrey didn't help make him want to retire from the profession because he does have quite a gift for it and could have a major career as an actor.”
Read more at http://www.entertainmentwise.com/news/146682/Did-Playing-Joffrey-Make-Jack-Gleeson-Quit-Acting-Game-Of-Thrones-Author-George-R-R-Martin-Hopes-Not#xdoUGvYXFcJrUH1t.99

Yet Gleeson has been quite open in the past about his feelings on celebrity culture in general and his own unpleasant experience with fame, which go deeper than any one toxic role. In a long and wide-ranging talk given at the Oxford Union last year, Gleeson said that fame not only “embarrasses” him, but he also feels that being a celebrity is an exercise in “dehumanization.” Despite admitting that he once dreamed of being a famous actor, Gleeson said the reality was far different: “I detested the superficial elevation and commodification of it all, juxtaposed with the grotesque self-involvement it would sometimes draw out of me. Being a faceless member of a mob, I soon realized, is far more comforting than teetering on a brittle pedestal one inch off the ground.”

Now, with the sudden and brutal death of Joffrey, it looks like Gleeson can work on returning to that faceless mob. He’s currently a student at Trinity College in Dublin, though he’s said he no longer is drawn to academia. He said he’s not yet sure what type of career he’d like to embark on.

But is there any hope for Thrones fans, who might have hated Joffrey, but have come to appreciate Gleeson’s obvious talent? Maybe. Gleeson did discuss a potential return to the screen with EW, jokingly saying, “When I'm destitute in 10 years time, I'll accept any script!”

Court Upholds EPA Emission Standards

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 10:10 AM PDT

(WASHINGTON) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s emission standards for hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants.

In its ruling, the court rejected state and industry challenges to rules designed to clean up mercury, lead, arsenic and other dangerous air pollutants.

The new regulations were designed to remove toxins from the air that contribute to respiratory illnesses, birth defects and developmental problems in children.

Some industry groups have criticized the standards, saying the EPA was overstating the benefits. Industry groups argued it would cost billions of dollars annually to comply with the rules.

The EPA proposed the rules in 2011.

At the time they were brought forward, there were no limits on how much mercury or other toxic pollutants could be released from a power plant’s smokestacks.

Tuesday’s ruling is “a giant step forward on the road to cleaner, healthier air,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, which was a party in the case.

The Environmental Protection Agency called the decision “a victory for public health and the environment.”

“These practical and cost-effective standards will save thousands of lives each year, prevent heart and asthma attacks, while slashing emissions of the neurotoxin mercury, which can impair children’s ability to learn,” the EPA said.

Congress did not specify what types or levels of public health risks should be deemed a hazard under federal law.

By leaving this gap in the statute, Congress delegated to the EPA authority to give reasonable meaning to the term “hazard,” said the appeals court opinion.

Pet Boom In Mexico Amid Rising Middle Class

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 10:02 AM PDT

(MEXICO CITY) — Camila celebrated her first birthday in a blue-and-white striped dress with tulle appliques, playing with her guests in a room decorated with pink balloons, lilacs and Hello Kitty posters.

When the cake arrived she barked at the single flickering candle, provoking a similar reaction from the Chihuahuas, French bulldogs and Pomeranians in the room.

“We’ve never had a female dog so we wanted to do something special with her,” said Valery Palma, a single 35-year-old lawyer who owns Camila.

Over the last decade, the growth of Mexico’s middle class has created a new market for fancy goods and services for dogs including clothing and accessory boutiques, spas and restaurants with doggie snacks cooked by a pastry chef.

It’s a startling cultural shift in a country where a dog’s life has long meant days chained to the roof of the house. The 2000 film “Amores Perros” used the brutal treatment of dogs as a metaphor for the inhumanity of contemporary Mexican society.

Mexico has an estimated 20 million dogs or more, many of them roaming the streets hunting for food in the trash or spending their days shut up in apartments by owners who see them simply as living burglar alarms.

Last year, the problem gained international attention when authorities said five people had been killed by a pack of feral dogs in the Cerro de Estrella park in Iztapalapa, a poor eastern neighborhood of Mexico City. Authorities captured some 50 dogs near where the attacks took place and brought them to a pound, prompting demonstrations by animal rights activists that pushed officials to put the dogs up for adoption.

At the same time, a small and growing number of Mexicans are spending once unimaginable amounts on their canines.

Many of the estimated 40 million Mexicans considered to be middle class are having fewer children than their parents did and, therefore, also have more disposable income.

“People are no longer having children at a young age … because they can have a different lifestyle with luxuries they know they will no longer be able to afford once they have children,” said Zorayda Morales, an analyst with De La Riva Group, a market research agency.

Palma, who has two dogs, spent $300 on the birthday party for 11 canines and 16 people, complete with cake, presents and snacks, at a dog hotel featuring a gym and massage and aromatherapy services.

“Today people invest in their dog,” said animal behaviorist Renan Medina, one of the founders of MEDICAN, Mexico’s first animal hospital with a hyperbaric chamber, used to accelerate the healing of wounds and infections.

“This goes beyond a trend,” he said. “People see their dog as part of the family.”

Since 2008, sales of pet-related products have grown an average of 13 percent a year, to $2.2 billion last year, according to market research firm Euromonitor International.

“We’re seeing the growth of this idea in which a dog is an alternative to children,” said Raul Valadez Azua, a paleozoologist at the National Autonomous University in Mexico City. “On the one hand, they are people who feel that the economic obligations of having a family are too high. On the other hand, they have the resources to give a lot of care to a pet.”

Dogs have become more popular and pampered in working-class areas, too. Neighborhood street markets feature ever-greater quantities of dog products such as shampoos, brushes and elaborate leashes and collars.

“It doesn’t depend on class, it depends on commitment, said Medina, the animal hospital founder. “People without a lot of money are sometimes better clients than the upper classes. Some show up and say, ‘I don’t have money, what can we do? I’m an upholsterer and I can reupholster your chairs in exchange for treatment.’”

At the other end of the income scale, owners of pure-bred dogs are being hit by robbery and kidnapping of animals worth thousands of dollars in some cases.

Nurse Karla Gutierrez’s dog walker was out with her 4-year-old golden retriever Hebe and several other dogs in February when two men held him up at gunpoint.

“They told him, ‘the dogs,’ and he let Hebe’s leash go so she could run away, but my girl just curled up into a ball and they grabbed her and another golden,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez has since plastered her neighborhood with posters of Hebe, with the caption “Stolen.”

“I am still crying for her almost every night,” Gutierrez said. “I’m trying to live my normal life, playing soccer and riding my bike, but I can barely do it.”

Remember Not To Pee On The Alamo

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 09:59 AM PDT

A Texas man was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Monday for urinating on the Alamo shrine in 2012.

Daniel Athens, 23, is not eligible for parole, and will serve the entirety of this sentence as well as pay $4,000 in restitution, The Smoking Gun reports.

According to the police report, an Alamo Ranger saw Athens in an off-limits area making "the motions of putting his penis back in his pants." The ranger then discovered a “puddle” on the 25o-year-old shrine.

Athens could have faced up to two years in prison. According to the report, urine can damage the limestone on the landmark.

[The Smoking Gun]

7 Artists From Coachella to Check Out (Even If You Didn’t Go to the Festival)

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 09:54 AM PDT

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival took over Indio, CA this past weekend and will repeat the feat this weekend. Between performances by headliners Arcade Fire, OutKast and Muse, plus sets by Calvin Harris, Beck, Pharrell Williams, Lorde and surprise guest appearances by Jay Z, Beyoncé and Blondie’s Debbie Harry, there was a lot to see at the festival.

But if you’re hitting the festival circuit later on in the season — or if the heat, crowds and surprise appearances by Justin Bieber aren’t your thing — here are seven bands to check out, either at Coachella’s second weekend or as far as you can possibly get from the maddening crowds:

Banks

Jillian Banks, who performs simply as Banks, makes yearning seem like a worthwhile pastime when she sings about it in her seductive voice. The singer marries her R&B inflected tunes and warm vocals with big production and electronic beats to create magnetic pop songs. Her debut album isn’t due out for months, but the singles released so far warrant setting Spotify on repeat.

Listen: “Warm Water”

Future Islands

Baltimore synth-pop punks Future Islands just released a new album this week, and it seems like the fourth time is the charm for the band, as they’re finally earning some well-deserved buzz. The three-piece drags listeners across their musical threshold with songs that range from quietly introspective to industrial new wave, all topped by the unforgettable, raspy-yet-smooth vocals of singer Samuel T. Herring (who is worth the effort to see live).

Listen: “Seasons (Waiting On You)”

MS MR

MS MR make high drama pop music with a gothic edge that is hard not to dance to. The Brooklyn duo of singer Lizzy Plapinger and producer-instrumentalist Max Hershenow craft deftly dark songs that bring to mind alt-’80s bands — if acts like Siouxsie and the Banshees and Sisters of Mercy had iPods filled with Katy Perry songs and developed a knack for making dance party anthems.

Listen: “Hurricane”

The Knife

The Swedish electro-pop collective made their first stateside appearance in eight years at Coachella — and they made it count. Belatedly touring in support of their experimental early 2013 album Shaking the Habitual, the band turns mere concerts into exuberant stage shows that are equal parts Willy Wonka-inspired performance art and ecclesiastical youth group gatherings that make for instant parties and mandatory viewing for music fans.

Listen: “A Tooth For An Eye”

Ratking

Fronted by two 20-year-old rappers, Wiki and Hak, alongside producer Sporting Life, Ratking represents the next generation of New York rappers. The band was raised on a steady diet of Notorious B.I.G. and Black Star, and they put that education to good use on their debut album, So It Goes. They’ve already earned comparisons to fellow Coachella performer OutKast for their fast-paced rhymes and socially-conscious lyrics that cover everything from love and money to gentrification and police brutality.

Listen: “So Sick Stories, feat. King Krule”

Jagwar Ma

The Australian band makes music that sounds like they are the lone holdouts of the early ’90s Madchester scene (think: Happy Mondays, Stone Roses and the Soup Dragons). On their albums, they deliver an updated twist on a throwback sound, crafting psychedelic indie rock with seriously danceable trip-hop beats. Live, their crowd-pleasing tracks make for an irrepressible celebration that feels unstoppable.

Listen: “The Throw”

Courtney Barnett

This 24-year-old Australian singer-songwriter plays rambling folks songs that cover typical topics like relationships and gardening, but with a keen eye for detail and a sharp sense of humor. Her dynamic and sophisticated songs are filled with clever lyrics that, when parsed, read like novellas — but don’t underestimate her ability to write a catchy song out of a fuzzy guitar melody, an undulating piano run and a simmering bass line.

Listen: “Avant Gardener”

MORE: SXSW 2014: 17 Bands To Watch, Even if You Don't Go to the Music Festival

MORE: Band To Watch: Ages and Ages Premiere New Track "I See More"

Obama Commutes Sentence Of Man Given Three Extra Years In Jail By A Typo

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 09:52 AM PDT

President Obama commuted the sentence of a man given three extra years in jail because of a typographical error on Tuesday. This latest act of clemency by Obama, who has been called the least merciful president in recent history, aligns with his policy proposals to reduce sentences for petty drug criminals.

Ceasar Huerta Cantu pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering charges in 2006. Under sentencing guidelines, Cantu was only supposed to serve 138 months behind bars for his “base offense level”—a measure of how serious a crime is—of 34. But administrators put the level in at 36, which caused him to receive a 180-month sentence.

Because Cantu failed to report the mistake in time for a judicial correction, the only way to fix it was through executive clemency. On Tuesday, Obama's commutation reduced Cantu's sentence to 138 months in prison, all of which have already been served. Cantu received five years supervised release in 2006.

Tuesday's commutation is the ninth Obama has granted in the past five months, all of which have reduced the sentences of drug-related offenders. In December, President Obama commuted the sentences of eight crack cocaine offenders serving lengthy sentences, as part of his continuous effort to roll back the disparity between crack cocaine convictions, and those for other drugs. Seven of the eight convicted felons who were granted commutations in December of last year will have been released by Thursday.

Judicial experts predict Obama will continue granting mass commutations for low-level drug offenders, and some are estimating hundreds will be granted before Obama leaves office.

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