Tuesday, May 6, 2014

US Sanctions Both Sides in South Sudan Conflict

US Sanctions Both Sides in South Sudan Conflict

US Sanctions Both Sides in South Sudan Conflict

Posted: 06 May 2014 11:30 AM PDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department says the U.S. is issuing sanctions against individuals on both sides of the deadly conflict in South Sudan.

Treasury announced the sanctions that freeze assets under U.S. jurisdiction and bans them from movement out of the United States.

South Sudan has been rocked by violence since December, when President Salva Kiir accused former Vice President Riek Machar of staging a coup. The two are expected to meet later this week for face-to-face talks.

Secretary of State John Kerry just returned from South Sudan where he tried to foster peace talks and threatened sanctions as a way to end fighting in the world’s newest nation. Thousands of people have died in the violence and more than 1.3 million people have fled their homes.

How We Mourn in the Age of Social Media

Posted: 06 May 2014 11:14 AM PDT

My hometown was rocked by tragedy earlier this year when a local 24-year-old was killed while skiing in the backcountry. The news broke on Twitter: One dead, three rescued after avalanche near Vail, Colo. I scanned the article, fervently hoping I wouldn’t recognize the names of anyone involved. The skiers hadn't yet been identified, so I did what any digitally dependent millennial would do: I turned to Facebook. Immediately, my News Feed revealed the facts in a way news sources hadn't. The avalanche victim wasn't a stranger. Tony Seibert, one of the three skiers who perished, was my sister’s friend.

It'd only been a few hours since the accident, but already there was a virtual memorial on his Facebook wall: Friends telling him how much they loved him and would miss him; grade-school classmates recounting funny stories from childhood; college friends expressing their sympathy and sending prayers to his family. Even in death, social media is just that: Social. When someone passes away, his or her accounts remain unchanged, a representation of that person in death as much as they were in life. In fact, Facebook recently announced it will no longer limit access to the accounts of deceased members.

Technology has undeniably changed the way we mourn, giving us access to an instant support system. Those who can't attend a funeral or memorial service in person can now send their condolences via text, email, FaceTime or Skype. We can view obituaries online and sign digital guestbooks. We can show our support by hitting the "Like" button. Facebook pages of those who are no longer with us can serve as a tribute to a life taken too soon, uniting those who are mourning, providing them with a sense of community, and helping them feel connected to the person they lost.

Though social norms for loss in the digital age are still evolving, the act of mourning online is now a gesture — evidence of sorts — that we were truly affected by a person's passing. We often joke that if something's not on Facebook, it didn't happen, but at the crux of that joke is a kernel of truth. We've become so obsessed with documenting every aspect of our lives (or rather, with compiling perfectly filtered highlight reels) that it seems fitting to acknowledge the death of a loved one on social media.

It's certainly easier to type a story once than it is to repeat it multiple times, but I often wonder what our motivation is in mourning so publicly given the sensitive, personal nature of grief. It takes strength to open yourself up to judgment and criticism by sharing your true feelings online. But how much of sharing our loss on social media is rooted in a desire to pay our respects, and how much in a desire to draw attention to the fact that the loss is somehow about us, too?

Mourning online allows us to stake our claim on the effect of a tragedy — even one that doesn't have a direct impact on us. People race to share the news of a celebrity death (real or rumored) in a constant game of one-upmanship. Social media feeds into our desire to be the source of breaking information, to feel important, to be seen as knowledgeable and interesting. Endlessly retweeting tragedy becomes less about the expression of grief and more about wanting to prove we're in the know and that we, too, were affected by the loss.

I faced this exact struggle in the wake of Tony's death. As someone who didn’t know him well — we weren’t even Facebook friends — I felt like posting about his death was somehow a cry for digital attention, a claim to a closeness we didn’t share. At the same time, I felt compelled to post something in order to show support for my hometown, my community and mutual friends who were grieving. And while choosing to silent isn't a reflection of whether we were affected, sometimes the culture of sharing makes it feel like that's the implication.

There's no "right" way to mourn, but I question whether Facebook — which seems more and more like a junkyard of complaints and raw emotions — does justice to our feelings about meaningful things like death if we discuss them on the same platform as complaints about our cable company. But for some, maybe the desire to share overshadows the desire for privacy. Maybe the allure of instant gratification in the form of likes, comments and favorites makes the pain seem more bearable. With each notification, we're reminded that we're not alone.

Perhaps by memorializing our loved ones online or by live-tweeting death, we're searching for solace and simply doing our best to cope. Or perhaps the “act of retweeting, favoriting, and following those who will never tweet again" becomes a sign of solidarity and respect. As their number of followers surges, so does our fascination.

I've found myself returning to Tony's Facebook page lately, drawn to it by a combination of morbid compulsion and a desire to see how his friends and family are preserving his memory online. Visiting these types of pages is addictive — they're digital graveyards we can't help but visit. The strange part about Tony's page is that at a quick glance, you would never even know he passed away. Within the past few weeks, he's been tagged in countless status updates and videos and photos. Despite the fact that he's gone, he is still very much alive — at least online.

That's the thing about mourning in the age of social media: The deceased have the power to live on, but as the ones still living, there's no Facebook status that can do justice to our loss, no 140-character tweet that can sum up our sadness and no Instagram filter that can soften the jagged edges of our pain. At the end of the day, maybe it's okay to just turn off our phones and let ourselves mourn.

Philadelphia Gas Station Robbers Sell Discounted Gas to Public

Posted: 06 May 2014 11:13 AM PDT

Armed men held up a gas station in Philadelphia Monday and then sold gas to customers for a discount.

Police say the three robbers, who were posing as Hess deliverymen, fired a shot that grazed the gas station's 18-year-old clerk and then proceeded to serve customers for several hours, CBS Philly reports. The clerk was not seriously injured.

"In my career, that's the first time I've seen or heard something like this occur," Lt. John Walker of the Philadelphia Police Department said. "Obviously they probably didn't feel like they got enough money, so they're going to sit there, take control of the business, offer gas at a discounted price and try to get additional money which is just bizarre."

The clerk's father added that his son "was told to stay quiet in the bathroom for two hours, while they were in there waiting on customers."

Police are now seeking for the culprits, who they suspect have held up other Hess stations in the area. A Hess spokesperson said the company is cooperating with the investigation.

[CBS Philly]

New iPhone App Turns Back The Clock on Israel

Posted: 06 May 2014 11:01 AM PDT

Tuesday was Independence Day in Israel, and Israelis marked 66 years of statehood with barbecues, flyovers, and fireworks. Supporters of the Palestinians used the occasion to unveil a new app that looks at the holiday from the perspective of the side that lost the 1948 war and has been locked in conflict with Israel ever since: iNakba

In Arabic, “nakba” means "catastrophe," and the iPhone application maps some 500 Palestinian villages that once stood on the land controlled by Israel since 1948. The app was developed by Zochrot, an Israeli nongovernmental organization that exists to remind Israel's Jewish majority of that history. "The application provides coordinates and maps of Palestinian localities that were completely demolished and obliterated after their capture, partially demolished, or remained standing although their residents were expelled," Zochrot says on its website.

This appears, on an iPhone screen, as a forest of ochre-colored Google Map pins laid over the familiar map of modern Israel. Tap on any one pin and the Arabic name of the village comes up: Umm al-Zinat, for instance, in the north near Haifa. Tap again, and a page opens showing a photo—some feature handsome stone buildings, this one just rubble—and a few lines of data: There is the name of the Jewish communities that went up after 1948 (Elyakim), the date and the Israeli military unit that occupied it, and the Palestinian population in 1948 (1,710) and after 1948 (None).

A menu allows viewers to upload photos of their own, and offers driving directions, using Google Maps, Apple Maps or Waze—the crowd-sourcing navigation app developed by Israelis and purchased by Google for $1.15 billion.

"The idea of the app is like changing the landscape, because we in Zochrot believe that maps are a political tool, and from '48 till today, Israel on its maps just erased Palestine and its localities and our heritage," Raneen Jeries, a spokesperson for Zochrot, tells TIME. “So we put Palestine back on the map."

The app has its practical uses. Of the 3,000 downloads in the first 24 hours, some may have been by descendants of the 750,000 people who fled or were forced out in 1948 and now come to Israel looking for the site of their ancestral home in a landscape of freeways, factories and subdivisions. Bound volumes like All That Remains can help, but as Jeries says, “It's not easy to find the destroyed places."

But the app also represents a new frontier—clean, bright, helpful—in the competition between historical narratives. Israelis and Palestinians have different experiences of the last century, and each wants the world at large to see history from their perspective. The differences between them extend even as far as dates: Israel changes the date of Independence Day every year, marking the occasion according to the lunar-based Jewish calendar. Palestinians use May 15, the day after Israel signed its declaration of independence on the Gregorian calendar in 1948.

The iNakba effort is unlikely to change many minds among Jewish Israelis, says Dahlia Scheindlin, a political consultant and pollster who blogs on the leftist +972 site. "Up until now, Zochrot has taken very radical positions," she tells TIME. By supporting the right of return for Palestinians—allowing descendants of the 1948 exodus to live in Israel—the group has placed itself in line with a segment of the Jewish Israeli population that, Scheindlin says, is too tiny to register in public opinion surveys. Nakba is so unpopular a notion that until the Knesset legal advisor barred its introduction in 2012, Israeli lawmakers championed a bill barring its commemoration inside Israel, even though 20 percent of the population is Arab, many descended from the Palestinians who were allowed to remain after 1948.

Still, Scheindlin says, Zochrot has displayed a talent for framing a volatile issue in new ways. "They're making an effort to get noticed in Israeli society," she says, "and at least talk in way that will get people thinking."

WATCH: Man Followed by Adorable Entourage of Ducklings

Posted: 06 May 2014 11:00 AM PDT

The Entourage movie is still being hatched somewhere in Hollywood, but this man’s all-duckling entourage is already out in the world, ready to play, and way cuter than Vince, Eric, Turtle or Drama.

An unnamed Good Samaritan stepped in when a mother duck was killed, rescuing her 13 eggs and keeping them warm in an incubator until they hatched. When the brand-new ducklings emerged from their shells, they imprinted on the man and claimed him as their parent.

Now the 13 ducklings stick close to their ersatz parent, following him everywhere he goes. As the ducklings grow older, they will start to follow him less and less, until they become fully independent. Just like in the last season of Entourage.

MORE: WATCH: Dog and Disabled Kitten Play Like Best Friends

MORE: Inmates Train Dogs to Be Service Animals for Autistic Children

Vatican Reveals It Punished Thousands of Priests For Sex Abuse

Posted: 06 May 2014 10:49 AM PDT

The Vatican on Tuesday revealed a rare, year-by-year tally of how many priests it had disciplined over the past decade for alleged sexual abuses against children.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, a Vatican ambassador, revealed to a United Nations committee that the Vatican had defrocked a total of 848 priests and sanctioned another 2,572 over the last 10 years, the Wall Street Journal reports.

A U.N. committee charged with monitoring an international convention against torture has been investigating whether the Vatican’s senior officials are liable for the abuses, and whether it constitutes torture under the terms of the treaty.


U.S. To Send Team to Nigeria to Help Find Kidnapped Girls

Posted: 06 May 2014 10:26 AM PDT

The United States is preparing to deploy a team of military, law enforcement and hostage negotiators to Nigeria, officials said Tuesday, to help with the ongoing effort to recover more than 250 kidnapped schoolgirls whose plight has captured global attention.

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday morning to discuss the plan to send a “coordination cell” to Abuja to assist in locating the girls, who were taken by the Boko Haram militant group in April. The group’s leader recently boasted in a video that “I will sell them in the market.”

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the team “could provide expertise on intelligence, investigations and hostage negotiations, help facilitate information sharing and provide victim assistance. It would include U.S. military personnel, law enforcement officials with expertise in investigations and hostage negotiations, as well as officials with expertise in other areas that may be helpful to the Nigerian government in its response.”

Psaki didn’t say how large the team will be, nor would she confirm if the Nigerian government has explicitly accepted the U.S. offer to help.

“I think [Kerry] came away from the call with an understanding that this is something we’d work with the Nigerians to implement,” she said.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said President Barack Obama and Kerry would discuss the ongoing effort to locate the girls in their meeting Tuesday afternoon.

“We are not considering at this point military resources,” Carney said, saying the military personnel being sent are to take on an advisory role for the Nigerian government.

“What I can tell you is that it is certainly Nigeria’s responsibility to maintain the safety and security of its citizens,” Carney added.

These Scientists Want to Breed Animals That Can Survive Climate Change

Posted: 06 May 2014 10:21 AM PDT

Scientists at the University of Delaware are working to breed more heat-resistant chickens to better survive climate change, specifically at the African naked-neck chicken. The bird’s lack of neck feathers helps keep it cool — a model for what it might take for an animal to thrive in higher temperatures. Theoretically, incorporating some of the characteristics of the African chicken in U.S. breeds could create a more adaptable bird—and more food in the long run.

“We have to start now to anticipate what changes we have to make in order to feed 9 billion people,” Carl Schmidt, one of the researchers, told the Los Angeles Times. According to Schmidt, the hardier chickens could begin to be mass-produced within 15 years. As America warms up, they'll certainly be useful, but the new animals are also relevant in the short-term for small-scale farming in Africa.

The experiment is one of the first attempts to kickstart evolution's reaction to the climate catastrophe we find ourselves in. Too bad humans aren't changing quite as quickly.

Google Maps App Gets Lane Guidance, Offline Mode and Other Substantial Features

Posted: 06 May 2014 10:14 AM PDT

Google recently updated its Maps app for iPhone and Android with a whole mess of new features, such as:

  • Lane guidance while in navigation mode, so you can be sure to be in the correct lane while preparing to exit;
  • The ability to pre-download certain sections of maps for use when you’ll be offline;
  • The ability to sort nearby restaurants, bars and hotels by hours, rating or price;
  • Integration with the Uber app, if you have it installed: You can check whether walking, talking public transportation or taking Uber will get you to your destination most quickly;
  • More accurate public transportation information, such as the ability to set your desired departure time for the train or look up the last time the train runs;
  • The ability to star places on a map, saving them so you can remember to visit them later;
  • Deeper integration with Street View functionality, allowing you to see first-person imagery of popular tourist destinations, restaurants and bars.

Lane guidance and offline mode are the two big-ticket items here, as they help round out the Maps app as a free, powerful GPS replacement. The other additions are nice touches, too, many of them with the apparent goal of trying to keep people inside the Maps app instead of using apps from the likes of Yelp or one of several public transit apps.

Obama Asks Weathermen to ‘Translate’ Climate Change, Republican Primaries Underway, The Problem With Face Wash

Posted: 06 May 2014 10:05 AM PDT

The White House has enlisted the help of weathermen like NBC’s Al Roker to help explain the new National Climate Assessment report, which forecasts meteorological woes in the near future in every part of the United States.

Also Tuesday, primary elections in Ohio and North Carolina Republican may provide fresh insights about the ongoing fight between establishment and insurgent Republicans.

And prepare to drop that face scrub! The tiny plastic microbeads that do the exfoliating slip through the cracks in wastewater systems and end up polluting the water supply, say environmental activists. States are considering cracking down.

Finally, work is the new play, at least at Legoland. Westchester, New York’s Lego theme park is looking for a master builder to spend all day using his imagination. Talk about a resume builder.


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