For teen drivers, rowdy friends may be more dangerous than phones

Teen drivers distracted by passengers’ loud talking and fooling around are more likely to be involved in serious incidents than those distracted by technology such as cell phones, according to a new study.

“Forty-three states currently restrict newly licensed drivers from having more than one young passenger in their vehicle,” Robert Foss, senior research scientist at the University of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Research Center, said in a university news release.

“The results of this study illustrate the importance of such restrictions, which increase the safety of drivers, their passengers and others on the road by reducing the potential chaos that novice drivers experience,” added Foss, also director of the Center for the Study of Young Drivers.

He and a colleague mounted cameras in the vehicles of 52 teens and recorded their driving habits and behaviors for more than six months. The teens were monitored when they had parents and other teens in the car, and when they were alone.

The young drivers were less likely to use cell phones and other technology — including in-vehicle systems such as sound systems and temperature control — when they had passengers with them.

The risk of a serious incident — such as having to take evasive action to avoid a crash — was six times higher when the teen drivers had passengers who were talking loudly and three times higher when passengers were horsing around.

The researchers also found that driver actions, such as texting, using a cell phone, eating and reaching for things, appeared less likely to cause a serious incident than passengers’ behavior, according to the study published online April 17 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“This is why the limit of one teen passenger is important when teens are just learning to drive,” Foss said.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine offers teen driver safety tips.

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Box Office Milestone: Biblical Epic ‘Noah’ Crosses $300 Million Globally

Paramount and New Regency’s biblical epic Noah has sailed past the $300 million mark at the worldwide box office after appealing to mainstream and faith-based audiences alike.

Noah is the fourth-highest-grossing movie of 2014 after Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which has earned $586.7 million to date, The Lego Movie ($441.7 million) and 300: Rise of an Empire ($329.2 million). Rio 2 rounds out the top five with earnings of $274.1 million to date.

PHOTOS: ‘Noah’s’ Berlin Premiere: Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, Douglas Booth Flood the Red Carpet

The movie, starring Russell Crowe and costing $125 million to produce, is also director Darren Aronofsky‘s highest-grossing film. Noah rolled out worldwide in late March.

In North America, Noah has earned nearly $100 million to date. The film has done more than double that overseas, fueled by outstanding performances in Russia ($32.8 million) and Brazil ($23.4 million), where Noah is the top-grossing Paramount release of all time. Other notable territory grosses to date include Mexico ($15.5 million), South Korea ($14.3 million), the U.K. ($13.1 million) and Australia ($10.7 million).

Paramount and New Regency decided to release Noah in 3D in select foreign markets where the format continues to thrive, including Russia, South Korea and Latin America.

 

 

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China Box Office: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ Nears $100 Million

Captain America: The Winter Soldier continued its strong run in China, taking another $18 million for a cume of $98.27 million after 17 days in the country, while Carlos Saldanha‘s Rio 2 took a healthy $12.05 million for a total of $25.01 million in its first full week on release here.

The Disney and Marvel Studio’s Captain America sequel, which is directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo and is showing only in 3D in China, had 151,489 screenings and 2.89 million admissions in the week to Apr. 20, according to estimates by the Beijing-based research group Entgroup.

PHOTOS: Johnny Depp’s First Trip to China

Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L Jackson came to Beijing to promote the movie last month.

With Evans back in the title role, as well as Avengers stars Johansson and Jackson, Captain America 2 picks up two years after Avengers left off. Captain America and Black Widow (Johansson) discover there is a secret conspiracy within S.H.I.E.L.D. and fight to stop it, along with the Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie.

The good news for Hollywood in the world’s second largest film market doesn’t look like it will be ending anytime soon, with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Transformers: Age of Extinction both due to open this quarter.

Johnny Depp‘s Transcendence came in at third place in the standings, taking $10.65 million its opening weekend according to Entgroup, which is a little less than $1 million short of its U.S. opening gross of $11.5 million. The film was co-produced by Beijing and LA-based DMG and got a heavy marketing push in China before its day-and-date local release, including a visit from its star. 

Dante Lam’s psychological thriller That Demon Within had a strong opening weekend, taking $7.94 million. The movie, which features Daniel Wu as a dutiful police constable wracked by doubt after he saves the life of a notorious and ruthless killer played by Nick Cheung, had 66,702 screenings and 1.58 million admissions.

STORY: China Film Import Quota Will Open Up in 2017, Says Top Local Producer

In fifth place was Renny Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules, which added another $1.55 million to bring its total to  $3.92 million after 10 days. Millennium Entertainment’s epic stars Kellan Lutz as the son of Zeus.

Moving up to sixth place was the Hong Kong movie Delete Lover, which grossed f $1.55 million for a cume of $3.53 million after 10 days.

The plastic surgery romp The Truth About Beauty, directed by Aubrey Lam and produced by Peter Chan’s We Pictures, added $1.3 million for a cume of $13.17 million.

In eighth place was local comedy Best Suspects, with $780,000 in its opening weekend, while the Taiwanese romantic comedy Campus Confidential was in 9th place, taking $750,000 in its opening weekend.

The local horror movie Death Is Here 3 rounded out the top 10, taking $710,000 for a cume of $5.24 million.

Overall, the Chinese box office saw a hefty 29.3 percent rise during the first quarter of 2014. Revenues reached $1.09 billion (6.786 billion yuan), the Film Bureau said last week, and local films accounted for nearly two thirds of the take during the period.

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"Bionic eye" restores sight to blind man

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A degenerative eye disease slowly robbed Roger Pontz of his vision.

Diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa as a teenager, Pontz has been almost completely blind for years. Now, thanks to a high-tech procedure that involved the surgical implantation of a “bionic eye,” he’s regained enough of his eyesight to catch small glimpses of his wife, grandson and cat.

“It’s awesome. It’s exciting – seeing something new every day,” Pontz said during a recent appointment at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center. The 55-year-old former competitive weightlifter and factory worker is one of four people in the U.S. to receive an artificial retina since the Food and Drug Administration signed off on its use last year.

The facility in Ann Arbor has been the site of all four such surgeries since FDA approval. A fifth is scheduled for next month.

Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited disease that causes slow but progressive vision loss due to a gradual loss of the light-sensitive retinal cells called rods and cones. Patients experience loss of side vision and night vision, then central vision, which can result in near blindness.

Not all of the 100,000 or so people in the U.S. with retinitis pigmentosa can benefit from the bionic eye. An estimated 10,000 have vision low enough, said Dr. Brian Mech, an executive with Second Sight Medical Products Inc., the Sylmar, Calif.-based company that makes the device. Of those, about 7,500 are eligible for the surgery.

The artificial implant in Pontz’s left eye is part of a system developed by Second Sight that includes a small video camera and transmitter housed in a pair of glasses.

Images from the camera are converted into a series of electrical pulses that are transmitted wirelessly to an array of electrodes on the surface of the retina. The pulses stimulate the retina’s remaining healthy cells, causing them to relay the signal to the optic nerve.

The visual information then moves to the brain, where it is translated into patterns of light that can be recognized and interpreted, allowing the patient to regain some visual function.

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When wearing the glasses, which Pontz refers to as his “eyes,” he can identify and grab his cat and figure out that a flash of light is his grandson hightailing it to the kitchen.

The visual improvement is sometimes startling for Pontz and his wife, Terri, who is just as amazed at her husband’s progress as he is.

“I said something I never thought I’d say: ‘Stop staring at me while I’m eating,’” Terri Pontz said.

She drives her husband the nearly 200 miles from tiny Reed City, Mich., to Ann Arbor for check-ups and visits with occupational therapist Ashley Howson, who helps Roger Pontz reawaken his visual memory and learn techniques needed to make the most of his new vision.

At the recent visit, Howson handed Pontz white and black plates, instructed him to move them back and forth in front of light and dark backgrounds and asked that he determine their color.

Back home, Terri Pontz helps her husband practice the techniques he learns in Ann Arbor.

For them, the long hours on the road and the homework assignments are a blessing.

“What’s it worth to see again? It’s worth everything,” Terri Pontz said.

The artificial retina procedure has been performed several-dozen times over the past few years in Europe, and the expectation is that it will find similar success in the U.S., where the University of Michigan is one of 12 centers accepting consultations for patients.

Candidates for the retinal prosthesis must be 25 or older with end-stage retinitis pigmentosa that has progressed to the point of having “bare light” or no light perception in both eyes.

Dr. Thiran Jayasundera, one of two physicians who performed the 4.5-hour surgery on Roger Pontz, is scheduled to discuss his experiences with the retinal prosthesis process during a meeting of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery on Friday in Boston. He calls it a “game-changer.”

Pontz agrees: “I can walk through the house with ease. If that’s all I get out of this, it’d be great.”

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Box Office Milestone: Biblical Epic ‘Noah’ Crosses $300 Million Globally

Paramount and New Regency’s biblical epic Noah has sailed past the $300 million mark at the worldwide box office after appealing to mainstream and faith-based audiences alike.

Noah is the fourth-highest-grossing movie of 2014 after Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which has earned $586.7 million to date, The Lego Movie ($441.7 million) and 300: Rise of an Empire ($329.2 million). Rio 2 rounds out the top five with earnings of $274.1 million to date.

PHOTOS: ‘Noah’s’ Berlin Premiere: Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, Douglas Booth Flood the Red Carpet

The movie, starring Russell Crowe and costing $125 million to produce, is also director Darren Aronofsky‘s highest-grossing film. Noah rolled out worldwide in late March.

In North America, Noah has earned nearly $100 million to date. The film has done more than double that overseas, fueled by outstanding performances in Russia ($32.8 million) and Brazil ($23.4 million), where Noah is the top-grossing Paramount release of all time. Other notable territory grosses to date include Mexico ($15.5 million), South Korea ($14.3 million), the U.K. ($13.1 million) and Australia ($10.7 million).

Paramount and New Regency decided to release Noah in 3D in select foreign markets where the format continues to thrive, including Russia, South Korea and Latin America.

 

 

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China Box Office: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ Nears $100 Million

Captain America: The Winter Soldier continued its strong run in China, taking another $18 million for a cume of $98.27 million after 17 days in the country, while Carlos Saldanha‘s Rio 2 took a healthy $12.05 million for a total of $25.01 million in its first full week on release here.

The Disney and Marvel Studio’s Captain America sequel, which is directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo and is showing only in 3D in China, had 151,489 screenings and 2.89 million admissions in the week to Apr. 20, according to estimates by the Beijing-based research group Entgroup.

PHOTOS: Johnny Depp’s First Trip to China

Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L Jackson came to Beijing to promote the movie last month.

With Evans back in the title role, as well as Avengers stars Johansson and Jackson, Captain America 2 picks up two years after Avengers left off. Captain America and Black Widow (Johansson) discover there is a secret conspiracy within S.H.I.E.L.D. and fight to stop it, along with the Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie.

The good news for Hollywood in the world’s second largest film market doesn’t look like it will be ending anytime soon, with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Transformers: Age of Extinction both due to open this quarter.

Johnny Depp‘s Transcendence came in at third place in the standings, taking $10.65 million its opening weekend according to Entgroup, which is a little less than $1 million short of its U.S. opening gross of $11.5 million. The film was co-produced by Beijing and LA-based DMG and got a heavy marketing push in China before its day-and-date local release, including a visit from its star. 

Dante Lam’s psychological thriller That Demon Within had a strong opening weekend, taking $7.94 million. The movie, which features Daniel Wu as a dutiful police constable wracked by doubt after he saves the life of a notorious and ruthless killer played by Nick Cheung, had 66,702 screenings and 1.58 million admissions.

STORY: China Film Import Quota Will Open Up in 2017, Says Top Local Producer

In fifth place was Renny Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules, which added another $1.55 million to bring its total to  $3.92 million after 10 days. Millennium Entertainment’s epic stars Kellan Lutz as the son of Zeus.

Moving up to sixth place was the Hong Kong movie Delete Lover, which grossed f $1.55 million for a cume of $3.53 million after 10 days.

The plastic surgery romp The Truth About Beauty, directed by Aubrey Lam and produced by Peter Chan’s We Pictures, added $1.3 million for a cume of $13.17 million.

In eighth place was local comedy Best Suspects, with $780,000 in its opening weekend, while the Taiwanese romantic comedy Campus Confidential was in 9th place, taking $750,000 in its opening weekend.

The local horror movie Death Is Here 3 rounded out the top 10, taking $710,000 for a cume of $5.24 million.

Overall, the Chinese box office saw a hefty 29.3 percent rise during the first quarter of 2014. Revenues reached $1.09 billion (6.786 billion yuan), the Film Bureau said last week, and local films accounted for nearly two thirds of the take during the period.

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DOJ plan: Clemency after 10 years?

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April 8, 2014: Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington.AP

The Justice Department moved Wednesday to significantly expand the number of people eligible for clemency, issuing new guidelines allowing certain prisoners who already have served at least 10 years behind bars to apply for release. 

The initiative is part of a broader Obama administration effort to ease sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. 

Deputy Attorney General James Cole outlined the changes, which include six separate criteria inmates must meet to be eligible, on Wednesday morning. Among the requirements is that inmates must have served at least 10 years of their federal sentence and not have a “significant criminal history.” They must be “non-violent, low-level offenders” with no significant ties to major gangs, have a record of good conduct in prison, and have no history of violence. 

Finally, the process will be open to those who likely would have gotten a lesser sentence if convicted of the same offense today. 

“Older, stringent punishments that are out of line with sentences imposed under today’s laws erode people’s confidence in our criminal justice system. I am confident that this initiative will go far to promote the most fundamental of American ideals — equal justice under the law,” Cole said. 

He said the department plans to launch the initiative “quickly and effectively.” 

Cole suggested attorneys in the Justice Department are on board, though separate efforts to curb mandatory minimum sentencing have drawn complaints from the rank and file. 

The National Association of Assistant Untied States Attorneys wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder in January arguing that the current sentencing system is “worth preserving” — and that mandatory minimums give prosecutors “leverage to secure cooperation from defendants.” 

DOJ leaders, though, argue that the new clemency changes are meant to address inconsistencies in sentences over time. The announcement is aimed primarily at drug prisoners, especially those sentenced under old guidelines that resulted in significantly harsher penalties for people caught with crack cocaine than for those who possessed the powder form of the drug. But it also applies to federal inmates imprisoned for other crimes, provided they meet the same criteria for clemency. 

Cole outlined a detailed process that apparently will kick into gear starting next week. He said the Bureau of Prisons will circulate the new criteria to inmates across the country, and allow those who think they meet the standards to fill out an electronic form. 

DOJ lawyers will screen those forms and forward select cases to pro bono attorneys to help in preparing clemency applications. Cole said lawyers from the Justice Department and elsewhere are being assigned to the pardon office to help in reviewing the “numerous petitions” expected to be submitted. 

He said applications will undergo “rigorous scrutiny.” 

Cole also announced that current Pardon Attorney Ron Rodgers will be resigning; he will be replaced by Deborah Leff, acting senior counselor for access to justice.

One source told The Associated Press the Justice Department has identified more than 23,000 people who are serving sentences of at least 10 years. But it was not clear how many of those people would be viable clemency candidates. 

The Obama administration says it’s working to correct the legacy of an old sentencing structure that, historically, subjected black convicts to long prison terms for crack cocaine convictions while giving far more lenient sentences to those caught with powder, who were more likely to be white. The Fair Sentencing Act reduced that disparity and eliminated a five-year mandatory minimum for first-time possession of crack, and officials are now turning their attention to identifying inmates who received sentences under the old guidelines that now appear unduly harsh. 

President Obama, who granted only one commutation in his first term, cut short in December the sentences of eight prisoners he said had been locked up too long for drug crimes. The White House has said it’s seeking additional good candidates to consider for clemency, though spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that the number of commutations “will depend entirely on the number of worthy candidates.” 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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BOOTS ON THE GROUNDUS troops arrive in Poland amid Ukraine crisis

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April 13, 2014: Pro-Russian protesters escort a man detained in eastern Ukraine.REUTERS

U.S. Army paratroopers are arriving in Poland on Wednesday as part of a wave of U.S. troops heading to shore up America’s Eastern European allies in the face of Russian meddling in Ukraine. 

Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said an initial contingent of about 600 troops will head to four countries across Eastern Europe for military exercises over the next month. 

First, about 150 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Vicenza, Italy, are arriving in Poland. 

Additional Army companies will head to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and are expected to arrive by Monday for similar land-based exercises in those countries. 

The show of strength comes as the United States, European allies and Ukraine try to ease tensions with Russia and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. All sides struck a diplomatic agreement last week, but it remains unclear whether pro-Russian demonstrators, who took over a series of government buildings in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, will back down. 

Under the current plan, U.S. troops would rotate in and out of the four Eastern European countries for additional exercises on a recurring basis. 

“We’re looking at trying to keep this rotational presence persistent throughout the rest of this year,” Kirby told reporters, adding that over time the exercises could expand to other countries. 

The exercises are part of an effort announced last week by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel aimed at reassuring NATO allies of America’s commitment to the region’s defense. 

Kirby said the U.S. will likely plan other exercises and will continue to work through NATO on joint measures that could be scheduled in the future. 

“It’s a very tangible representation of our commitment to our security obligations in Europe, and the message is to the people of those countries and to the alliance that we do take it seriously. And we encourage our NATO partners to likewise look for opportunities of their own to do this same kind of thing for one another,” said Kirby. “And I think if there’s a message to Moscow, it is the same exact message – that we take our obligations very, very seriously on the continent of Europe.” 

Armed pro-Russia groups have occupied areas in eastern Ukraine and have refused to leave until the country’s acting government resigns. There was a burst of violence Sunday, with three people killed during a shootout at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russian troops. The U.S. has asserted that some of the troops are Russian special operations forces, and officials are pressing Russian to abide by an international accord aimed at stemming the crisis in Ukraine. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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‘UNPRECEDENTED’ Georgia gov to sign bill expanding gun carry rights

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October 25, 2012: A Glock handgun available in a raffle promotion is shown at Adventures Outdoors in Smyrna, Georgia.REUTERS

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to sign legislation Wednesday expanding gun rights in the state.

The bill, described by the  National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm as “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent state history,” expands the scope of public places where licensed owners are allowed to carry firearms. 

The bill makes several changes to state law. It allows those with a license to carry to bring a gun into a bar without restriction and into some government buildings that don’t have certain security measures. It also allows religious leaders to decide whether it’s OK for a person with a carry license to bring a gun into their place of worship. 

Democrats resisted the proposal, although they conceded it would pass in the GOP-dominated House of Representatives. They argued that allowing guns in more places will not make society safer and may lead to more deaths.

Under the bill, school districts would now be able, if they wanted, to allow some employees to carry a firearm under certain conditions. The bill also eliminates the fingerprinting requirement for renewing weapons carry licenses.

According to the Marietta Daily Journal, the legislation prohibits the state from creating and maintaining a database of licensed weapons carriers and repeals the state-required license for firearms dealers.

Colin Goddard, who survived the 2007 campus shooting at Virginia Tech, told Georgia Public Broadcasting he’s alarmed by a provision that waives criminal prosecution of felons who use illegal firearms in the act of self-defense.

“The stand your ground expansion is truly a new type of stand your ground as we know it,” Goddard said. “To expand it in such a way to remove all carrying or possession offenses is really unprecedented.”

Jerry Henry of GeorgiaCarry.org told GPB News he doesn’t expect to see a surge in gun sales or an increase in gun-related businesses in the state. He noted that other states have far less restrictive gun laws than Georgia.

“I don’t think people are going to look at it and say, ‘Oh Georgia just passed a new law and I’m going to move over there because it’s so much easier.’ I don’t think we’re going to see that,” he said. “Arizona, Wyoming, Alaska, Vermont – they all have Constitutional Carry.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click here for more from the Marietta Daily Journal.

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LINKED TO FLIGHT 370?Material on Australian shore examined in jet hunt

 

Unidentified material that washed ashore in southwestern Australia and is being examined for any link to the lost Malaysian plane is unlikely to have come from the jet, an official said Wednesday.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau was scrutinizing photos of the object, which washed ashore 6 miles east of Augusta in Western Australia state. But Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the safety bureau, said an initial analysis of the material — which appeared to be sheet metal with rivets — suggested it was not from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

“We do not consider this likely to be of use to our search for MH370,” Dolan told The Associated Press. “At this stage, we are not getting excited.”

Dolan said the analysis of the material would likely be completed overnight and a formal statement issued Thursday. Augusta is near Australia’s southwestern tip, about 190 miles from Perth, where the search has been headquartered.

Meanwhile, Australia’s prime minister said Wednesday that failure to find any clue in the most likely crash site of the lost jet would not spell the end of the search, as officials plan soon to bring in more powerful sonar equipment that can delve deeper beneath the Indian Ocean.

The search coordination center said a robotic submarine, the U.S. Navy’s Bluefin 21, had scanned more than 80 percent of the 120-square mile seabed search zone off the Australian west coast, creating a three-dimensional sonar map of the ocean floor. Nothing of interest had been found.

The 2.8-mile deep search area is a circle 12 miles wide around an area where sonar equipment picked up a signal on April 8 consistent with a plane’s black boxes. But the batteries powering those signals are now believed dead.

Defense Minister David Johnston said Australia was consulting with Malaysia, China and the United States on the next phase of the search for the plane, which disappeared March 8. Details on the next phase are likely to be announced next week.

Johnston said more powerful towed side-scan commercial sonar equipment would probably be deployed, similar to the remote-controlled subs that found RMS Titanic 12,500 feet under the Atlantic Ocean in 1985 and the Australian WWII wreck HMAS Sydney in the Indian Ocean off the Australian coast, north of the current search area, in 2008.

“The next phase, I think, is that we step up with potentially a more powerful, more capable side-scan sonar to do deeper water,” Johnston told the AP.

While the Bluefin had less than one-fifth of the seabed search area to complete, Johnston estimated that task would take another two weeks.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the airliner’s probable impact zone was 430 miles long and 50 miles wide. A new search strategy would be adopted if nothing is found in the current seabed search zone.

“If at the end of that period we find nothing, we are not going to abandon the search, we may well rethink the search, but we will not rest until we have done everything we can to solve this mystery,” Abbott told reporters.

“We owe it to the families of the 239 people on board, we owe it to the hundreds of millions — indeed billions — of people who travel by air to try to get to the bottom of this. The only way we can get to the bottom of this is to keep searching the probable impact zone until we find something or until we have searched it as thoroughly as human ingenuity allows at this time,” he said.

The focus of the next search phase will be decided by continuing analysis of information including flight data and sound detections of the suspected beacons, Johnston said.

“A lot of this seabed has not even been hydrographically surveyed before — some of it has — but we’re flying blind,” he said, adding that the seabed in the vicinity of the search was up to 7 kilometers (4 miles) deep.

The search center said an air search involving 10 planes was suspended for a second day because of heavy seas and poor visibility.

But 12 ships would join Wednesday’s search of an expanse covering 14,500 square miles, centered 1,000 miles northwest of Perth.

Radar and satellite data show the jet veered far off course on March 8 for unknown reasons during its flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing. An analysis indicates it would have run out of fuel in the remote section of ocean where the search has been focused. Not one piece of confirmed debris has been found since the massive multinational hunt began.

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‘THREATENING’ RIGHTS? GOP warns BLM eyeing Texas border land grab

 

Texas officials are raising alarm that the Bureau of Land Management, on the heels of its dust-up with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, might be eyeing a massive land grab in northern Texas.

The under-the-radar issue has caught the attention of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who fired off a letter on Tuesday to BLM Director Neil Kornze saying the agency “appears to be threatening” the private property rights of “hard-working Texans.”

“Decisions of this magnitude must not be made inside a bureaucratic black box,” wrote Abbott, also a Republican gubernatorial candidate.

CLICK HERE TO READ ABBOTT’S LETTER

At issue are thousands of acres of land on the Texas side of the Red River, along the border between Texas and Oklahoma. Officials recently have raised concern that the BLM might be looking at claiming 90,000 acres of land as part of the public domain.

The agency, though, argues that any land in question was long ago determined to be public property.

“The BLM is categorically not expanding Federal holdings along the Red River,” a BLM spokeswoman said in a written statement late Tuesday afternoon.

The spokeswoman referred to a 140-acre plot “determined to be public land in 1986” – an apparent reference to a 1986 federal court case. Breitbart.com, which reported Monday on the Texas land dispute, reported that a Texas landowner lost 140 acres to BLM in that case, and the agency is now using that decision as precedent to pursue more property.

Tommy Henderson, the rancher involved in that case, told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren on “On the Record” Tuesday that the BLM was “talking about taking another 90,000 acres by using my court case as the precedent to seize the other land…

“They won’t talk to us or be straight with us as to what their plans are,” Henderson said. “…So I have continued to pay for this land or the federal government would seize everything else I had.”

According to background materials put out by Texas Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry’s office, the BLM is revisiting its management plan for lands including those along a 116-mile stretch of the Red River. His office said the possibility has been discussed of opening that land up for “hunting, recreation and management.”

Gene Hall of the Texas Farm Bureau told Van Susteren, “we have seen an aggressive overreach by the federal government and in more than one instance, if you have got an agency like this that’s very well funded with a lot of people involved, then you shouldn’t be surprised if they are going to overreach and extend that aggressive approach.”

Abbott, in his letter to the agency, said “it is not at all clear what legal basis supports the BLM’s claim of federal ownership over private property.” He said private landowners have cultivated the property “for generations.” 

The debate comes on the heels of a tense standoff earlier this month in Nevada, after BLM tried to round up cattle owned by rancher Cliven Bundy – the product of a long-running dispute over unpaid grazing fees. Hundreds of states’ rights supporters, some of them armed, showed up to protest, and BLM back off citing safety concerns.

In the Texas matter, the Supreme Court incorporated the Red River as part of the border with Oklahoma nearly a century ago.

Congress further clarified the boundaries of the two states in 2000. 

It’s unclear how seriously BLM might be looking at laying claim to additional boundary land.

BLM said it is merely in the “initial stages of developing options for management of public lands,” as part of a “transparent process with several opportunities for public input.” 

BLM Field Manager Stephen Tryon, in a March 17 letter to Thornberry, said officials would eventually look to “ascertain the boundary” between federal and private land and acknowledged residents’ concerns that new surveys could “create cloud to their private property title.”

But he said no new surveys are currently planned, and reiterated that there are no federal claims to Texas land “as defined by multiple rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court.”

FoxNews.com’s Judson Berger contributed to this report.

FOX NEWS FIRST NEWSLETTER

Daily must-read stories from the biggest name in politics


Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/04/22/republicans-warn-blm-eyeing-land-grab-along-texas-oklahoma-border/

Box Office Milestone: Biblical Epic ‘Noah’ Crosses $300 Million Globally

Paramount and New Regency’s biblical epic Noah has sailed past the $300 million mark at the worldwide box office after appealing to mainstream and faith-based audiences alike.

Noah is the fourth-highest-grossing movie of 2014 after Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which has earned $586.7 million to date, The Lego Movie ($441.7 million) and 300: Rise of an Empire ($329.2 million). Rio 2 rounds out the top five with earnings of $274.1 million to date.

PHOTOS: ‘Noah’s’ Berlin Premiere: Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, Douglas Booth Flood the Red Carpet

The movie, starring Russell Crowe and costing $125 million to produce, is also director Darren Aronofsky‘s highest-grossing film. Noah rolled out worldwide in late March.

In North America, Noah has earned nearly $100 million to date. The film has done more than double that overseas, fueled by outstanding performances in Russia ($32.8 million) and Brazil ($23.4 million), where Noah is the top-grossing Paramount release of all time. Other notable territory grosses to date include Mexico ($15.5 million), South Korea ($14.3 million), the U.K. ($13.1 million) and Australia ($10.7 million).

Paramount and New Regency decided to release Noah in 3D in select foreign markets where the format continues to thrive, including Russia, South Korea and Latin America.

 

 

Source Article from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/thr/boxoffice/~3/hrbCPGELMUs/story01.htm

China Box Office: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ Nears $100 Million

Captain America: The Winter Soldier continued its strong run in China, taking another $18 million for a cume of $98.27 million after 17 days in the country, while Carlos Saldanha‘s Rio 2 took a healthy $12.05 million for a total of $25.01 million in its first full week on release here.

The Disney and Marvel Studio’s Captain America sequel, which is directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo and is showing only in 3D in China, had 151,489 screenings and 2.89 million admissions in the week to Apr. 20, according to estimates by the Beijing-based research group Entgroup.

PHOTOS: Johnny Depp’s First Trip to China

Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L Jackson came to Beijing to promote the movie last month.

With Evans back in the title role, as well as Avengers stars Johansson and Jackson, Captain America 2 picks up two years after Avengers left off. Captain America and Black Widow (Johansson) discover there is a secret conspiracy within S.H.I.E.L.D. and fight to stop it, along with the Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie.

The good news for Hollywood in the world’s second largest film market doesn’t look like it will be ending anytime soon, with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Transformers: Age of Extinction both due to open this quarter.

Johnny Depp‘s Transcendence came in at third place in the standings, taking $10.65 million its opening weekend according to Entgroup, which is a little less than $1 million short of its U.S. opening gross of $11.5 million. The film was co-produced by Beijing and LA-based DMG and got a heavy marketing push in China before its day-and-date local release, including a visit from its star. 

Dante Lam’s psychological thriller That Demon Within had a strong opening weekend, taking $7.94 million. The movie, which features Daniel Wu as a dutiful police constable wracked by doubt after he saves the life of a notorious and ruthless killer played by Nick Cheung, had 66,702 screenings and 1.58 million admissions.

STORY: China Film Import Quota Will Open Up in 2017, Says Top Local Producer

In fifth place was Renny Harlin’s The Legend of Hercules, which added another $1.55 million to bring its total to  $3.92 million after 10 days. Millennium Entertainment’s epic stars Kellan Lutz as the son of Zeus.

Moving up to sixth place was the Hong Kong movie Delete Lover, which grossed f $1.55 million for a cume of $3.53 million after 10 days.

The plastic surgery romp The Truth About Beauty, directed by Aubrey Lam and produced by Peter Chan’s We Pictures, added $1.3 million for a cume of $13.17 million.

In eighth place was local comedy Best Suspects, with $780,000 in its opening weekend, while the Taiwanese romantic comedy Campus Confidential was in 9th place, taking $750,000 in its opening weekend.

The local horror movie Death Is Here 3 rounded out the top 10, taking $710,000 for a cume of $5.24 million.

Overall, the Chinese box office saw a hefty 29.3 percent rise during the first quarter of 2014. Revenues reached $1.09 billion (6.786 billion yuan), the Film Bureau said last week, and local films accounted for nearly two thirds of the take during the period.

Source Article from http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/thr/boxoffice/~3/IpWRjRlHt9c/story01.htm

Why politicians don’t just say what they mean: Neil Macdonald


John Kerry, America’s ever-more-pontifical secretary of state, recently began an answer about Middle East peace negotiations by declaring, as he often does: “I want to make this crystal clear.”



He then went on to do the opposite, blathering on about “facilitation,” building eventually to this howler: “The president is desirous of trying to see how we can make our best efforts in order to find a way to facilitate.”



Listening, I marvelled. Why would such an accomplished, educated man gum up an answer so thoroughly?



Surely it would have been simpler to say the president wants to help.



I covered Kerry’s presidential run in 2004, and while he’s always liked pompous language, his rhetoric since becoming Obama’s top diplomat has become positively constipated.



I’ve seen this before. Joe Clark, once he became Brian Mulroney’s foreign affairs minister, starting talking about attending “international fora” (an archaic plural of forum) and being “seized with issues,” rather than just considering something.



Rick Scott, the governor of Florida, assured delegates heading to the GOP convention after a hurricane in 2012 that “there is not any anticipation there will be a cancellation.” A new documentary film’s title, The Unknown Known, mocks former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s tortured ruminations on the “known knowns and unknown knowns” of the Iraq War.


Anyone who’s ever covered politics has had to endure braying about “a full and frank exchange of views,” “at an appropriate point and time,” and the seemingly unstoppable “going forward,” often prefaced by a few sentences about how pleased the speaker is to say all this.


We are constantly being told what “the people” think or have collectively spoken, as though they were consulted, and, when a sin is exposed: “Mistakes were made. Are we perfect? No, we are not.” (No direct mention, of course, of who made the mistakes, or the fact that no one ever suggested the presence of perfection.)



Perhaps such affectations come from being surrounded by hyper-ambitious Ivy League-educated advisers who talk that way.



Or perhaps, as the famously incomprehensible French philosopher Michel Foucault once admitted, high officials fear that if they start speaking simply, they won’t be taken seriously by their audiences.



Of course, what they’re really doing is a public disservice. The average listener just tunes out.



But it isn’t just politicians who use a dozen words when one would do. The disease of opaque, deliberately obscure writing and speaking has infected bureaucracies, journalism, and academia. In the latter, it’s a pandemic.



My daughter, a senior at McGill, was recently puzzling over a criticism by Wahneema Lubiano, a professor at Duke University, of Spike Lee’s film Do the Right Thing.



Lee’s use of “vernacularity cannot guarantee counter-hegemonic cultural resistance,” chided Lubiano. “One can be caught up in Euro-American hegemony within the vernacular, and one can repeat the masculinism and heterosexism of vernacular culture. Vernacular language and cultural productions allow the possibility of discursive power disruptions, of cultural resistance — they do not guarantee it.”



A ‘sense of style’



Well, alrighty, then.



“Most academics … effortlessly dispense sludge,” writes Steven Pinker, the Harvard University psychologist and writer.


BOOK REVIEW STEVEN PINKER

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker author of “The Stuff of Thought,” “The Better Angels of our Nature,” “How the Mind Works” and “The Language Instinct,” among others, is taking on the subject of clear writing next. (Rebecca Goldstein / Viking / Associated Press)



A Canadian, Pinker is considered one of the world’s leading thinkers about language, and his forthcoming book, The Sense of Style, is a plea for clarity.



He argues that while many scholars do groundbreaking work, and have important ideas, “their writing stinks.”



“There’s just a lot of bad writing out there,” he told me, and that has its consequences: “We pay for universities, we ought to be able to understand what comes out of them.”



Pinker’s book — he provided me with an advance peek when I called to talk to him about the subject — is neither a style guide, nor another rant about the need for fewer dangling participles and split infinitives.



In fact, he regards many English grammar rules as classist anachronisms originally designed in 18th-century Britain.



Instead, his is an argument for simplicity: “assumption of equality between writer and reader makes the reader feel like a genius,” he writes. “Bad writing makes the reader feel like a dunce.”



John Kerry, and every lawyer, academic, journalist and author might want to buy a copy once the book comes out in September.



Wads of fluff



Pinker has no patience with those who haughtily claim that complex, obscure language is useful and even necessary when speaking to a specialized audience — like, say, other diplomats or students.



A minority of academics, he says, do manage to write with grace and verve.



Pinker points to the physicist Brian Greene, who once explained the hideously complex theory of multiple universes using entertaining analogies, never resorting to the impenetrable jargon of his discipline.



(“We find ourselves in this universe and not another,” Greene said, “for much the same reason we find ourselves on Earth and not Neptune” — because it alone supports us. “Just as it takes a well-stocked shoe store to guarantee you’ll find your size, only a well-stocked multiverse can guarantee our universe, with its peculiar amount of dark energy, will be represented.”)



If a theoretical physicist can do that, there’s no excuse for others not to at least try.



Reading Pinker, a reporter should wince. I did.



In this book, he shines a pitiless light on our love of words like “framework,” “process,” and “model.” (I could easily add another 20 or 30).



These, he says, are meta-concepts, or “concepts about concepts.” He compares them to the layers of packaging material a customer has to hack through to get at the product.



And of course there’s our over-hedging — the use of qualifiers like “apparently,” “evidently,” “rather,” “comparatively” and “presumably.”



Editors call that journalistic caution. Pinker calls it “wads of fluff that imply [writers] are not willing to stand behind what they are saying.”



What really hurts, though, is his diagnosis of such writing: “In explaining any human shortcoming, the first tool I reach for is Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”



Ironically, he says, “it’s often the brightest and best-informed who suffer the most from it.”



Janice Stein, the head of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, applauds Pinker. Turgid prose like the film criticism my daughter was trying to figure out, she says, is just “a cruel assault on the language.”



Stein says Pinker’s book is part of what she calls a brewing revolt against obscurantist language in academia, which she contends is actually on the rise.



She asks her students to write in language their families could understand.



As they should. As should we all.










Source Article from http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/why-politicians-and-academics-don-t-just-say-what-they-mean-1.2618268?cmp=rss

Why politicians don’t just say what they mean: Neil Macdonald


John Kerry, America’s ever-more-pontifical secretary of state, recently began an answer about Middle East peace negotiations by declaring, as he often does: “I want to make this crystal clear.”



He then went on to do the opposite, blathering on about “facilitation,” building eventually to this howler: “The president is desirous of trying to see how we can make our best efforts in order to find a way to facilitate.”



Listening, I marvelled. Why would such an accomplished, educated man gum up an answer so thoroughly?



Surely it would have been simpler to say the president wants to help.



I covered Kerry’s presidential run in 2004, and while he’s always liked pompous language, his rhetoric since becoming Obama’s top diplomat has become positively constipated.



I’ve seen this before. Joe Clark, once he became Brian Mulroney’s foreign affairs minister, starting talking about attending “international fora” (an archaic plural of forum) and being “seized with issues,” rather than just considering something.



Rick Scott, the governor of Florida, assured delegates heading to the GOP convention after a hurricane in 2012 that “there is not any anticipation there will be a cancellation.” A new documentary film’s title, The Unknown Known, mocks former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s tortured ruminations on the “known knowns and unknown knowns” of the Iraq War.


Anyone who’s ever covered politics has had to endure braying about “a full and frank exchange of views,” “at an appropriate point and time,” and the seemingly unstoppable “going forward,” often prefaced by a few sentences about how pleased the speaker is to say all this.


We are constantly being told what “the people” think or have collectively spoken, as though they were consulted, and, when a sin is exposed: “Mistakes were made. Are we perfect? No, we are not.” (No direct mention, of course, of who made the mistakes, or the fact that no one ever suggested the presence of perfection.)



Perhaps such affectations come from being surrounded by hyper-ambitious Ivy League-educated advisers who talk that way.



Or perhaps, as the famously incomprehensible French philosopher Michel Foucault once admitted, high officials fear that if they start speaking simply, they won’t be taken seriously by their audiences.



Of course, what they’re really doing is a public disservice. The average listener just tunes out.



But it isn’t just politicians who use a dozen words when one would do. The disease of opaque, deliberately obscure writing and speaking has infected bureaucracies, journalism, and academia. In the latter, it’s a pandemic.



My daughter, a senior at McGill, was recently puzzling over a criticism by Wahneema Lubiano, a professor at Duke University, of Spike Lee’s film Do the Right Thing.



Lee’s use of “vernacularity cannot guarantee counter-hegemonic cultural resistance,” chided Lubiano. “One can be caught up in Euro-American hegemony within the vernacular, and one can repeat the masculinism and heterosexism of vernacular culture. Vernacular language and cultural productions allow the possibility of discursive power disruptions, of cultural resistance — they do not guarantee it.”



A ‘sense of style’



Well, alrighty, then.



“Most academics … effortlessly dispense sludge,” writes Steven Pinker, the Harvard University psychologist and writer.


BOOK REVIEW STEVEN PINKER

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker author of “The Stuff of Thought,” “The Better Angels of our Nature,” “How the Mind Works” and “The Language Instinct,” among others, is taking on the subject of clear writing next. (Rebecca Goldstein / Viking / Associated Press)



A Canadian, Pinker is considered one of the world’s leading thinkers about language, and his forthcoming book, The Sense of Style, is a plea for clarity.



He argues that while many scholars do groundbreaking work, and have important ideas, “their writing stinks.”



“There’s just a lot of bad writing out there,” he told me, and that has its consequences: “We pay for universities, we ought to be able to understand what comes out of them.”



Pinker’s book — he provided me with an advance peek when I called to talk to him about the subject — is neither a style guide, nor another rant about the need for fewer dangling participles and split infinitives.



In fact, he regards many English grammar rules as classist anachronisms originally designed in 18th-century Britain.



Instead, his is an argument for simplicity: “assumption of equality between writer and reader makes the reader feel like a genius,” he writes. “Bad writing makes the reader feel like a dunce.”



John Kerry, and every lawyer, academic, journalist and author might want to buy a copy once the book comes out in September.



Wads of fluff



Pinker has no patience with those who haughtily claim that complex, obscure language is useful and even necessary when speaking to a specialized audience — like, say, other diplomats or students.



A minority of academics, he says, do manage to write with grace and verve.



Pinker points to the physicist Brian Greene, who once explained the hideously complex theory of multiple universes using entertaining analogies, never resorting to the impenetrable jargon of his discipline.



(“We find ourselves in this universe and not another,” Greene said, “for much the same reason we find ourselves on Earth and not Neptune” — because it alone supports us. “Just as it takes a well-stocked shoe store to guarantee you’ll find your size, only a well-stocked multiverse can guarantee our universe, with its peculiar amount of dark energy, will be represented.”)



If a theoretical physicist can do that, there’s no excuse for others not to at least try.



Reading Pinker, a reporter should wince. I did.



In this book, he shines a pitiless light on our love of words like “framework,” “process,” and “model.” (I could easily add another 20 or 30).



These, he says, are meta-concepts, or “concepts about concepts.” He compares them to the layers of packaging material a customer has to hack through to get at the product.



And of course there’s our over-hedging — the use of qualifiers like “apparently,” “evidently,” “rather,” “comparatively” and “presumably.”



Editors call that journalistic caution. Pinker calls it “wads of fluff that imply [writers] are not willing to stand behind what they are saying.”



What really hurts, though, is his diagnosis of such writing: “In explaining any human shortcoming, the first tool I reach for is Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”



Ironically, he says, “it’s often the brightest and best-informed who suffer the most from it.”



Janice Stein, the head of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, applauds Pinker. Turgid prose like the film criticism my daughter was trying to figure out, she says, is just “a cruel assault on the language.”



Stein says Pinker’s book is part of what she calls a brewing revolt against obscurantist language in academia, which she contends is actually on the rise.



She asks her students to write in language their families could understand.



As they should. As should we all.










Source Article from http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/why-politicians-and-academics-don-t-just-say-what-they-mean-1.2618268?cmp=rss

Who are the Koch brothers and why do Democrats hate them?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is on a mission to convince Americans that David and Charles Koch are “shadowy billionaires” who are rigging the country’s electoral system and trying to “buy our democracy.”


They are “un-American” Reid declared in the Senate on March 26 in one of his many speeches bashing the politically active brothers. They’re “immoral” and “dishonest” according to the Nevada senator.


Reid’s attacks on the Koch brothers have been relentless in the last few weeks and he’s promising to keep them up in advance of November’s midterm elections.


Why? The Kochs aren’t running for office. But they are pouring millions of dollars into the campaigns of those who are through the conservative group they founded, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), and other political action committees (PACs).


They also give generously to a number of think-tanks and organizations that align with their views. David Koch once ran for U.S. vice-president as a member of the Libertarian Party, which gives a good indication of his views. The brothers are known as champions of the free market who advocate for lower taxes, less government regulation, and for people helping themselves rather than relying on government handouts. Their critics describe their agenda as fringe and radical and say the Tea Party and Republican conservatives have adopted many of their beliefs.


Kochs among world’s richest people


A Washington Post article said so far this year AFP has spent $27 million on television advertising. About $13 million of that was directed at five Senate races while other ads criticized the Affordable Care Act.


Democrats aren’t just up against Republican candidates this fall, they’re up against the Kochs’ bank accounts, and based on how the Democrats are acting, they’re worried about the damage the brothers can do.


Koch Industries is one of the largest privately held companies in the U.S. It doesn’t release financial data publicly, but it’s thought to rake in annual revenues in the neighbourhood of $115 billion. The massive company, started by their father, Fred Koch, has its tentacles in the oil sector, consumer products, minerals, commodity trading, and much more. 

David-Koch

David Koch attends a lunch in New York on Dec. 9, 2013, where former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, now Bank of England head, spoke.

(Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)


If you’ve ever sipped out of a Dixie cup, mopped up a mess with a Brawny paper towel, worn workout attire with Lycra in it, or walked upon a Stainmaster carpet then you’ve experienced the vast reach of Koch Industries and the many companies it invests in or owns.


The brothers are majority stakeholders, which makes them very, very rich. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index puts their net worth at $100 billion and calls them the fifth and sixth richest people on planet Earth.


The Koch brothers don’t pocket all their profits. There are several charitable foundations associated with the family and they’ve given millions away to cancer research, the arts, and scholarships among other causes.  


But it’s their funding of political candidates and campaigns that make them magnets for criticism and prompts the accusations that they are trying to buy America.


“They have single-handedly turned the American electoral process into a pay-to-play scheme,” Reid wrote on his website.


Republicans ‘addicted to Koch’


“As for the Democrats here in the Senate, we will continue to defend American families from these oil baron bullies who want nothing more than to enrich themselves. We will continue to oppose their efforts to buy our democracy, because we represent America — not just rich Americans.”


On Reid’s website he writes about the Republicans being “addicted to Koch” (the surname is pronounced like the soft drink Coke, or, the drug) and it’s a line he’s repeated in the Senate while telling his opponents they should wear Koch Industries logos on their suits.


But it’s not just Reid, the anti-Koch campaign is a party-wide strategy. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee started a website called kochaddiction.com that says the brothers are trying to buy the Senate and the Koch talking points are heard more often now by Congress members and Republican candidates.


The Democrats say they’re educating Americans about the Koch brothers, but likely they’re also trying to energize their base and use the Koch brothers as a fundraising tool while doing so. The Democrats are counting on their base not only for money but for votes this fall so they can keep control of the Senate.


Republicans have come to the Koch brothers’ defence, asking what is so “un-American” about them employing thousands of Americans and making completely legal donations to political campaigns. They also point out that the Democrats have their own millionaire donors. Tom Steyer, for example, plans to spend millions of dollars this election cycle, primarily supporting Democrats and advocating for climate change policies.


The Koch Industries website also has a section meant to debunk what critics say about the duo and Charles Koch recently wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal defending his business and saying he’s been the victim of character assassination.



According to Reid, his plan is working and he’s getting under their skin. But he’s not done yet.


“I haven’t been successful enough, because I’m going to continue,” he recently told reporters. “By the time we finish this, everyone is going to know who these, the two richest brothers in the world, are.”

Source Article from http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/the-koch-brothers-who-are-they-and-why-do-democrats-hate-them-1.2617472?cmp=rss

Who are the Koch brothers and why do Democrats hate them?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is on a mission to convince Americans that David and Charles Koch are “shadowy billionaires” who are rigging the country’s electoral system and trying to “buy our democracy.”


They are “un-American” Reid declared in the Senate on March 26 in one of his many speeches bashing the politically active brothers. They’re “immoral” and “dishonest” according to the Nevada senator.


Reid’s attacks on the Koch brothers have been relentless in the last few weeks and he’s promising to keep them up in advance of November’s midterm elections.


Why? The Kochs aren’t running for office. But they are pouring millions of dollars into the campaigns of those who are through the conservative group they founded, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), and other political action committees (PACs).


They also give generously to a number of think-tanks and organizations that align with their views. David Koch once ran for U.S. vice-president as a member of the Libertarian Party, which gives a good indication of his views. The brothers are known as champions of the free market who advocate for lower taxes, less government regulation, and for people helping themselves rather than relying on government handouts. Their critics describe their agenda as fringe and radical and say the Tea Party and Republican conservatives have adopted many of their beliefs.


Kochs among world’s richest people


A Washington Post article said so far this year AFP has spent $27 million on television advertising. About $13 million of that was directed at five Senate races while other ads criticized the Affordable Care Act.


Democrats aren’t just up against Republican candidates this fall, they’re up against the Kochs’ bank accounts, and based on how the Democrats are acting, they’re worried about the damage the brothers can do.


Koch Industries is one of the largest privately held companies in the U.S. It doesn’t release financial data publicly, but it’s thought to rake in annual revenues in the neighbourhood of $115 billion. The massive company, started by their father, Fred Koch, has its tentacles in the oil sector, consumer products, minerals, commodity trading, and much more. 

David-Koch

David Koch attends a lunch in New York on Dec. 9, 2013, where former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, now Bank of England head, spoke.

(Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)


If you’ve ever sipped out of a Dixie cup, mopped up a mess with a Brawny paper towel, worn workout attire with Lycra in it, or walked upon a Stainmaster carpet then you’ve experienced the vast reach of Koch Industries and the many companies it invests in or owns.


The brothers are majority stakeholders, which makes them very, very rich. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index puts their net worth at $100 billion and calls them the fifth and sixth richest people on planet Earth.


The Koch brothers don’t pocket all their profits. There are several charitable foundations associated with the family and they’ve given millions away to cancer research, the arts, and scholarships among other causes.  


But it’s their funding of political candidates and campaigns that make them magnets for criticism and prompts the accusations that they are trying to buy America.


“They have single-handedly turned the American electoral process into a pay-to-play scheme,” Reid wrote on his website.


Republicans ‘addicted to Koch’


“As for the Democrats here in the Senate, we will continue to defend American families from these oil baron bullies who want nothing more than to enrich themselves. We will continue to oppose their efforts to buy our democracy, because we represent America — not just rich Americans.”


On Reid’s website he writes about the Republicans being “addicted to Koch” (the surname is pronounced like the soft drink Coke, or, the drug) and it’s a line he’s repeated in the Senate while telling his opponents they should wear Koch Industries logos on their suits.


But it’s not just Reid, the anti-Koch campaign is a party-wide strategy. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee started a website called kochaddiction.com that says the brothers are trying to buy the Senate and the Koch talking points are heard more often now by Congress members and Republican candidates.


The Democrats say they’re educating Americans about the Koch brothers, but likely they’re also trying to energize their base and use the Koch brothers as a fundraising tool while doing so. The Democrats are counting on their base not only for money but for votes this fall so they can keep control of the Senate.


Republicans have come to the Koch brothers’ defence, asking what is so “un-American” about them employing thousands of Americans and making completely legal donations to political campaigns. They also point out that the Democrats have their own millionaire donors. Tom Steyer, for example, plans to spend millions of dollars this election cycle, primarily supporting Democrats and advocating for climate change policies.


The Koch Industries website also has a section meant to debunk what critics say about the duo and Charles Koch recently wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal defending his business and saying he’s been the victim of character assassination.



According to Reid, his plan is working and he’s getting under their skin. But he’s not done yet.


“I haven’t been successful enough, because I’m going to continue,” he recently told reporters. “By the time we finish this, everyone is going to know who these, the two richest brothers in the world, are.”

Source Article from http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/the-koch-brothers-who-are-they-and-why-do-democrats-hate-them-1.2617472?cmp=rss

Can Nepal’s Everest industry survive a Sherpa strike?

A walkout by Sherpa mountain climbers following the tragic deaths of 16 guides on Mount Everest will certainly have an impact on the Nepalese economy. High-altitude mountaineering and the industry that supports it are crucial parts of the area’s tourism.


“It’s hugely important. Everest is a capstone in the recreational tourism industry, not necessarily because of all the people that are going to climb it but it’s such a huge draw into that region,” said Nick Heil, author of  Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest’s Most Controversial Season.


Dozens of Sherpa guides left the Everest base camp Wednesday, after the deaths of their colleagues exposed an undercurrent of resentment by Sherpas over their pay, treatment and benefits.


“It’s the iconic peak. It has a lot of allure,” said Heil, who is also the editorial director of the online version of the adventure travel magazine Outside. “Not only do people trek and climb up in that area, but there’s a lot of flight-seeing tours that come and go out of Katmandu.  I think it’s just a very appealing trip to go and be in that region and catch a glimpse of Everest.”



Three Sherpa guides remain buried in ice and snow after Friday’s deadly avalanche. Thirteen bodies have been recovered. 



Since the accident, the Nepalese government​ has been in a dispute with the Sherpas, who have threatened to boycott the rest of the season. They want better pay for their risky work. The government has apparently met at least some of their demands.


Most attempts to reach the summit are made in mid-May, when weather is the most favourable. Thousands of Nepali guides and porters make their livelihoods during the climbing season, when climbers rely on them for everything from carrying gear and cooking food to high-altitude guiding. Without them, reaching the summit would be almost impossible.


“Tourism income has essentially transformed the Khumba economy. They’ve gone from subsistence herders and farmers, to tourism industry operators. Almost every household [on the southern flanks of Everest]  is involved in the tourism industry at some level,” said Broughton Coburn, author of The Vast Unknown: America’s First Ascent of Everest.

TV-Everest Jump

Thousands of Nepali guides and porters make their livelihoods during the climbing season, when climbers rely on them for everything from carrying gear and cooking food to high-altitude guiding. Without them, reaching the summit would be almost impossible. (Pasang Geljen/Associated Press)


While not rich by western standards, Sherpas make on average about $3,000 to $6,000 US for a season, which equates to about three months of work.


With Nepalese citizens earning a per capita income of around $700, according to World Bank figures, the revenue Sherpas earn ensures that they can support their families for the rest of the year. Not only does the job generate a lot of income relative to what they could make in other occupations, it also confers a lot of status, Heil said.


‘Rock stars of their communities’


“Being a climbing Sherpa, particularly being among the lead climbing Sherpas, it’s a very prestigious job and these guys tend to be the rock stars of their communities,” Heil said.


“So there’s a lot of status, a lot of prestige that’s connected with working up there on the mountain and I think that lends a lot of appeal to doing this kind of work despite the obvious risks that are involved.”


Heil said that Sherpas are also trying to negotiate that they would still be paid for the whole season, even if they were to boycott the remainder of it. 


“The government and western outfitters may feel differently about that,” Heil said.


Most of the money in climbing Everest goes to the Nepalese government or western outfitters where climbers will lay out about $40,000 to $60,000 for a climb. Meanwhile, the government collects about $3.3 million annually from climbing fees, which represents nearly 80 per cent of all the climbing fees of the nearby Himalayas.


Also reaping some of those foreign tourist dollars are other businesses, like hotels and restaurants, set up in the surrounding area.


“There’s probably a good thousand people on the south side and that’s just the people in base camp. All the villages on the way up, all the traffic that comes in and out of Katmandu on their way to the mountain. All of these things play a huge role in their tourist economy,” Heil said.


A Sherpa strike would have a “considerable” economic impact, Heil said, but it would be somewhat mitigated this year by the fact that many of the climbers are already at Everest, meaning that initial revenue has already been generated.


“It’s not like they’re cancelling Everest before anyone showed up. So I don’t know if the impact would be that high this year, but it would be probably notable at some level.”


But Sherpa Pasang, of the Nepal National Mountain Guide Association, told the Associated Press that a total boycott would harm Nepal’s mountaineering in the long term.


However, there is more to the region than just climbing the challenging mountain. The area is also known for all sorts of trekking and sightseeing, or climbing some of the smaller peaks.


“It’s beautiful. Most people who trek into the area don’t go to Everest base camp, they go to other valleys, or stay lower down, they trek over passes,” Coburn said.


Source Article from http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/everest-avalanche-how-a-sherpa-strike-will-affect-nepal-s-tourist-industry-1.2617621?cmp=rss

Can Nepal’s Everest industry survive a Sherpa strike?

A walkout by Sherpa mountain climbers following the tragic deaths of 16 guides on Mount Everest will certainly have an impact on the Nepalese economy. High-altitude mountaineering and the industry that supports it are crucial parts of the area’s tourism.


“It’s hugely important. Everest is a capstone in the recreational tourism industry, not necessarily because of all the people that are going to climb it but it’s such a huge draw into that region,” said Nick Heil, author of  Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest’s Most Controversial Season.


Dozens of Sherpa guides left the Everest base camp Wednesday, after the deaths of their colleagues exposed an undercurrent of resentment by Sherpas over their pay, treatment and benefits.


“It’s the iconic peak. It has a lot of allure,” said Heil, who is also the editorial director of the online version of the adventure travel magazine Outside. “Not only do people trek and climb up in that area, but there’s a lot of flight-seeing tours that come and go out of Katmandu.  I think it’s just a very appealing trip to go and be in that region and catch a glimpse of Everest.”



Three Sherpa guides remain buried in ice and snow after Friday’s deadly avalanche. Thirteen bodies have been recovered. 



Since the accident, the Nepalese government​ has been in a dispute with the Sherpas, who have threatened to boycott the rest of the season. They want better pay for their risky work. The government has apparently met at least some of their demands.


Most attempts to reach the summit are made in mid-May, when weather is the most favourable. Thousands of Nepali guides and porters make their livelihoods during the climbing season, when climbers rely on them for everything from carrying gear and cooking food to high-altitude guiding. Without them, reaching the summit would be almost impossible.


“Tourism income has essentially transformed the Khumba economy. They’ve gone from subsistence herders and farmers, to tourism industry operators. Almost every household [on the southern flanks of Everest]  is involved in the tourism industry at some level,” said Broughton Coburn, author of The Vast Unknown: America’s First Ascent of Everest.

TV-Everest Jump

Thousands of Nepali guides and porters make their livelihoods during the climbing season, when climbers rely on them for everything from carrying gear and cooking food to high-altitude guiding. Without them, reaching the summit would be almost impossible. (Pasang Geljen/Associated Press)


While not rich by western standards, Sherpas make on average about $3,000 to $6,000 US for a season, which equates to about three months of work.


With Nepalese citizens earning a per capita income of around $700, according to World Bank figures, the revenue Sherpas earn ensures that they can support their families for the rest of the year. Not only does the job generate a lot of income relative to what they could make in other occupations, it also confers a lot of status, Heil said.


‘Rock stars of their communities’


“Being a climbing Sherpa, particularly being among the lead climbing Sherpas, it’s a very prestigious job and these guys tend to be the rock stars of their communities,” Heil said.


“So there’s a lot of status, a lot of prestige that’s connected with working up there on the mountain and I think that lends a lot of appeal to doing this kind of work despite the obvious risks that are involved.”


Heil said that Sherpas are also trying to negotiate that they would still be paid for the whole season, even if they were to boycott the remainder of it. 


“The government and western outfitters may feel differently about that,” Heil said.


Most of the money in climbing Everest goes to the Nepalese government or western outfitters where climbers will lay out about $40,000 to $60,000 for a climb. Meanwhile, the government collects about $3.3 million annually from climbing fees, which represents nearly 80 per cent of all the climbing fees of the nearby Himalayas.


Also reaping some of those foreign tourist dollars are other businesses, like hotels and restaurants, set up in the surrounding area.


“There’s probably a good thousand people on the south side and that’s just the people in base camp. All the villages on the way up, all the traffic that comes in and out of Katmandu on their way to the mountain. All of these things play a huge role in their tourist economy,” Heil said.


A Sherpa strike would have a “considerable” economic impact, Heil said, but it would be somewhat mitigated this year by the fact that many of the climbers are already at Everest, meaning that initial revenue has already been generated.


“It’s not like they’re cancelling Everest before anyone showed up. So I don’t know if the impact would be that high this year, but it would be probably notable at some level.”


But Sherpa Pasang, of the Nepal National Mountain Guide Association, told the Associated Press that a total boycott would harm Nepal’s mountaineering in the long term.


However, there is more to the region than just climbing the challenging mountain. The area is also known for all sorts of trekking and sightseeing, or climbing some of the smaller peaks.


“It’s beautiful. Most people who trek into the area don’t go to Everest base camp, they go to other valleys, or stay lower down, they trek over passes,” Coburn said.


Source Article from http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/everest-avalanche-how-a-sherpa-strike-will-affect-nepal-s-tourist-industry-1.2617621?cmp=rss

South Korea ferry: Divers feel for children’s bodies in dark

South Korean divers swam through dark, cold waters into a sunken ferry on Wednesday, feeling for children’s bodies with their hands in a maze of cabins, corridors and upturned decks as they searched for hundreds of missing.


The divers, with oxygen and communications lines trailing, can only see a few inches in front of them in the wreckage of the ship that started sinking a week ago after a sharp turn. Most of the victims were high school children, who were told to stay where they were for their own safety.


And most of the bodies found in the last two days had broken fingers, presumably from the children frantically trying to climb the walls or floors to escape in their last moments, media said.


“We are trained for hostile environments, but it’s hard to be brave when we meet bodies in dark water,” diver Hwang Dae-sik told Reuters, as the funerals of 25 students were held near the capital, Seoul.


Prosecutors investigating the disaster raided the home of Yoo Byung-un, the head of a family that owns the Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd, the company that operated the Sewol ferry. They also raided his son’s home and the office of a church with which Yoo has been associated, said a prosecutor who did not want to be identified.


The finances of Chonghaejin and its complex share structure have come into the spotlight in recent days. Yoo was jailed for fraud for four years in the early 1990s.


But it was not immediately clear how big a development this was. Korean police and prosecutors often make dramatic raids to show that progress is being made in a high-profile case.


Underwater, at the site of the sunken Sewol, divers are able to work for nearly an hour at a time as long as the oxygen lines do not snag on sharp corners of the ship’s internal structure. When they use cumbersome oxygen tanks on their backs instead, they can work for about 20 minutes before an alarm bell sounds.


South Korea Ship Sinking Captain Profile

Off-duty helmsman Oh Yong-seok, 57, of the sunken ferry Sewol speaks on a bed at Mokpo Hankook Hospital where he gets treatment for minor injuries in Mokpo, South Korea. He said the ship’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, was “generous, a really nice guy.” (Lee Won-cheol/Associated Press)


The Sewol sank last Wednesday on a routine trip from the port of Incheon, near Seoul, to the southern island of Jeju.


Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and teachers on a high school outing. Only 174 people have been rescued and the remainder are presumed to have drowned.


The confirmed death toll on Wednesday was 156, many found at the back of the ship on the fourth deck.


In a rare move, the disaster prompted reclusive North Korea, which routinely threatens the South with destruction, to send a message of sympathy. The two sides are still technically at war after the 1950-53 civil conflict ended in a mere truce.


“We express condolences for the missing and dead, including young students, from the sinking of the Sewol,” a South Korean Unification Ministry spokeswoman quoted the message as saying.


South Korea ferry

Relatives of a passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol and Buddhist monks pray for the safe return of missing passengers at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Wednesday. (Ahn Young-joon/Associated Press)


Hwang, the diver, said his team had retrieved 14 bodies so far. “We have to touch everything with our hands. This is the most gruelling and heartbreaking job of my career,” he said.


Captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, and other crew members have been arrested on negligence charges. Lee was also charged with undertaking an “excessive change of course without slowing down.”


Several crew members, including the captain, left the ferry as it was sinking, witnesses have said, after passengers were told to stay in their cabins, even though it was time for breakfast. President Park Geun-hye said on Monday that instruction was tantamount to an “act of murder”.


Law says captain must stay


“The charged crew members appear to have not carried out their duty to rescue the passengers at all,” prosecutor Ahn Sang-don told a briefing. “Based on the fact that they were gathered in the bridge, engine room and so on, then left the boat, we believe negligent homicide is applicable.”


According to Article 10 of Seafarers’ Act, a captain has to remain on board until all passengers have disembarked.


A boy with a shaking voice gave the first distress call to the emergency services when the ferry listed.


Most of those who survived made it out on deck and jumped into rescue boats, but many of the children did not leave their cabins, not questioning their elders, as is customary in hierarchical Korean society. They paid for their obedience with their lives.


Lee was not on the bridge when the ship turned. Navigation was in the hands of a 26-year-old third mate, who was in charge for the first time on that part of the journey, according to crew members.


The wife of one crew member under investigation who did not wish to be identified quoted her husband as saying: “I should have died out there.”


“He told me that he was taking some rest as he had finished his shift. He fell from his bed and struggled to open the room door to get out. He said he didn’t go to the steering house to meet up with rest of the crew. Rather, he was found by coastguards and was rescued.


“My husband didn’t get along with other crewmen, but he told me that Capt. Lee was someone comfortable and extremely calm. He said Capt. Lee was like no other: he didn’t drink much, although he did smoke.”



Source Article from http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/south-korea-ferry-divers-feel-for-children-s-bodies-in-dark-1.2618779?cmp=rss

South Korea ferry: Divers feel for children’s bodies in dark

South Korean divers swam through dark, cold waters into a sunken ferry on Wednesday, feeling for children’s bodies with their hands in a maze of cabins, corridors and upturned decks as they searched for hundreds of missing.


The divers, with oxygen and communications lines trailing, can only see a few inches in front of them in the wreckage of the ship that started sinking a week ago after a sharp turn. Most of the victims were high school children, who were told to stay where they were for their own safety.


And most of the bodies found in the last two days had broken fingers, presumably from the children frantically trying to climb the walls or floors to escape in their last moments, media said.


“We are trained for hostile environments, but it’s hard to be brave when we meet bodies in dark water,” diver Hwang Dae-sik told Reuters, as the funerals of 25 students were held near the capital, Seoul.


Prosecutors investigating the disaster raided the home of Yoo Byung-un, the head of a family that owns the Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd, the company that operated the Sewol ferry. They also raided his son’s home and the office of a church with which Yoo has been associated, said a prosecutor who did not want to be identified.


The finances of Chonghaejin and its complex share structure have come into the spotlight in recent days. Yoo was jailed for fraud for four years in the early 1990s.


But it was not immediately clear how big a development this was. Korean police and prosecutors often make dramatic raids to show that progress is being made in a high-profile case.


Underwater, at the site of the sunken Sewol, divers are able to work for nearly an hour at a time as long as the oxygen lines do not snag on sharp corners of the ship’s internal structure. When they use cumbersome oxygen tanks on their backs instead, they can work for about 20 minutes before an alarm bell sounds.


South Korea Ship Sinking Captain Profile

Off-duty helmsman Oh Yong-seok, 57, of the sunken ferry Sewol speaks on a bed at Mokpo Hankook Hospital where he gets treatment for minor injuries in Mokpo, South Korea. He said the ship’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, was “generous, a really nice guy.” (Lee Won-cheol/Associated Press)


The Sewol sank last Wednesday on a routine trip from the port of Incheon, near Seoul, to the southern island of Jeju.


Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and teachers on a high school outing. Only 174 people have been rescued and the remainder are presumed to have drowned.


The confirmed death toll on Wednesday was 156, many found at the back of the ship on the fourth deck.


In a rare move, the disaster prompted reclusive North Korea, which routinely threatens the South with destruction, to send a message of sympathy. The two sides are still technically at war after the 1950-53 civil conflict ended in a mere truce.


“We express condolences for the missing and dead, including young students, from the sinking of the Sewol,” a South Korean Unification Ministry spokeswoman quoted the message as saying.


South Korea ferry

Relatives of a passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol and Buddhist monks pray for the safe return of missing passengers at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Wednesday. (Ahn Young-joon/Associated Press)


Hwang, the diver, said his team had retrieved 14 bodies so far. “We have to touch everything with our hands. This is the most gruelling and heartbreaking job of my career,” he said.


Captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, and other crew members have been arrested on negligence charges. Lee was also charged with undertaking an “excessive change of course without slowing down.”


Several crew members, including the captain, left the ferry as it was sinking, witnesses have said, after passengers were told to stay in their cabins, even though it was time for breakfast. President Park Geun-hye said on Monday that instruction was tantamount to an “act of murder”.


Law says captain must stay


“The charged crew members appear to have not carried out their duty to rescue the passengers at all,” prosecutor Ahn Sang-don told a briefing. “Based on the fact that they were gathered in the bridge, engine room and so on, then left the boat, we believe negligent homicide is applicable.”


According to Article 10 of Seafarers’ Act, a captain has to remain on board until all passengers have disembarked.


A boy with a shaking voice gave the first distress call to the emergency services when the ferry listed.


Most of those who survived made it out on deck and jumped into rescue boats, but many of the children did not leave their cabins, not questioning their elders, as is customary in hierarchical Korean society. They paid for their obedience with their lives.


Lee was not on the bridge when the ship turned. Navigation was in the hands of a 26-year-old third mate, who was in charge for the first time on that part of the journey, according to crew members.


The wife of one crew member under investigation who did not wish to be identified quoted her husband as saying: “I should have died out there.”


“He told me that he was taking some rest as he had finished his shift. He fell from his bed and struggled to open the room door to get out. He said he didn’t go to the steering house to meet up with rest of the crew. Rather, he was found by coastguards and was rescued.


“My husband didn’t get along with other crewmen, but he told me that Capt. Lee was someone comfortable and extremely calm. He said Capt. Lee was like no other: he didn’t drink much, although he did smoke.”



Source Article from http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/south-korea-ferry-divers-feel-for-children-s-bodies-in-dark-1.2618779?cmp=rss

Foreign minister vows response if Russians attacked in Ukraine



Russia’s foreign minister on Wednesday promised a firm response if its citizens or interests come under attack in Ukraine — a vow that came after Ukraine announced a renewal of its “anti-terror” campaign against those occupying buildings in its troubled east.


Although Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did not specifically say Russia would launch a military attack, his comments bolstered wide concern that Russia could use any violence in eastern Ukraine as a pretext for sending in troops. Large contingents of Russian troops — tens of thousands, NATO says — are in place near the Ukrainian border.


“Russian citizens being attacked is an attack against the Russian Federation,” Lavrov said in an interview with Kremlin-funded satellite TV channel RT. “If our interests, our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians have been attacked directly, like they were in South Ossetia, I do not see any other way but to respond in full accordance with international law.”


It was unclear from the interview what Russia would regard as its interests in Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin previously has said Russia would be justified in protecting ethnic Russians in Ukraine.


Ukraine’s acting president on Tuesday ordered resumption of an “anti-terrorist operation” against pro-Russia forces that have seized police stations and government in at least 10 cities and towns in eastern Ukraine. The order came after the bodies of two people allegedly abducted by pro-Russia insurgents were found.


However, there were no reports Wednesday of any actions taken by the Ukrainian military or security services.


U.S. journalist being held by pro-Russia forces


Pro-Russia forces admitted Wednesday they are holding an American journalist, saying he was suspected of spying for Ukrainian ultra-nationalists.


Simon Ostrovsky, a journalist for the Brooklyn-based Vice News, has not been seen since early Tuesday in the eastern city of Slovyansk. The fluent Russian-speaker who also holds an Israeli passport has been covering the crisis in Ukraine for weeks and was reporting about the groups of masked gunmen seizing government buildings in one eastern Ukrainian city after another.


Ukraine Crimea Russia

Masked pro-Russia protestors guard barricades at the regional administration building that they had seized earlier in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday. (Sergei Grits/Associated Press)


The insurgents in the east are defying last week’s international agreement in Geneva that called for all sides to disarm militant groups in Ukraine and to vacate public buildings they are occupying.


Members of the nationalist Right Sector movement have occupied two buildings in the capital, Kyiv, for months, but Ukraine authorities have said the priority is to get the gunmen in eastern Ukraine to vacate the government buildings they hold.


U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Kyiv, the capital, on Tuesday to offer support to the beleaguered interim government.


Since November, Ukraine has been engulfed in its biggest political crisis since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union. Months of anti-government protests in Kiev culminated in President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing to Russia in late February.


Ukraine’s acting government has accused Russia of orchestrating the unrest in eastern Ukraine, which it fears Moscow could use as a pretext for an invasion. Last month, Russia annexed Crimea weeks after seizing control of the Black Sea peninsula.









Source Article from http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/ukraine-crisis-lavrov-vows-response-if-russians-attacked-in-ukraine-1.2618739?cmp=rss

Foreign minister vows response if Russians attacked in Ukraine



Russia’s foreign minister on Wednesday promised a firm response if its citizens or interests come under attack in Ukraine — a vow that came after Ukraine announced a renewal of its “anti-terror” campaign against those occupying buildings in its troubled east.


Although Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did not specifically say Russia would launch a military attack, his comments bolstered wide concern that Russia could use any violence in eastern Ukraine as a pretext for sending in troops. Large contingents of Russian troops — tens of thousands, NATO says — are in place near the Ukrainian border.


“Russian citizens being attacked is an attack against the Russian Federation,” Lavrov said in an interview with Kremlin-funded satellite TV channel RT. “If our interests, our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians have been attacked directly, like they were in South Ossetia, I do not see any other way but to respond in full accordance with international law.”


It was unclear from the interview what Russia would regard as its interests in Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin previously has said Russia would be justified in protecting ethnic Russians in Ukraine.


Ukraine’s acting president on Tuesday ordered resumption of an “anti-terrorist operation” against pro-Russia forces that have seized police stations and government in at least 10 cities and towns in eastern Ukraine. The order came after the bodies of two people allegedly abducted by pro-Russia insurgents were found.


However, there were no reports Wednesday of any actions taken by the Ukrainian military or security services.


U.S. journalist being held by pro-Russia forces


Pro-Russia forces admitted Wednesday they are holding an American journalist, saying he was suspected of spying for Ukrainian ultra-nationalists.


Simon Ostrovsky, a journalist for the Brooklyn-based Vice News, has not been seen since early Tuesday in the eastern city of Slovyansk. The fluent Russian-speaker who also holds an Israeli passport has been covering the crisis in Ukraine for weeks and was reporting about the groups of masked gunmen seizing government buildings in one eastern Ukrainian city after another.


Ukraine Crimea Russia

Masked pro-Russia protestors guard barricades at the regional administration building that they had seized earlier in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday. (Sergei Grits/Associated Press)


The insurgents in the east are defying last week’s international agreement in Geneva that called for all sides to disarm militant groups in Ukraine and to vacate public buildings they are occupying.


Members of the nationalist Right Sector movement have occupied two buildings in the capital, Kyiv, for months, but Ukraine authorities have said the priority is to get the gunmen in eastern Ukraine to vacate the government buildings they hold.


U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Kyiv, the capital, on Tuesday to offer support to the beleaguered interim government.


Since November, Ukraine has been engulfed in its biggest political crisis since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union. Months of anti-government protests in Kiev culminated in President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing to Russia in late February.


Ukraine’s acting government has accused Russia of orchestrating the unrest in eastern Ukraine, which it fears Moscow could use as a pretext for an invasion. Last month, Russia annexed Crimea weeks after seizing control of the Black Sea peninsula.









Source Article from http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/ukraine-crisis-lavrov-vows-response-if-russians-attacked-in-ukraine-1.2618739?cmp=rss

Bodies’ broken fingers suggest kids frantically tried to escape ferry

South Korean divers swam through dark, cold waters into a sunken ferry on Wednesday, feeling for children’s bodies with their hands in a maze of cabins, corridors and upturned decks as they searched for hundreds of missing.


The divers, with oxygen and communications lines trailing, can only see a few inches in front of them in the wreckage of the ship that started sinking a week ago after a sharp turn. Most of the victims were high school children, who were told to stay where they were for their own safety.


And most of the bodies found in the last two days had broken fingers, presumably from the children frantically trying to climb the walls or floors to escape in their last moments, media said.


“We are trained for hostile environments, but it’s hard to be brave when we meet bodies in dark water,” diver Hwang Dae-sik told Reuters, as the funerals of 25 students were held near the capital, Seoul.


Prosecutors investigating the disaster raided the home of Yoo Byung-un, the head of a family that owns the Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd, the company that operated the Sewol ferry. They also raided his son’s home and the office of a church with which Yoo has been associated, said a prosecutor who did not want to be identified.


The finances of Chonghaejin and its complex share structure have come into the spotlight in recent days. Yoo was jailed for fraud for four years in the early 1990s.


But it was not immediately clear how big a development this was. Korean police and prosecutors often make dramatic raids to show that progress is being made in a high-profile case.


Underwater, at the site of the sunken Sewol, divers are able to work for nearly an hour at a time as long as the oxygen lines do not snag on sharp corners of the ship’s internal structure. When they use cumbersome oxygen tanks on their backs instead, they can work for about 20 minutes before an alarm bell sounds.


South Korea Ship Sinking Captain Profile

Off-duty helmsman Oh Yong-seok, 57, of the sunken ferry Sewol speaks on a bed at Mokpo Hankook Hospital where he gets treatment for minor injuries in Mokpo, South Korea. He said the ship’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, was “generous, a really nice guy.” (Lee Won-cheol/Associated Press)


The Sewol sank last Wednesday on a routine trip from the port of Incheon, near Seoul, to the southern island of Jeju.


Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and teachers on a high school outing. Only 174 people have been rescued and the remainder are presumed to have drowned.


The confirmed death toll on Wednesday was 156, many found at the back of the ship on the fourth deck.


In a rare move, the disaster prompted reclusive North Korea, which routinely threatens the South with destruction, to send a message of sympathy. The two sides are still technically at war after the 1950-53 civil conflict ended in a mere truce.


“We express condolences for the missing and dead, including young students, from the sinking of the Sewol,” a South Korean Unification Ministry spokeswoman quoted the message as saying.


South Korea ferry

Relatives of a passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol and Buddhist monks pray for the safe return of missing passengers at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Wednesday. (Ahn Young-joon/Associated Press)


Hwang, the diver, said his team had retrieved 14 bodies so far. “We have to touch everything with our hands. This is the most gruelling and heartbreaking job of my career,” he said.


Captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, and other crew members have been arrested on negligence charges. Lee was also charged with undertaking an “excessive change of course without slowing down.”


Several crew members, including the captain, left the ferry as it was sinking, witnesses have said, after passengers were told to stay in their cabins, even though it was time for breakfast. President Park Geun-hye said on Monday that instruction was tantamount to an “act of murder”.


Law says captain must stay


“The charged crew members appear to have not carried out their duty to rescue the passengers at all,” prosecutor Ahn Sang-don told a briefing. “Based on the fact that they were gathered in the bridge, engine room and so on, then left the boat, we believe negligent homicide is applicable.”


According to Article 10 of Seafarers’ Act, a captain has to remain on board until all passengers have disembarked.


A boy with a shaking voice gave the first distress call to the emergency services when the ferry listed.


Most of those who survived made it out on deck and jumped into rescue boats, but many of the children did not leave their cabins, not questioning their elders, as is customary in hierarchical Korean society. They paid for their obedience with their lives.


Lee was not on the bridge when the ship turned. Navigation was in the hands of a 26-year-old third mate, who was in charge for the first time on that part of the journey, according to crew members.


The wife of one crew member under investigation who did not wish to be identified quoted her husband as saying: “I should have died out there.”


“He told me that he was taking some rest as he had finished his shift. He fell from his bed and struggled to open the room door to get out. He said he didn’t go to the steering house to meet up with rest of the crew. Rather, he was found by coastguards and was rescued.


“My husband didn’t get along with other crewmen, but he told me that Capt. Lee was someone comfortable and extremely calm. He said Capt. Lee was like no other: he didn’t drink much, although he did smoke.”



Source Article from http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/south-korea-ferry-divers-feel-for-children-s-bodies-in-dark-1.2618779?cmp=rss

Bodies’ broken fingers suggest kids frantically tried to escape ferry

South Korean divers swam through dark, cold waters into a sunken ferry on Wednesday, feeling for children’s bodies with their hands in a maze of cabins, corridors and upturned decks as they searched for hundreds of missing.


The divers, with oxygen and communications lines trailing, can only see a few inches in front of them in the wreckage of the ship that started sinking a week ago after a sharp turn. Most of the victims were high school children, who were told to stay where they were for their own safety.


And most of the bodies found in the last two days had broken fingers, presumably from the children frantically trying to climb the walls or floors to escape in their last moments, media said.


“We are trained for hostile environments, but it’s hard to be brave when we meet bodies in dark water,” diver Hwang Dae-sik told Reuters, as the funerals of 25 students were held near the capital, Seoul.


Prosecutors investigating the disaster raided the home of Yoo Byung-un, the head of a family that owns the Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd, the company that operated the Sewol ferry. They also raided his son’s home and the office of a church with which Yoo has been associated, said a prosecutor who did not want to be identified.


The finances of Chonghaejin and its complex share structure have come into the spotlight in recent days. Yoo was jailed for fraud for four years in the early 1990s.


But it was not immediately clear how big a development this was. Korean police and prosecutors often make dramatic raids to show that progress is being made in a high-profile case.


Underwater, at the site of the sunken Sewol, divers are able to work for nearly an hour at a time as long as the oxygen lines do not snag on sharp corners of the ship’s internal structure. When they use cumbersome oxygen tanks on their backs instead, they can work for about 20 minutes before an alarm bell sounds.


South Korea Ship Sinking Captain Profile

Off-duty helmsman Oh Yong-seok, 57, of the sunken ferry Sewol speaks on a bed at Mokpo Hankook Hospital where he gets treatment for minor injuries in Mokpo, South Korea. He said the ship’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, was “generous, a really nice guy.” (Lee Won-cheol/Associated Press)


The Sewol sank last Wednesday on a routine trip from the port of Incheon, near Seoul, to the southern island of Jeju.


Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and teachers on a high school outing. Only 174 people have been rescued and the remainder are presumed to have drowned.


The confirmed death toll on Wednesday was 156, many found at the back of the ship on the fourth deck.


In a rare move, the disaster prompted reclusive North Korea, which routinely threatens the South with destruction, to send a message of sympathy. The two sides are still technically at war after the 1950-53 civil conflict ended in a mere truce.


“We express condolences for the missing and dead, including young students, from the sinking of the Sewol,” a South Korean Unification Ministry spokeswoman quoted the message as saying.


South Korea ferry

Relatives of a passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol and Buddhist monks pray for the safe return of missing passengers at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Wednesday. (Ahn Young-joon/Associated Press)


Hwang, the diver, said his team had retrieved 14 bodies so far. “We have to touch everything with our hands. This is the most gruelling and heartbreaking job of my career,” he said.


Captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, and other crew members have been arrested on negligence charges. Lee was also charged with undertaking an “excessive change of course without slowing down.”


Several crew members, including the captain, left the ferry as it was sinking, witnesses have said, after passengers were told to stay in their cabins, even though it was time for breakfast. President Park Geun-hye said on Monday that instruction was tantamount to an “act of murder”.


Law says captain must stay


“The charged crew members appear to have not carried out their duty to rescue the passengers at all,” prosecutor Ahn Sang-don told a briefing. “Based on the fact that they were gathered in the bridge, engine room and so on, then left the boat, we believe negligent homicide is applicable.”


According to Article 10 of Seafarers’ Act, a captain has to remain on board until all passengers have disembarked.


A boy with a shaking voice gave the first distress call to the emergency services when the ferry listed.


Most of those who survived made it out on deck and jumped into rescue boats, but many of the children did not leave their cabins, not questioning their elders, as is customary in hierarchical Korean society. They paid for their obedience with their lives.


Lee was not on the bridge when the ship turned. Navigation was in the hands of a 26-year-old third mate, who was in charge for the first time on that part of the journey, according to crew members.


The wife of one crew member under investigation who did not wish to be identified quoted her husband as saying: “I should have died out there.”


“He told me that he was taking some rest as he had finished his shift. He fell from his bed and struggled to open the room door to get out. He said he didn’t go to the steering house to meet up with rest of the crew. Rather, he was found by coastguards and was rescued.


“My husband didn’t get along with other crewmen, but he told me that Capt. Lee was someone comfortable and extremely calm. He said Capt. Lee was like no other: he didn’t drink much, although he did smoke.”



Source Article from http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/south-korea-ferry-divers-feel-for-children-s-bodies-in-dark-1.2618779?cmp=rss

Blaze at industrial warehouse injures several firefighters

Four firefighters have been injured and one of them is in critical condition after battling a three-alarm fire at an industrial storage warehouse in Mississauga, Ont., early this morning.


The firefighters were being treated in hospital after a wall collapsed and an explosion at the facility at 2797 Thamesgate Drive, in Malton, just north of Toronto Pearson International Airport, reportedly trapped the four firefighters briefly. 


Mississauga Fire

Police say air quality is a major concern following the Mississauga, Ont., fire due the potential nature of the substances stored in the building, but strong winds are blowing smoke south from the blaze, toward Toronto’s Pearson airport. (Tony Smyth/CBC)


“They were right at the door, from the reports we’ve had from our personnel, when the building exploded. There was no advanced warning … it will obviously involve an extensive investigation to find out why that happened,” says City of Mississauga Deputy Fire Chief Greg Laing,


Mark Train, president of the Mississauga Fire Fighters Association, says the firefighter in critical condition has been transferred to a downtown Toronto hospital, and the three others who are injured are in stable condition. Police provided no specific details on their injuries.


The fire has been extinguished, but black smoke continues to billow from the building.  


Police say the building was used as a storage facility for aerosol cans of bug spray and butane lighters, but the cause of the fire has not yet been determined. 


Mississauga Fire

The fire at a Mississauga, Ont., warehouse Wednesday morning has been extinguished, but black smoke continues to billow from the building’s remains. (Linda Ward/CBC)

Peel Regional Police spokesperson Const. Thomas Ruttan says there are no current concerns about toxicity in the smoke coming from the building but people in the area are advised to avoid breathing in smoke if possible. Representatives from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment are on the scene to monitor public safety. 


Emergency crews were called to the blaze around 4:30 a.m. ET. All crews were ordered to leave the structure and battle the fire only from the exterior after a Mayday call went out following the wall collapse. 


Explosions could be heard in quick concession in the early morning hours, witnesses at the scene said. 


Airport Road between Derry Road East and Steeles Avenue East has been closed and police are telling drivers to avoid the area. Some GO transit services have been affected by the fire.





Source Article from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/firefighters-injured-battling-mississauga-industrial-warehouse-blaze-1.2618753?cmp=rss

Ron MacLean apologizes for Quebec refs comment

CBC hockey commentator Ron MacLean has apologized for his comment about French-Canadian referees during Tuesday night’s Stanley Cup playoff game between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning.


MacLean suggested during the second intermission that a French-Canadian referee should not be working the game. The context for his comment was a controversial call by another French-Canadian referee in the third game of the first-round playoff series that Lightning coach Jon Cooper said cost his team the game.


MacLean said the fact the NHL assigned another French-Canadian referee to officiate Game 4 was meant to send a message to Cooper.


MacLean’s view was challenged by fellow Hockey Night in Canada commentator Elliotte Friedman, who said it was “unfair” to suggest French-Canadian referees were partial to Montreal.


“So you’re saying there should never be a French referee in Quebec,” Friedman eventually asked MacLean.


940-maclean-ron

Hockey Night In Canada host Ron MacLean.

“Just this time, after what happened in Game 3,” MacLean replied.


The Canadiens beat Tampa Bay 4-3 to sweep the series and advance to the next round of the playoffs.


MacLean ‘didn’t intend to go down that path’


During CBC’s coverage of a later playoff game, MacLean tried to clarify his comments, saying he meant to say a “local referee” should not have been assigned to Game 4 given the controversy surrounding another local referee in the previous game.


“First of all, I want to say I’m sorry. It’s divisive any time you become about French and English in our country. But I didn’t intend to go down that path,” he said.


MacLean said excluding local referees would mean both anglophone and francophone officials from the Montreal area should not be assigned to Canadiens games.


MacLean also pointed out that it is common practice in international matches to use referees from a third country.


Critics of MacLean were quick to point out that the referee who made the controversial call in the third game of the Canadiens-Lightning series, Francis Charron, is from Gatineau, Que., which is closer to Ottawa than Montreal.

Source Article from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/ron-maclean-in-hotseat-over-comment-about-quebec-refs-1.2618801?cmp=rss

Why politicians don’t just say what they mean: Neil Macdonald


John Kerry, America’s ever-more-pontifical secretary of state, recently began an answer about Middle East peace negotiations by declaring, as he often does: “I want to make this crystal clear.”



He then went on to do the opposite, blathering on about “facilitation,” building eventually to this howler: “The president is desirous of trying to see how we can make our best efforts in order to find a way to facilitate.”



Listening, I marvelled. Why would such an accomplished, educated man gum up an answer so thoroughly?



Surely it would have been simpler to say the president wants to help.



I covered Kerry’s presidential run in 2004, and while he’s always liked pompous language, his rhetoric since becoming Obama’s top diplomat has become positively constipated.



I’ve seen this before. Joe Clark, once he became Brian Mulroney’s foreign affairs minister, starting talking about attending “international fora” (an archaic plural of forum) and being “seized with issues,” rather than just considering something.



Rick Scott, the governor of Florida, assured delegates heading to the GOP convention after a hurricane in 2012 that “there is not any anticipation there will be a cancellation.” A new documentary film’s title, The Unknown Known, mocks former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s tortured ruminations on the “known knowns and unknown knowns” of the Iraq War.


Anyone who’s ever covered politics has had to endure braying about “a full and frank exchange of views,” “at an appropriate point and time,” and the seemingly unstoppable “going forward,” often prefaced by a few sentences about how pleased the speaker is to say all this.


We are constantly being told what “the people” think or have collectively spoken, as though they were consulted, and, when a sin is exposed: “Mistakes were made. Are we perfect? No, we are not.” (No direct mention, of course, of who made the mistakes, or the fact that no one ever suggested the presence of perfection.)



Perhaps such affectations come from being surrounded by hyper-ambitious Ivy League-educated advisers who talk that way.



Or perhaps, as the famously incomprehensible French philosopher Michel Foucault once admitted, high officials fear that if they start speaking simply, they won’t be taken seriously by their audiences.



Of course, what they’re really doing is a public disservice. The average listener just tunes out.



But it isn’t just politicians who use a dozen words when one would do. The disease of opaque, deliberately obscure writing and speaking has infected bureaucracies, journalism, and academia. In the latter, it’s a pandemic.



My daughter, a senior at McGill, was recently puzzling over a criticism by Wahneema Lubiano, a professor at Duke University, of Spike Lee’s film Do the Right Thing.



Lee’s use of “vernacularity cannot guarantee counter-hegemonic cultural resistance,” chided Lubiano. “One can be caught up in Euro-American hegemony within the vernacular, and one can repeat the masculinism and heterosexism of vernacular culture. Vernacular language and cultural productions allow the possibility of discursive power disruptions, of cultural resistance — they do not guarantee it.”



A ‘sense of style’



Well, alrighty, then.



“Most academics … effortlessly dispense sludge,” writes Steven Pinker, the Harvard University psychologist and writer.


BOOK REVIEW STEVEN PINKER

Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker author of “The Stuff of Thought,” “The Better Angels of our Nature,” “How the Mind Works” and “The Language Instinct,” among others, is taking on the subject of clear writing next. (Rebecca Goldstein / Viking / Associated Press)



A Canadian, Pinker is considered one of the world’s leading thinkers about language, and his forthcoming book, The Sense of Style, is a plea for clarity.



He argues that while many scholars do groundbreaking work, and have important ideas, “their writing stinks.”



“There’s just a lot of bad writing out there,” he told me, and that has its consequences: “We pay for universities, we ought to be able to understand what comes out of them.”



Pinker’s book — he provided me with an advance peek when I called to talk to him about the subject — is neither a style guide, nor another rant about the need for fewer dangling participles and split infinitives.



In fact, he regards many English grammar rules as classist anachronisms originally designed in 18th-century Britain.



Instead, his is an argument for simplicity: “assumption of equality between writer and reader makes the reader feel like a genius,” he writes. “Bad writing makes the reader feel like a dunce.”



John Kerry, and every lawyer, academic, journalist and author might want to buy a copy once the book comes out in September.



Wads of fluff



Pinker has no patience with those who haughtily claim that complex, obscure language is useful and even necessary when speaking to a specialized audience — like, say, other diplomats or students.



A minority of academics, he says, do manage to write with grace and verve.



Pinker points to the physicist Brian Greene, who once explained the hideously complex theory of multiple universes using entertaining analogies, never resorting to the impenetrable jargon of his discipline.



(“We find ourselves in this universe and not another,” Greene said, “for much the same reason we find ourselves on Earth and not Neptune” — because it alone supports us. “Just as it takes a well-stocked shoe store to guarantee you’ll find your size, only a well-stocked multiverse can guarantee our universe, with its peculiar amount of dark energy, will be represented.”)



If a theoretical physicist can do that, there’s no excuse for others not to at least try.



Reading Pinker, a reporter should wince. I did.



In this book, he shines a pitiless light on our love of words like “framework,” “process,” and “model.” (I could easily add another 20 or 30).



These, he says, are meta-concepts, or “concepts about concepts.” He compares them to the layers of packaging material a customer has to hack through to get at the product.



And of course there’s our over-hedging — the use of qualifiers like “apparently,” “evidently,” “rather,” “comparatively” and “presumably.”



Editors call that journalistic caution. Pinker calls it “wads of fluff that imply [writers] are not willing to stand behind what they are saying.”



What really hurts, though, is his diagnosis of such writing: “In explaining any human shortcoming, the first tool I reach for is Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”



Ironically, he says, “it’s often the brightest and best-informed who suffer the most from it.”



Janice Stein, the head of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, applauds Pinker. Turgid prose like the film criticism my daughter was trying to figure out, she says, is just “a cruel assault on the language.”



Stein says Pinker’s book is part of what she calls a brewing revolt against obscurantist language in academia, which she contends is actually on the rise.



She asks her students to write in language their families could understand.



As they should. As should we all.










Source Article from http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/why-politicians-and-academics-don-t-just-say-what-they-mean-1.2618268?cmp=rss

Calgary stabbing victim Lawrence Hong to be remembered

Lawrence Hong

Lawrence Hong, 27, is being laid to rest on Wednesday. Funerals for the four other young people who died in last week’s mass stabbings have already taken place. (Facebook)

The final funeral for the five young adults stabbed to death last week in northwest Calgary takes place this afternoon.


A service for Lawrence Hong, 27, is set for 1:30 p.m. MT at the Centre Street Church in northeast Calgary.


Calgary Transit is making arrangements for a special bus service to the funeral because Hong — who was soon to graduate from the urban studies program at the University of Calgary — was such a strong supporter of sustainable transportation.


He was killed at a party in Brentwood that was marking the end of the university semester on April 15 along with Joshua Hunter, 23, Kaitlin Perras, 23, Zackariah Rathwell, 21, and ​Jordan Segura, 22.


Matthew de Grood, 22, is charged with five counts of first-degree murder. He has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric examination to determine if he is fit to stand trial. 

Source Article from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/calgary-stabbing-victim-lawrence-hong-to-be-remembered-1.2618875?cmp=rss