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Monday, June 30, 2014

Sentencing Due for Man Who Tried to Aid al-Qaida

Sentencing Due for Man Who Tried to Aid al-Qaida


Sentencing Due for Man Who Tried to Aid al-Qaida

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 11:08 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES — A California man who used Facebook to connect with al-Qaida and planned to train its fighters in Pakistan was scheduled to be sentenced Monday in federal court.

Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 25, of Garden Grove, pleaded guilty in December to one count of attempting to assist a known terrorist organization.

The crime carries a penalty of up to 15 years in federal prison and a lifetime of supervised release. He was scheduled to appear before U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter, who earlier voiced doubts about how Nguyen could have helped al-Qaida.

Nguyen’s attorney requested a shorter sentence by citing 14 other terrorism-related cases in which most received less than eight years in prison.

Between August and October 2013, Nguyen met several times with a man he thought was an al-Qaida recruiter but who was actually working for the FBI, according to court documents. Nguyen told the recruiter he was born to wage jihad and he agreed to travel to Pakistan via Mexico in order to train 30 al-Qaida fighters.

Nguyen was arrested at a Santa Ana bus terminal in October while waiting for a bus bound for Mexico. At the time of his arrest, Nguyen had a passport with a false name, along with a hard drive containing 180 weapons training videos, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Nguyen’s admission was outlined in a plea agreement filed in federal court.

Nguyen, who also went by the name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, said he had traveled to Syria and for five months fought with rebel forces opposing the regime of Bashar al-Assad. While in Syria, Nguyen offered his services to al-Qaida but was turned down, according to federal prosecutors.

The World Cup Tactical Trend Yielding the Most Success

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 11:06 AM PDT

sportsillustrated

By Liviu Bird

The most interesting tactical trend at the 2014 World Cup has been an increase in nations using systems with three center backs. Teams starting matches with these systems have won 11 matches, lost three and drawn four, and all three of the losses were against teams using a similar system.

After Surviving Group, USA Out to Set New Standard

The re-emergence of three-back systems may have been a direct response to the tiki-taka trend sparked in Spain nearly a decade ago. The Spanish system favors central overloads by the midfielders, a false No. 9 and central wingers, leaving fullbacks to provide width in attack. Systems with just two or three central midfielders end up overwhelmed, but playing one less in the back allows for an extra in midfield.

After a certain point, a central overload becomes stifling. A 5-on-2 situation is conducive to keeping the ball in tight spaces, but 5-on-5 means passing lanes disappear. That's how the Netherlands beat Spain 5-1 in their rematch of the 2010 final to open Group B play.

USA vs. Belgium Stadium Primer: Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova

Stefan De Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi played the man-marker roles, tracking runners into midfield, while Jonathan De Guzmán and Nigel De Jong acted as destroyers in holding roles. The wingbacks recovered and pinched in to maintain a solid back line when De Vrij and Martins Indi tracked runners, and Spain couldn't establish a rhythm in possession.

Upon regaining possession, the wingbacks bombed forward, exploiting space created by the opposition's overlapping fullbacks. Daley Blind turned in a Man of the Match performance with two assists.

The Dutch struggled against Australia for the same reason they succeeded in the first match: their 5-3-2 is set up to counterattack, which provided the perfect antidote to Spain's system, but it didn't help the Oranje push the tempo against an inferior Australian side. Louis van Gaal moved to 4-3-3 in the second half to secure the victory after allowing Australia to control the tempo and expend energy in the first.

Louis van Gaal’s Methods Make the Dutch World Cup Contenders Again

Similarly, van Gaal moved to 4-3-3 after Mexico took a 1-0 lead in their round of 16 match on Sunday. Again, the system switch provided numbers in attack, and, along with the timely introduction of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for Robin van Persie, was the difference in winning on two late goals. Against Mexico and Australia were the only matches in which the Oranje possessed the ball more than 50 percent of the time, at 55 and 52 percent, respectively.

In the final group match, Chile attacked for most of the game, but van Gaal's team scored twice in the last 15 minutes to win 2-0 when La Roja tired and dropped off, much as Mexico did as a response to being up 1-0 with just 30 minutes remaining.

Chile was a perfect contrast to the Dutch with its high-pressure system based on collective work rate. In the round of 16 on Saturday, Brazil only completed 69 percent of its passes in the first 90 minutes before Jorge Sampaoli's side ran out of gas again and played to survive extra time without losing.

In Chile, the three-back system started with Marcelo Bielsa, nicknamed "El Loco" for the radical tactical permutations he implemented with the national team. Bielsa is a theorist akin to a quantum-mechanical physicist, his strategies detailed like NASA launch code.

Sampaoli is one of many managers influenced by Bielsa. The list also includes Pep Guardiola, Gerardo Martino and Diego Simeone, whose Atlético Madrid team best resembles Sampaoli's Chile in its defensive strategy and lethal counterattack.

Sampaoli built on Bielsa's system, but the chief feature remains: high defensive pressure that leads to immediate vertical play upon regaining the ball. Chile doesn't play much in the central channel in possession. Instead, the wingbacks and attackers pull wide to find space created by the Chilean defensive swarm in the middle.

The players' work rate allows the team shape to shrink and expand rhythmically depending on the location of the ball and the match situation. The center backs pull wide when building out of the back, and all three are comfortable with the ball at their feet, also advancing into midfield. Out of possession, the entire team squeezes centrally and applies pressure.

Heartbreak for El Tri: Three Thoughts on the Netherlands’ win over Mexico

The difference in Chilean players' average positions against Spain and the Netherlands shows the team's dichotomy. Against Spain, the forward line stayed central to prevent easy play out of the back, with the wingbacks pressuring the Spanish fullbacks. Against the Dutch, Chile controlled most of the possession, necessitating a wider starting position from each player.

Against Spain, the shape could be best described as 3-4-1-2, with two holding midfielders screening the center backs and Arturo Vidal running the central channel to connect midfield and attack on both sides of the ball.

Miguel Herrera: Mexico is Going Home, and So Should the Referee

Against the Netherlands, it was closer to 3-3-1-3, the fringe players forming a circle around the field with Charles Aránguiz and Marcelo Díaz running the middle. (Coaches with possession philosophies will immediately recognize the shape as a field-encompassing rondo.)

Chile's downfall was the same as Simeone's Atlético in the Champions League final. It's extremely difficult to play at the intensity necessary for a high-pressure system for 90 minutes, let alone 120. Simeone's team gave up a back-breaking goal in extra time and ended up losing in a landslide, and while Sampaoli's troops never conceded that goal to Brazil, they were physically spent and had to cling to the possibility of winning in penalties, spending most of the final half-hour inside their own defensive third.

Costa Rica's three-back system also suffocates the middle defensively, playing a box-shaped central midfield. The Ticos' shape becomes a flat 5-4-1 when the opponent gains obvious control in its own defensive third, using visual cues to pressure in midfield.

In attack, right-sided center back Óscar Duarte pushes higher than the left side, allowing wingback Cristian Gamboa to push higher and Bryan Ruíz to tuck in from the right wing alongside Joel Campbell on the front line.

Against Italy, Andrea Pirlo was pressured immediately any time he received the ball. With two Ticos as holding midfielders, one could always step to the ball, the indented winger on each side working to support his partner.

The three-back system is engrained in Italian culture, with catenaccio taking hold in the 1980s. The diamond midfield and 4-1-4-1 formations Cesare Prandelli used in recent times also packed the middle of the field, but he played 5-4-1 in the final group match against Uruguay, intensifying the effect.

Italy started with a triangle midfield and two strikers, moving to a diamond and a lone forward after halftime. Uruguay countered with its own three-back system, but instead of adding numbers in the middle, it played with a flat line of three midfielders who limited forward ball circulation and limited service to Pirlo.

Cutting off Italy's ability to go through the middle meant the Azzurri resorted to long, diagonal balls and crosses into the penalty area. Uruguay kept numbers back, winning every aerial duel in its own 18-yard box and limiting Italy to two successful crosses on 18 attempts.

Uniquely, Mexico's three-back system is not about central overloads but wide isolation. Wingbacks Paul Aguilar and Miguel Layún have freedom to get forward faster, and the top points of the midfield triangle, Héctor Herrera and Andrés Guardado, pull wide to create two-on-one situations.

Brazil Survives, Outlasts Chile in Emotional, Tense Knockout Clash

The trend mostly applies on the left side, through Layún and Guardado. As the ball moves from the middle to the flank, Guardado runs wide to create the isolation. In the middle, forwards make third-man runs to exploit gaps in the opposition back line as defenders adjust.

Layún also cuts inside to combine or take long shots. At the same time, he rarely leaves the team exposed defensively. He was one of Mexico's hardest workers this World Cup, recording the largest number of sprints in all four matches.

El Tri's system presents a double-jeopardy situation to opponents: either defend the 2-on-1 and leave the middle open for the central midfielders and forwards to receive service, or leave the wide spaces open and allow easy combinations and crosses.

Defending and defensive-oriented tactics are alive and well among successful teams, even in a tournament of high-scoring matches and an era that has seen more goals than any before it.

The Netherlands — favored to make at least the semifinals — and Costa Rica won their groups with defense-heavy schemes, and Chile's prowess without the ball was a perfect example of using an opponent's possession to the defensive team's advantage. At the same time, every team with a three-back system has provided moments of explosive offense on par with those fully engrained in the tiki-taka philosophy.

With the widespread knowledge of tactics in an age of technology and reflection, football may not see new advancements in that area. Instead, old ideas are likely to resurface and evolve to modernity through slight tweaks — man-marking center backs who can also build out of the back or teams that high pressure not just for 45 or 90 minutes at a time, but for tournaments and seasons in their entirety thanks to modern fitness training.

In a World Cup where new technologies are all the rage, whether it's in the Brazuca, training regimens or player tracking that provides seemingly endless analytics, it's the decades-old idea of playing three center backs that has been the most intriguing development.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

The World Cup Is the Most Talked-About Event in Facebook History

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 11:02 AM PDT

The World Cup is not only netting record ratings on television—it's breaking boundaries on social media too. The soccer tournament is now the most-discussed event ever on Facebook, having racked up more than 1 billion interactions from 220 million users between June 12 and June 29, according to Reuters. That puts the event ahead of this year's Super Bowl, Winter Olympics and Academy Awards combined.

In support of the event, Facebook launched a dedicated Page that offers live updates of matches in progress and gathers photos and media reports from the World Cup. The company is in the midst of a battle with Twitter to become the destination where people discuss live TV events online. Twitter has its own World Cup portal and announced Friday that 300 million tweets related to the tourney had been posted since group play started. The figure is double the number of tweets sent during the 2012 Summer Olympics. By the time a World Cup champion is crowned on July 13, these social media companies will already be big winners thanks to the huge traffic the matches have driven to their sites.

Officials: Israel Finds Bodies of Kidnapped Teens

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 11:00 AM PDT

(JERUSALEM) — Security officials say the Israeli military has discovered the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped in the West Bank earlier this month.

They say the bodies were found Monday near the village of Halhul, near the location where the teens disappeared on June 12.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in exchange for releasing the information ahead of a formal announcement.

The search for the teens has become a national obsession, setting off a frantic manhunt and large crackdown on the Hamas militant group.

Amanda Bynes’ New York Bong-Tossing Case Dismissed

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 10:47 AM PDT

NEW YORK — The bong-tossing case against Amanda Bynes was dismissed Monday after the actress complied with the judge’s orders to stay out of trouble and go to counseling.

Bynes, 28, was charged last year with reckless endangerment and marijuana possession. Building managers called police because they said she was smoking pot in the lobby of her Manhattan residence. When officers entered her 36th-floor apartment, they said they saw her heave a bong out the window.

Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Lori Petersen sealed the case after the dismissal. Bynes’ lawyer appeared in court; she was not present.

The court previously had said the charges would be dismissed if Bynes stayed out of trouble and went to counseling twice a week. Attorney Gerald Shargel submitted an affidavit saying Bynes had complied with the court’s requirements.

“She did her counseling and it’s now all behind her,” Shargel said outside court.

In February, Bynes pleaded no contest to alcohol-related reckless driving for clipping a Los Angeles County sheriff’s patrol car in April 2012. She was sentenced to three years of probation and three months of attending alcohol education classes.

She received psychiatric treatment last year after authorities said she set a small fire in the driveway of a home in Thousand Oaks, California.

Bynes was 13 when she landed her own hit variety program, “The Amanda Show” on Nickelodeon. She went on to star in the TV series “What I Like About You” and several movies, including “What a Girl Wants,” ”Hairspray” and “She’s the Man.”

She has publicly stated that she has retired from acting. Her last film credit was 2010′s “Easy A,” which starred Emma Stone.

Religious Groups Divided on Hobby Lobby Ruling

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 10:42 AM PDT

On Sunday night, Hobby Lobby was simply a craft store. On Monday morning, it became the champion of religious liberty for conservative faith groups across the country.

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a 5-4 split decision on June 30 that closely-held corporations can hold religious views under federal law, meaning that religious for-profit companies can refuse to pay for the employee contraceptive coverage required by President Barack Obama's health care reform law.

Conservative Christian voices immediately praised the ruling and offered their prayers of thanksgiving. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, called the ruling, "one of the most significant victories for religious freedom in our generation." Rick Santorum, former U.S. Senator and Republican presidential candidate, described it as "a tremendous victory for our freedom of conscience." Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, tweeted "Hallejulah" within seconds, and then "Gave proof through the night that our First Amendment’s still there." Soon after, Moore posted on his blog, "This is as close as a Southern Baptist gets to dancing in the streets for joy."

A supporting chorus of the faithful around the country quickly added to the rejoicing. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called Monday a "great day for the religious freedom of family businesses." George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God church, commended the court "for recognizing that individuals do not surrender their religious freedom rights when they incorporate as a closely held, for profit business." Brian Fisher, president of Online for Life, stated, "No person or entity should be forced to provide baby-killing drugs to their employees." Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, explained that the decision does not stop here: "I do believe that while this outcome validates this fundamental right, the many threats in both culture and society make religious liberty the quintessential civil rights issue of the 21st century."

It would be a mistake, however, to believe that all religious groups are pleased with Monday's ruling. Many religious leaders, Christian and non-Christian, see the decision as a setback for both the freedom of faithful practice and access to health care for which they have advocated for years. "The Court has privileged bosses and their corporations–who now are allowed to exercise religious belief, even though a corporation can’t sit in a pew–over women," said Rev. Dr. Althea Smith-Withers, who chairs the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, whose members include the American Jewish Committee, the Episcopal Church, and the United Church of Christ. "Contraception is a moral good, a fact supported by the various denominations and organizations that make up our coalition. It’s a shame that it may be out of reach for the women who need it the most."

Union Theological Seminary president Serene Jones called the decision a loss for Christians who desire to be faithful. "As a Christian, I believe that God creates human beings individually, and that the mark of our individual blessedness before God is our souls," she said in a statement. "I am horrified by the thought that the owners of Hobby Lobby as Christians think their corporation has a soul, and I'm even more appalled that the Supreme Court agrees."

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, is concerned that corporate owners now have more faith and health-related protections than their employees. "It is fairly stunning that the Supreme Court in today's Hobby Lobby ruling held that a corporation's owners can extend their religious preferences to the corporation's employees regardless of their employees' religious views," Campbell says. "It raises the serious concern about employees being able to get needed services."

The divide is a reminder that conservative religious groups are celebrating a broader victory. Yes, they transformed a dispute about health care coverage requirements into a symbolic case about religious freedom. But they have had few big culture war wins in recent years, especially as public opinion shifts in favor of marriage equality. The Hobby Lobby ruling—handed down on the last day of LGBT Pride month—is a bright spot for conservative Christians who feel besieged by cultural values they do not share.

The case's broader religious freedom implications, however, may be more limited than many victors might hope. The decision is based on a 1993 law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, not the First Amendment more broadly. Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, was careful to clarify the ruling is restrained in scope. "This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g. for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer's religious beliefs," he wrote in the ruling. "Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice."

Israeli TV Stations Say Bodies of 3 Israeli Teens Kidnapped in West Bank Have Been Found

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 10:37 AM PDT

(JERUSALEM) — Israeli TV stations say bodies of 3 Israeli teens kidnapped in West Bank have been found.

How John Roberts’ Supreme Court Is Slowly Bridging the Political Divide

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 10:35 AM PDT

Nine years into his service as Chief Justice, John Roberts may finally have shaped the nation's highest tribunal into a "Roberts Court." The term that ended on Monday was a reflection of goals that Roberts set during his 2005 confirmation hearings—more unanimous opinions, for example, and a more modest idea of the Supreme Court's role in society.

Despite two 5-to-4 splits on the final day of term, in cases involving union dues and the Affordable Care Act, the Roberts Court delivered unanimous opinions in more than 60 percent of the cases decided this year, the highest percentage in decades. That doesn't happen by accident. As the eminent Constitutional authority Lawrence Tribe of Harvard Law School has noted, a number of these 9-to-0 opinions contain significant disputes just beneath the surface. The Roberts Court is placing high value, in a time of polarized government, on finding common ground in spite of real philosophical differences.

And there was something distinctive about those 5-to-4 calls on the final day, as well. Faced with sharp splits that could not be papered over, Roberts assigned the same associate justice to write both of the opinions: Samuel Alito.

Alito is a fascinating judge—that is, if modesty and predictability happen to fascinate you. Arguably the purest conservative on the Court, Alito disdains the sort of flashy, rhetorical disagreement perfected by Antonin Scalia and former Justice John Paul Stevens, the dueling dissenters of the earlier Rehnquist Court. His Monday rulings reflected both his conservatism and his judicial modesty. In a case challenging the power of public employee unions to impose fees on non-members, Alito's opinion went against the union. But he stopped well short of the sweeping blow that anti-union politicians and pundits were hoping for.

Likewise, in a case asking whether the owners of private corporations can be forced to provide contraception methods that offend their religious beliefs, Alito anchored a majority in favor of the owners. But his opinion was hedged throughout. Questions of how the ruling might apply to publicly traded corporations, or whether it might apply to other religious convictions, were left for another day.

In 2005, Roberts famously compared this narrow approach to a baseball umpire calling balls and strikes. The umpire is not making a blanket ruling covering every conceivable pitch. The idea is to frame a strike zone and apply it consistently on a pitch-by-pitch basis. The fact that Alito wrote both of the last-day opinions suggests that he's the justice that Roberts wants behind the plate on the close calls. This matters because the Chief Justice has so few powers, and one of the most important is that when the Chief is part of the majority, he gets to choose the writer.

By such small increments, change comes to the Supreme Court. It is, by its nature, a slow-moving institution. And the Chief Justice is the least powerful of the leaders of the branches of American government—just one of nine voices, all with an equal say in which cases the Court will hear and how they will be decided. But step by step, opinion by opinion, Roberts is stamping his image on the institution. The term that ended on Monday put us clearly into the Roberts Court era.

Suarez Apologizes for Biting Opponent at World Cup

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 10:35 AM PDT

RIO DE JANEIRO — Luis Suarez has issued an apology to Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini for biting him during a World Cup match and vowed never to do it again.

The Uruguay striker says in a statement posted on Twitter on Monday that “I deeply regret what occurred,” and that “the truth is that my colleague Giorgio Chiellini suffered the physical result of a bite in the collision he suffered with me.”

Suarez was banned from all football for four months after the incident, which occurred during Uruguay’s 1-0 win over Italy in their group-stage game in Brazil. He had denied wrongdoing in a statement to FIFA, saying he simply collided with Chiellini’s shoulder.

Suarez apologized to Chiellini and “the entire football family,” and said “I vow to the public that there will never again be another incident like (this).”

 

What If the New York Times Experimented on You Like Facebook?

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 10:09 AM PDT

Suppose a major media outlet had used you, unwittingly, in an experiment to study how its content could affect your emotions? Suppose The New York Times, or ABC News–or TIME magazine–had tweaked the content it displayed to hundreds of thousands of users to see if certain types of posts put readers in a certain frame of mind. The outcry would be swift and furious–brainwashing! mind control! this is how the biased media learns to manipulate us! It would be decried as not just creepy but professionally unethical. And it’s hard to imagine that the publication’s leadership could survive without promising it would never happen again.

Facebook, we recently learned, did just that: in a study conducted in 2012, the company adjusted the news feeds of nearly 700,000 users to display more positive or negative status updates, to determine whether and how the changes would affect users’ emotions. There was indeed an outcry; we may love spinning on the hamster wheel of social media but no one likes being an unwilling guinea pig. And one of the Facebook researchers behind the study apologized–well, sort of: he was sorry, anyway, “for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused.” But the company also noted that its users agree to this sort of thing when they agree to the terms of service. What? Don’t tell me you don’t read every terms of service you click on!

Sorry, that’s not good enough. As a company, Facebook may have every legal right to pursue its own interests–here, trying to ensure that its user experience is as engrossing as possible. But as one of the biggest filters through which people now receive news (along with update on their cousins’ dogs having puppies), Facebook has as much ethical obligation to deliver that experience without hidden manipulation as does a newspaper.

I know, I know: Facebook has said, repeatedly, that it is a tech and not a media company. I don’t blame it! If I were trying to sell stock in my own enterprise, I wouldn’t call myself a media company either.

But semantics aside, for practical purposes, the social media giant is definitely in the media business, whatever other businesses it’s also in. Facebook’s choices and mysterious algorithms increasingly affect the flow of traffic to news sites, and there fore how those sites package and choose their offerings. (Whether you ever see this post, and many others, will often depend on how well it carries on Facebook.) That Facebook is not mainly a media-content creator makes it no less massive a factor in the media ecosystem. And as such, it can’t complain about being held to a code of media ethics.

Let’s face it, Facebook is no more likely to really suffer from this blowup than over the past controversies over its privacy policies. But if it’s able to beg off from following the standards of media conduct while exerting a ever-greater influence over media, the rest of us will suffer. Facebook can put whatever it wants in the fine print. That shouldn’t keep us from saying that this kind of grossness is wrong, in bold letters.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Israeli Leader Calls for Independent Kurdistan

Israeli Leader Calls for Independent Kurdistan


Israeli Leader Calls for Independent Kurdistan

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 10:39 AM PDT

(TEL AVIV, Israel) — Citing the chaos in Iraq, Israel’s prime minister has called for the establishment of an independent Kurdistan as part of a broader alliance between Israel and moderate forces across the region.

In a policy speech Sunday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said that Israel would have to maintain a long-term military presence throughout the West Bank, even after any future deal with the Palestinians.

The positions put him at odds with the international community, which favors an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank to make way for an independent state. Israel’s key ally, the United States, has also spoken out against carving up Iraq and creating an independent Kurdistan.

Bobby Womack: A Passionate, Reckless Soul Man to the End

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 10:33 AM PDT

Its called soul music for the intensity with which its singers deliver a lyric: hearts on fire, the best seem to testify as they sing, wrenching their body when they perform, bellowing a message, funky and free. Bobby Womack was the quintessential soul man. The superb singer and songwriter, who wrote hit songs later put onto wax by the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin and Wilson Pickett, and made a string of iconic R&B albums in the Seventies before having a career resurgence in recent years, lived his life with the same passion and, at times, reckless abandon that made him a dynamic musical force. He died last week at age 70.

"The only way you can create is you gotta be free" Womack told TIME a few months before his passing. "That's what you've gotta do to be in this business. You've got to be on fire." His talent was always burning, but Womack, known for his gravelly voice and recurring bouts with cocaine abuse, never reached the commercial heights of his contemporaries like Marvin Gaye, Al Green and Otis Redding.

Born dirt-poor in Cleveland, in 1944, the third of five sons, Womack and his siblings formed the Womack Brothers – later renamed the Valentinos – a gospel-singing kiddie crew, in the Fifties. They found a mentor and champion in Sam Cooke, who inspired them to branch out into secular music; he later employed Womack as a guitarist in his band. "When I first started recording, I was just so loose," Womack said of a fertile songwriting period in the early-Sixties that spawned his first hit in "It's All Over Now," a 1964 chart-riser that got pushed to the side by the Stones' cover. "I would just come up with an idea and Sam Cooke would say, ‘What is that?’ And I'd say, ‘Oh, just something that I've just got.’ It just came to me out of nowhere."

Record deals and solo chart success eluding him, Womack relocated to Memphis and backed up Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Dusty Springfield and Pickett before heading West to indulge in the excess of the budding Laurel Canyon music scene. He forged friendships with Joplin, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Sly Stone and Frank Zappa. His drug consumption was heavy during this time. "I was really off into the drugs," he told Rolling Stone, in 1984. "Blowing as much coke as I could blow. And drinking. And smoking weed and taking pills. Doing that all day, staying up seven, eight days."

"I was used to basically working by myself, answering to myself," Womack explained, and this independent streak made him both successful and destructive in equal measure. In the early 1970's, Womack had a creative hot streak – the title track to the Womack-penned 1970 blaxploitation movie soundtrack Across 110th Street ranks among his finest work; his slow-grooving crossover hits during this period included "That's The Way I Feel About Cha" and "Woman's Gotta Have It."

His personal life hit the rocks after his first marriage, in March 1965, to Sam Cooke’s widow, Barbara, just month’s after his mentor’s death. The union brought the disapproval of Cooke’s family and friends, but Womack went ahead and created a home with Barbara and her 12-year-old daughter with Cooke, Linda. Just five years later, Barbara discovered that Womack had been having an affair with Linda. She loaded a pistol, told him to get out of the house and took a shot at him; it grazed his scalp. They divorced later in 1970. He later married Regina Banks; they split up and then remarried in 2013.

"When it's coming to you from nowhere for so many years," Womack said of his knack for seeming bursts of creative inspiration, "believe it or not, it do get stale." Aside from a hit single in "If You Think You're Lonely Now," off 1982's acclaimed The Poet, Womack faded from the spotlight during the coming decades, a time most notable for his one-off collaborations and a trip to drug rehab.

Despite being diagnosed with Alzheimer's and cancer in the 2000's, Womack, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, reemerged when UK rock singer Damon Albarn recruited him for work on the 2010 Gorillaz album, Plastic Beach. The pair, along with Richard Russell, head of XL Recordings, recorded Womack's critically acclaimed comeback album, 2012's The Bravest Man in the Universe. Its skittering electronic beats provided a fresh template for Womack's still-powerful vocals. "Damon would say 'I just want to get you in the raw,’ " Womack remembered of the sessions in West London. "I would always argue with him: You need a couple instruments. He said, ‘I think your voice is what's important and the message of your songs. Everything else is background.’ "

In addition to a supposed in-the-works album, tentatively tilted The Best Is Yet To Come, with Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart and Snoop Dogg, Womack said he and Albarn were planning to regroup in the studio at the end of this year to record a gospel album. "He was saying that he got a lot of response from the two gospel songs that was on the last album," Womack said. "I wouldn't have thought of it. He would say "I just want to get you in the raw.""

Womack is survived by Regina Banks and four children: Gina, Bobby Truth, Cory and Jordan. He died two weeks after playing the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee.

Transformers Dominate Box Office Again with Age of Extinction

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 10:01 AM PDT

Optimus Prime and co. hit the domestic box office this weekend with the force of an extinction level event. Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth film in the popular but critically panned series, took in an estimated $100 million on its domestic debut.

Those projections give Age of Extinction the country’s highest-grossing opening weekend of the year so far, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and they’re not too shabby considering director Michael Bay told TIME earlier this year that he didn’t even want to make another Transformers movie at first. There also hasn’t been a $100-million weekend opening in the U.S. since The Hunger Games: Catching Fire last November.

Age of Extinction, which is partially set in Hong Kong, also broke records in China with a $90 million debut, the country’s highest opening of all time. Taking in $201.3 million internationally, Age of Extinction‘s worldwide gross is already over the $300 million mark.

No other major movie openings came close to challenging Transformers at the box office, though the domestic grosses of Maleficent and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 both crossed the $200 million mark this weekend as well.

[THR]

Cops: Missing Boy Found in Basement Says Father Abused Him

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 09:42 AM PDT

The 12-year-old Detroit boy who was missing for 11 days before he was discovered in the basement belonging to his father and stepmother told authorities that his father abused him, according to documents released Saturday.

Charlie Bothuell told medical examiners that a scar on his body was caused by a PVC pipe that his father, Charles Bothuell, drove into his chest, NBC News reports. He also said that he was barricaded in the basement and told by his stepmother to stay there “no matter what he hears.”

The boy’s grandmother reportedly told the FBI that “he was very skinny, and almost looked like a cancer patient” when she saw him.

His stepmother had no comment. Mark Magidson, the attorney for the boy’s father, Charles Bothuell IV, said Friday that the 12-year-old was not abused and that the bruises were from “just a boy being a boy.” Still, he said he expected the father to face charges. The family had previously said they thought the boy went missing on his own.

The case received widespread attention this week when the elder Bothuell was told on live television that his son had been discovered in his basement.

Charlie Bothuell is now staying with his birth mother, while his step-siblings, a 4-year-old and a 10-month-old, entered the care of Child Protective Services.

[NBC News]

Egypt Moves to Restrict Ramadan Sermons

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 09:42 AM PDT

(CAIRO) — Egypt will restrict sermons during the holy month of Ramadan to topics of faith and morality, the state’s top official in charge of religious affairs said Sunday, in the latest measure by the government to control mosques and limit access of opponents to them.

The announcement is yet another move by authorities to crackdown on supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, and limiting in the process free speech in the deeply polarized country.

Mohammed Mokhtar Gomaa said the decision should ensure that sermons during Islam’s holy month of fasting “unite people, not divide them.” He said the religious speech had been “hijacked” for political purposes, in reference to the previous government, led by Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

“The religious speech was politically driven, which affected the moral side,” he told reporters at a news conference on the first day of the observance. “Now we’re in a race against time trying to restore morals.”

Morsi was ousted last year following mass protests against him denouncing his group’s attempt to monopolize power. The military removed Morsi, and its chief, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, was elected president earlier this month.

In his campaign, el-Sissi stressed that religious discourse needs to be restructured, saying a free for all interpretation of religion has helped spread extremism. Islamist groups rely on mosques to recruit new members and also rally for political positions ahead of votes.

Since Morsi’s ouster, religious authorities moved to purge mosques from preachers deemed supportive of Islamists and have set guidelines for Friday sermons.

Gomaa said new regulations will also specify what the sermons will address in Ramadan, when more worshippers than usual spend time in mosques, praying and listening to religious lessons. Ramadan is the time Muslims believe God started to reveal the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad, and for believers, it is a time of reflection and worship, remembering the hardships of others and being charitable.

The ministry has also set new rules to regulate a Ramadan tradition — one where many people spend the last ten days of the month inside mosques, praying, fasting and reading the Quran. The Brotherhood and other Islamist groups often used the retreat for recruitment.

The ministry’s website said that this year, the stay would be allowed only in central mosques under the supervision of a state-authorized cleric. The buildings will only host people who live in the immediate neighborhood.

It was not clear how the government plans to implement the regulations.

Some 12,000 independent preachers have been barred from delivering sermons. In recent months, the ministry’s website had been posting outlines for the weekly sermons delivered each Friday. Anyone who strays from them in Egypt’s more than 100,000 mosques risks removal.

Last Friday’s sermon spoke about “rationalizing consumption,” just after the president mentioned the country needed belt-tightening efforts from all Egyptians.

Gomaa said Sunday 50,000 licensed preachers will be deployed to lead late night Ramadan prayers. The ministry had already restricted preaching in mosques to state-authorized clerics.

He reiterated a ban on holding Friday prayers at thousands of small, unregulated mosques known as “zawaya.”

A number of measures have been used to crack down on the Brotherhood. It has been declared a terrorist organization and some of its members have had their assets frozen. The government has also passed a new law restricting protests.

In a separate development, a Cairo appeal court has set July 22 as the date of a retrial for a prominent Egyptian activist sentenced to 15 years in prison in absentia for organizing an unauthorized protest and assaulting a policeman.

The sentencing of Alaa Abdel-Fattah and 24 others was the latest blow to liberal activists at a time of rapidly eroding freedoms.

The sentence was the toughest against any of the secular activists behind the 18-day uprising that ended the reign of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. It is also the first conviction of a prominent activist since el-Sissi took office.

Obama: Flap Over Hillary’s Wealth Not a Big Deal

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 09:20 AM PDT

President Barack Obama said Sunday that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent troubles discussing her wealth shouldn’t “make a big difference” should she decide to run for president in 2016.

Clinton has come under fire in recent weeks for comments about the fortune she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have amassed from speaking fees and books since leaving the White House, with Republicans and even some Democrats branding her as out of touch.

Speaking to George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week, Obama said the controversy, which has opened a divide between Clinton and her party’s growing populist wing, would pass.

“I think that Hillary has been to this rodeo a bunch of times,” he said. “She is in public service because she cares about the same folks that I talked to here today. As soon as you jump back into the spotlight in a more explicitly political way, you’re going to be flyspecked like this, and she’s accustomed to it.”

“Over time, I don’t think it’s going to make a big difference,” Obama concluded.

Just last week Vice President Joe Biden drew an implicit contrast with Clinton’s wealth at a White House summit on working families.

White House to Seek $2 Billion to Stem Rise in Kids Crossing Border Illegally

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 09:04 AM PDT

The White House will ask Congress Monday for more than $2 billion to address the increasing number of unaccompanied minors traveling from Central America and illegally crossing the border into the United States, a White House official said.

The Obama administration will urge lawmakers to pass emergency legislation to improve border security, provide additional immigration judges and more quickly remove those who cross the border illegally.

It will also ask Congress’s help in increasing penalties for human traffickers and expanding the Department of Homeland Security’s discretion in processing unauthorized arrivals.

The exact details and dollar amounts are still being finalized, but the official said the request will likely exceed $2 billion as the Obama administration ramps up the federal response to a pattern of unaccompanied minors attempting to cross the border into the U.S.

Over 52,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended along the southwest border since Oct. 1 last year, up from only 15,700 in 2011. The majority are not from Mexico, but from Central American countries such as Honduras and Guatemala.

The surge has reportedly been prompted by widespread rumors in Central America that the Obama administration permits mothers with young children and young children crossing the border alone to stay in the U.S if they are detained.

Obama attempted to counter those rumors in an interview with ABC News on Sunday. "Do not send your children to the borders," he said. "If they do make it, they’ll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it."

The Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security are adding extra immigration attorneys and personnel and opening additional facilities in the Southwest to better handle the influx. The government response will involve both detention of immigrants as well as the Alternatives to Detention program.

The two departments are also expanding the personnel investigating the smuggling rings that organize border crossings, and they are collaborating with Mexican and Central American law-enforcement bodies to address causes, issues of border security and immigrants’ re-entry to their home countries from all sides.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry will also meet with leaders of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to discuss the matter.

With reporting by Zeke J. Miller

Police: 9 Injured During Bourbon Street Shooting

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 08:47 AM PDT

(NEW ORLEANS) — Nine people were injured, including one critically, after a shooting on touristy Bourbon Street in New Orleans’ celebrated French Quarter.

One person was in critical condition after the early Sunday shooting, said New Orleans police spokesman Frank Robertson. Seven others were hospitalized in stable condition. The remaining victim’s condition was not available. The victims were shot just two blocks from historic Jackson Square and just around the corner from the popular Pat O’Brien’s piano bar.

An investigation is ongoing.

Sunday morning’s incident is the third major shooting on Bourbon Street in the last three years.

Last February on the Saturday before Mardi Gras, four people were treated at a hospital after a shooting. During Halloween in 2011, one person was killed and seven others were injured after gunmen opened fire on each other.

Bourbon Street is New Orleans’ most famous street, a nightly swirl of bright neon and happy tourists with beverage in hand. A blend of jazz joints, strip clubs, bars and restaurants, Bourbon Street has everything from four-star dining to sex shows.

Built on higher ground than most of the city, the French Quarter was spared the worst of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, mostly suffering scattered wind and water damage.

Watch: NASA Says U.S. Air Pollution Has Plummeted

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 08:31 AM PDT

Striking new images released by NASA this week show significant reductions in air pollution levels across the United States. In particular, at least one pollutant, nitrogen dioxide, has decreased substantially over the past decade.

After ten years in orbit, the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite showed that the decrease is particularly prominent in the Northeast, the Ohio River Valley, and other major cities. For example, NASA reported a 32% decrease in New York City and a 42% decrease in Atlanta between the periods of 2005-2007 and 2009-2011.

Air pollution decreased even though population and the number of cars on the roads have increased, and the shift can be explained as a result of better regulations, technological improvements and economic shifts, scientists said.

“While our air quality has certainly improved over the last few decades, there is still work to do – ozone and particulate matter are still problems,” said Bryan Duncan, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

 

 

Mother of Child Who Died in Overheated Car Defends Husband

Posted: 29 Jun 2014 08:13 AM PDT

Leanna Harris, the Georgia mother of a child who died in the extreme heat of their car after her husband mistakenly left the toddler inside, defended her spouse at their son’s funeral on Saturday.

“Am I angry with Ross?” she said at the ceremony in Tuscaloosa, Ala., speaking publicly for the first time since her husband was charged with murder and second-degree child cruelty earlier this month, CNN reports. “Absolutely not. It has never crossed my mind. Ross is and was and will be, if we have more children, a wonderful father. Ross is a wonderful daddy and leader for our household. Cooper meant the world to him.”

Justin Ross Harris, 33, told police he forgot to bring his 22-month-old son Cooper to his day-care facility before heading to work. Cooper died after spending seven hours in the back of the family’s SUV, the second death of a child left in a car that week. Harris has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He called into the funeral from the Cobb County Jail near Atlanta. “Thank you for everything you’ve done for my boy,” Harris said. “No words to say. Just horrible … I’m just sorry I can’t be there.”

Leanna Harris told her husband she loved him and credited her faith with helping her cope. “Some of you might wonder how I’m even standing here today,” she said. “I wonder that myself, and I asked myself that question over and over the last week. I should be crumpled into a heap of snot and tears into the dirt, but the Lord is holding me up right now. “

[CNN]

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hedge Fund Billionaire Helps Swing Primary For Pro-Gay Republican

Hedge Fund Billionaire Helps Swing Primary For Pro-Gay Republican


Hedge Fund Billionaire Helps Swing Primary For Pro-Gay Republican

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 09:20 AM PDT

The decisive issue in the contested NY-22 primary that concluded Tuesday was the one hardly anyone talked about: gay marriage.

In the weeks leading up to the vote, the race between challenger Claudia Tenney and incumbent Rep. Richard Hanna had taken on the nationwide Tea Party vs. establishment narrative, with Tenney trying to claim she was following in the footsteps of David Brat, the professor who slew House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in this month's stunner. But the race had been won months before, thanks to Hanna's support for gay marriage.

American Unity PAC, a super PAC devoted to defending Republican candidates who support gay marriage founded by hedge fund executive Paul Singer, had long ago decided on backing the two-term incumbent, a member of the LGBT equality caucus and a backer of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Recognizing that Hanna was vulnerable, the group spent over $500,000 on paid television and radio ads, more than everyone else in the race combined, part of a more than $700,000 overall investment. But not a single ad mentioned gay marriage.

Defending one of four Republican lawmakers supportive of gave marriage was the toughest test yet for the group, which was founded in 2012, but also an example of how super PACs work to influence races. A strategist for American Unity PAC discussed the group's long-term plans to defeat Tenney, centering on driving up her negatives by casting her as soft on jobs and tax issues, ignoring her more conservative stances on social issues including gay marriage and abortion because it wouldn't have helped them in the district.

"We needed to understand her vulnerabilities and also Richard's vulnerabilities," Jeff Cook-McCormac, the group's senior advisor told TIME. "We found that her votes on tax policy weren't in line with a majority of Republicans in Albany," he continued. "She had refused to support the budget, which had included tax relief for the middle class."

That formed the first attack, beginning on television and radio, backed by robocalls and five separate direct mail pieces.

The group then moved to attack Tenney for voting against a $1.5 billion Nano Tech project that was projected to bring in 1,500 jobs. A television ad was backed by radio, robocalls, and direct mail.

The suggestion that Tenney wasn't conservative enough for the district struck Tenney supports as rich. She was endorsed by the Conservative Party, and objected to the legislation on spending groups. But for American Unity PAC, that was besides the point. They had found her weakness. "We knew we had to drive up her negatives and give people a reason why she wasn't a good candidate before she could catch on," Cook-McCormac said.

Cantor's defeat was exactly the type of catalyzing event the group feared. Tenney now had a chance to nationalize the race, bringing the type of attention they knew would tighten the race."The narrative that every candidate was trying to build after Brat was that they were the next thing, Cook-McCormac said. "She was saying I'm catching up. We knew we needed to undercut her narrative. That not only is she not catching up, she's falling farther behind." The group commissioned another poll showing Tenney falling further behind, and released it to a local reporter.

The super PAC is convinced that it kept national attention off the race for a crucial few days, and that by the time Tea Party groups started investing, it was already too late.

When Tenney became a cause célèbre for the conservative grassroots two weeks ago and Rick Santorum, Sean Hannity and Tea Party groups rushed to back her after the Brat race, American Unity PAC was ready. It had recruited Rudy Giuliani, who polls showed was popular in the district, to endorse Hanna in an ad, ending their spending campaign on a positive note.

Even with all of that, the race was still closer than they would have liked. An internal poll the weekend before the election showed Hanna up 8 points. By election day it was down to six.

“If we hadn't done the initial investment earlier on, it would have been a different outcome," Cook-McCormac said. The final margin was just 52.8 percent to 47.2 percent—just 1,632 votes.

Now the pro-gay marriage Republican group is moving on to the next races. It is already preparing to back incumbents like Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Ileanna Ros Lehtinen, as well as candidates in favor of gay marriage such as Bob Dold in Illinois, Richard Tissei in Massachusetts, and Carl DeMaio in California. "The ability for anti-gay politicians to use this as a wedge issue has evaporated over the last couple of years," Cook-McCormac said. “What candidates now know is that there's a network of donors who have their back and are willing to go to bat for them.

Soccer Star Says Biting Italian Player Was an Accident

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 09:11 AM PDT

Those deep teethmarks in Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini’s gnawed shoulder? Those were an accident, Uruguay striker Luis Suarez said in a letter to international soccer officials this week.

Suarez has succeeded in bringing international excuse-making to a whole new level of wild implausibility with his brilliant explanation for Chiellini’s nibbled skin. Suarez’s excuse is more elegant than the proverbial “dog-ate-my-homework” excuse and it’s more sophisticated than the Mike Tyson excuse after he bit Evander Holyfield’s ear off: “He kept [head]butting me … What am I supposed to do? I’ve got children to raise.”

Suarez, in a letter to FIFA appealing the ban he was handed down after the incident, said: “I lost my balance, making my body unstable and falling on top of my opponent.”

“I hit my face against the player leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth,” Suarez added. (Ah yes, the absent-minded jaw chomp into a vice-like clench around your opponent’s exposed shoulder.)

FIFA objected, saying the bite was "deliberate, intentional and without provocation,” Bloomberg reports.

After the game, Suarez was banned for nine official games and given a four-month suspension from all soccer activity, meaning that his Uruguay squad enters into the World Cup’s Round of 16 knockout round without its star player.

[Bloomberg]

Singapore Gays Rally to Counter Opposition

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 08:19 AM PDT

(SINGAPORE) — Thousands of gay rights activists gathered in downtown Singapore on Saturday for an annual rally that came under unprecedented criticism from religious conservatives, with one influential Christian pastor calling on the government to ban the event.

Previous Pink Dot rallies have been held without much opposition. But as they grew in numbers from less than 3,000 people when the first event was held in 2009 to more than 20,000 last year, so did their disapproval. Organizers said a record 26,000 people showed up Saturday.

On paper, gay sex remains a criminal offense in the wealthy, multi-cultural city-state of 5.4 million, although authorities rarely enforce the British colonial-era legislation, known as Section 377A.

Lawrence Khong, founder and pastor of the 10,000-member Faith Community Baptist Church, has been the most vocal critic of homosexuality and the Pink Dot rally.

In a statement, he said he could not understand why authorities were allowing the rally to take place.

“I find it even more disconcerting that the event is being used as a platform of public persuasion to push their alternative lifestyle,” he said. “I would like to see our government leaders draw a clear line on where they now stand with regard to this moral issue.”

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said he believed Singaporean society should be one “where you don’t go pushing your own beliefs and preferences, but at the same time everyone else keeps the balance in society and avoids creating conflict.”

Former lawmaker Siew Kum Hong, who tried to get Parliament to repeal Section 377A unsuccessfully, said he believed that the legislation will be overturned eventually.

“I’ve always maintained that the government’s position is untenable. When presented with a chance to repeal 377A, it decided to avoid making a principled decision and instead opted to kick the can down the road.”

Other opposition came from an Islamic teacher who encouraged Muslims to wear white Saturday on the eve of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which was interpreted as a response to a Pink Dot video showing a Singaporean Muslim declaring his support for the LGBT community.

The LGBT supporters wore pink in the rally, whose highlights include large crowds standing together with pink torchlights at night, creating a spectacular aerial view.

Millennial-Driven Housing Boom Could Be On The Way

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 08:06 AM PDT

Young adults, so-called “millennials,” have been pushed by the recession to live with their parents into adulthood–but they really want to move out, according to a study by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. That study found that millennials could form 24 million new households by 2025.

Three main factors have been holding millennials back from moving out, said the Harvard study: A weak job market for recent graduates, high debt from student loans and tightened lending standards.

The report also found that the number of young people who buy homes increases as their incomes grow. As and the economy improves, millennials–which the study defined as those born between the years of 1985 and 2004–will make decisions about their living arrangements that will, by extension, affect the economy.

But don’t foresee a mass exodus from parents’ homes, the authors said. Millennials will probably just trickle out of their parents’ nest in what would look like a steady, slow recovery.

 

 

Aereo Just Disappeared for Good

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 07:35 AM PDT

Chet Kanojia, CEO of the streaming television service Aereo, told his customers the bad news in an email Saturday morning: After the Supreme Court decided this week his company’s business methods violate copyright law, Aereo has decided to shut down. Kanojia insists that Aereo’s pressing “pause,” not “off,” but it’s unlikely the service will return in any recognizable form.

That Aereo is unlikely to come back from the grave is a simple matter of math. The Supreme Court ruled that Aereo, which streamed broadcast television to subscribers for about $8/month, was operating illegally because it didn’t pay so-called retransmission fees to broadcasters–something cable and satellite companies are required by law to do.

Aereo could return to the straight and narrow by working out a deal and ponying out the fees that the broadcasters–who originally brought the suit against Aereo in 2012–demand from cable and satellite companies. Those fees, however, are incredibly expensive. Cable companies can afford to pay them because they’re charging viewers plenty for their service–the average cable bill is now over $64 a month, per the Federal Communications Commission. Aereo can’t swing those fees by charging customers only a few dollars a month.

The most obvious survival path for Aereo would be to pass those fees onto its customers by increasing its subscription rates. But here’s the thing: The broadcast content that Aereo provides is free to anyone who wants to set up their own (cheap!) antenna on their TV or home.

Why? A big part of the government’s job in tech policy is regulating the invisible spectrum on which our wireless gadgets rely–cellphones, radios, broadcast television, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, they all rely on spectrum to work. Back in the day, the government licensed broadcasters their spectrum–a limited and thus valuable resource–on the cheap, provided they meet certain conditions. Among those requirements was that the broadcasters’ over-the-air signals remain free for anyone within range to access with an antenna.

While most of Aereo’s customers might have seen $8/month as a reasonable fee to pay for the convenience of watching broadcast content on their laptop, smartphone or tablet, it’s unlikely they’ll pay much more for content that’s really free for them anyway.

So, for Aereo, it’s lights-off for now while they figure out what to do next — perhaps shift into cloud storage, or sell itself to a broadcaster, even. If it ever returns, though, it’s not likely it’ll look anything like what it does now.

Watch the above video for more on Aereo and the Supreme Court.

One Year Later: The DOMA Supreme Court Ruling

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 07:31 AM PDT

In June of 2013, the Supreme Court ruled on the Defense of Marriage Act, giving married gay couples the federal benefits and rights to which straight married couples were previously entitled.

The landmark decision produced one of the fastest civil rights shifts in the nation's history. As a consequence of the ruling, the gay marriage movement was able to build unprecedented momentum that allowed gay advocates to win cases in more than a dozen jurisdictions.

Watch the video above for more on where the country stands one year after the historic ruling paved the way for more marriage equality.

 

 

 

Benghazi Suspect Arrives in D.C. Court

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 07:26 AM PDT

Updated 1:50 p.m. ET Saturday

The man accused of leading an attack on an American mission in Benghazi, Libya in 2012 arrived at a federal court in Washington D.C Saturday. Four Americans, including United States Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were killed in the assault.

Ahmed Abu Khatallah was interrogated aboard the USS New York after his capture earlier this month. He’s now in federal court facing criminal charges. The FBI said in a post on Twitter that Khatallah would be arraigned Saturday afternoon.

Khatallah is said to be the among the senior leaders of Ansar al-Sharia, a militia whose members joined the 2012 attacks on the U.S. mission. To capture Khatallah, U.S. intelligence lured him into a trap and spirited him away in a nighttime raid.

Authorities say phone eavesdropping and surveillance video and witness statements are strong enough evidence to charge Khatallah, who has previously denied any involvement in the plot.

Khatallah had been interviewed by several reporters before his capture.

Libyan Militant in Federal Law Enforcement Custody

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 06:55 AM PDT

(WASHINGTON) — A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington says a Libyan militant charged in the 2012 Benghazi attacks is in federal law enforcement custody and there is heightened security at the city’s federal courthouse.

Spokesman William Miller declined further comment regarding Ahmed Abu Khattala (Kah-TALL-ah) at this time.

Khattala faces criminal charges in the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.

U.S. special forces captured him in Libya two weeks ago, marking the first breakthrough in the investigation of the Benghazi attacks.

A criminal complaint filed last year was unsealed after his capture.

U.S. officials had been questioning Abu Khattala aboard a Navy amphibious transport dock ship that brought him to the United States.

Aereo’s Turning Off After Big Loss at Supreme Court

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 06:31 AM PDT

Controversial TV streaming startup Aereo said Saturday it’s shutting off its services after a Supreme Court ruling against the company’s methods dealt it a major setback from which it may not recover.

Aereo’s cloud-based antenna services will be inaccessible after 11:30 a.m. ET on Saturday. CEO Chet Kanojia told customers in an email that the shutdown would be temporary while the company determines how to proceed.

“We have decided to pause our operations temporarily as we consult with the court and map out our next steps,” Kanojia said.

A Supreme Court ruling Wednesday found that Aereo should be subject to the same rules as cable and satellite companies, which pay broadcasters expensive fees to retransmit broadcasters’ content — something Aereo does not do. Because Aereo doesn’t pay those fees, the Court found its service, which provides $8-per-month streaming of broadcast television, violates copyright law. Aereo could theoretically return if it begins paying the broadcasters, but it’s not likely it can afford to do so without shifting that cost to its customers, who may be unlikely to pay more for a service that’s theoretically free.

Aereo argued before the Court that it was simply providing a remotely located antenna, making it easier for people within range of broadcasters to access the signals they could already get for free by placing their own antenna on their television or atop their house.

“The spectrum that the broadcasters use to transmit over the air programming belongs to the American public and we believe you should have a right to access that live programming whether your antenna sits on the roof of your home, on top of your television or in the cloud,” Kanoja said Saturday.

Aereo Email to Customers

The New York City-based startup said it will refund its customers for a month’s worth of subscription fees following its loss at the Court. Kanojia’s full letter is embedded above.

UK Facing ‘Major’ Sperm Shortage

Posted: 28 Jun 2014 06:00 AM PDT

British fertility doctors are warning of a serious sperm shortage in the UK that may prompt risky insemination practices.

Sperm donations appear to have fallen after donors’ right to anonymity was removed in 2005. The rules surrounding donation now mandate that children be allowed to know the identity of their genetic parents when they reach 18, the BBC reports.

In order to make up for a shortfall, clinics are relying on imported sperm, and may be lowering standards for sperm donors.

In addition, doctors say, the decreased sperm supply may lead people to conduct risky insemination practices like do-it-yourself insemination with a friend’s sperm, or seek fertility treatments in countries with less regulation than the UK.

“We do still have a major sperm shortage in the UK,” said British Fertility Society chairman Dr. Allan Pacey. “The worry is clinics might decide to change the quality of sperm they are willing to accept in order to get donors through the door and I think that’s a very dangerous road to go down.”

In 2010, one quarter of the UK’s sperm samples were imported from abroad, much of it from Denmark and the United States.

[BBC]