The Strange Christmas Decoration One Woman Says She Hangs on Her Tree Every YearPosted December 31, 2013 at 8:11 am by Sharona Schwartz
This may be the strangest way to decorate a Christmas tree: hanging a photo of the leader of Hezbollah. A Lebanese Christian woman named Randa Relam told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television that she hangs a picture of the radical Shiite group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah every Christmastime, honoring him on her tree.
“I hang the picture of Nasrallah on the tree every year as Jesus is our savior and Nasrallah is a gift from Allah and someone in whom we have great trust,” she told the channel, according an account posted on Ynet. “He has brought us great victories and his decisions are always the right ones.”
In an apparent effort to present a tolerant image of Hezbollah which the U.S. and others classify as a terrorist group, Al-Manar television devoted extensive coverage to the Christian holiday this year, broadcasting live feeds from masses in Lebanon, Syria and Bethlehem, France 24 reported.
Trying to improve its image in Lebanon is understandable considering Hezbollah faces unprecedented opposition domestically for its support of Syrian President Bashar Assad, having sent thousands of militants to fight alongside Syrian government forces.
Besides providing coverage of Christmas services on its television channel, Hezbollah also sent its officials to meet Christian leaders as they celebrated the holiday.
Viewers of the conservative Shiite channel also had a rare opportunity to see women interviewed while not wearing veils, as they were Christian.
France 24 spoke to locals who said they believe Hezbollah’s aim is to position the party as a protector of minorities while Al Qaeda-linked jihadi Sunnis flock to next-door Syria to try to depose Assad and establish a sharia state.
Al-Manar news editor Ali Hajj Youssef told France 24, “The channel is committed to openness toward others; this was always part of our culture, even before the start of the recent regional conflicts. We are, after all, all in the same boat in the face of the extremism that is threatening our region.”
A Lebanese Christian who didn’t want to provide his name believes Hezbollah wants to align itself with the Christian minority in the country, something he believes could benefit Christians in the future.
“Hezbollah is making it possible to create fraternal links with the Christian community. The goal is to create a common alliance in the face of Sunni extremism. This is a positive step for us Christians,” he told France 24.
“Hezbollah wants to be seen as a moderate party that opposes radical Sunni groups like the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” Lebanese journalist Ali Hamade told France 24, adding Hezbollah is trying to “legitimize” sending its militants to fight in Syria.
“Through this rebranding campaign, Hezbollah is trying to gain the support of undecided Christians. But this image of a moderate party and trusted interlocutor for the Christian community is being acquired through manipulation,” Hamade said, thus comparing Hezbollah with its backer Iran which since President Hassan Rouhani’s election has been trying to present a more moderate image to the west.
Christians make up about 40% of the population of Lebanon.
A Woman With the Name ‘Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele’ Just Scored a Big Win in HawaiiPosted December 31, 2013 at 8:07 am by Associated Press
HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii woman whose last name is 36 characters long has finally gotten the whole thing to fit on her driver’s license and state identification card.
Janice “Lokelani” Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele (KAY’-ee-hah-nah-EE’-coo-COW’-ah-KAH’-hee-HOO’-lee-heh-eh-KAH’-how-NAH-eh-leh) has a surname that consists of 35 letters plus an okina, a mark used in the Hawaiian alphabet. She received her new license and ID after her campaign to get her full name on the cards prompted the state Department of Transportation to change its policy to expand the number of characters that can appear.
Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele, 54, said Monday that she’s happy she was able to help fix the problem of identification cards lacking sufficient space for long names.
“Now, in the state of Hawaii, we are no longer second class citizens because of the length of our name,” she said.
Hawaii driver’s licenses and ID cards previously had room for names totaling up to 35 characters. The new policy allows 40 characters for last names, 40 for first names and 35 for middle names.
Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele got the name when she married her Hawaiian husband in 1992.
He used only the one name, which his grandfather gave him after it came to him in a dream.
Under the old policy, Hawaii County issued Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele her driver’s license and state ID with the last letter of her name chopped off. And it omitted her first name.
She told news media about the issue earlier this year after a policeman gave her a hard time about her driver’s license during a traffic stop.
Last month, the state Department of Transportation announced it expanded the character limits.
Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele is now hoping to get the Social Security Administration to allow more characters on its identification cards.
The agency’s cards have two lines for names. The first line has 26 spaces for first and middle names while the second line has 26 spaces for a last name and suffix.
Creationism vs. Evolution: Here’s Where Americans Currently Stand on Life’s OriginsPosted December 31, 2013 at 8:00 am by Billy Hallowell
Where, exactly, does the public stand on evolution and creationism? The answer is complicated and differs depending on how polling firms ask questions about life’s origins, but the Pew Research Center has new data exploring this phenomenon in detail.
According to Pew’s research, six-in-10 Americans believe that human beings and other living things “have evolved over time.” That said, 33 percent reject the notion of evolution and believe that humans and other living beings have existed in their current state “since the beginning of time.”
While 60 percent of those surveyed did report embracing evolution, some differences were observed among this cohort. Pew notes that about half of those who said they believe in human evolution embrace that it is “due to natural processes such as natural selection.” This amounts to about 32 percent of the adult public.
An additional 24 percent, though, believe that “a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today.”
If you add the group that believes no evolution has taken place (33 percent) to the group that embraces evolution, but believes God guided it (24 percent), then 57 percent of adults believe that God has had some role in human development.
Pew also noted that these results differed greatly among political party and theological perspectives.
Republicans (43 percent) are much less likely than Democrats (67 percent) to believe that humans have evolved. And evangelical Protestants (64 percent) are also much less likely than mainline Protestants (15 percent) to believe that people have existed in their current form since the beginning of time.
A separate study conducted by YouGov earlier this year found that nearly four-in-10 Americans (37 percent) believe that God created mankind in its present state. But that’s not all, as these individuals also contend that men and women were created within the last ten thousand years — a claim that many scientists would scoff at.
Additionally, in this latter study, 25 percent of Americans said that human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, but that God guided this process. This means that, combined, 62 percent of Americans believe that God played a role in human creation and development; this compares to 57 percent in the latest Pew study who believed the same.
The Pew results came from a sample of 1,983 adults aged 18 and older. These individuals were interviewed via landlines and cellphones, with a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.0 percentage points.
Read the complete results here.
Featured image via Shutterstock.com
Family Trying to Keep Brain-Dead Teen on Life Support Gets More TimePosted December 31, 2013 at 7:30 am by Liz Klimas
Story by the Associated Press; curated by Liz Klimas
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A California girl declared brain dead after tonsil surgery will remain on life support for at least another week after a state judge on Monday extended a deadline.
Jahi McMath’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, hailed the decision as an answer to her prayers and a sign that she has been right to keep fighting for the teen, who doctors have said will never recover.
With television cameras clustered outside the hospital, the family maintained a vigil as the deadline approached.
When Winkfield heard of the judge’s decision to push back the deadline, she wept and hugged relatives outside the hospital.
“Who wants to know the date and the time their child would die?” Winkfield said. “I don’t care what anyone has to say about what I’m doing. … I have to do what is right for me and for Jahi.”
She said she does not believe her daughter is dead because her heart is still beating.
Doctors at Children’s Hospital Oakland want to take her off the machines that are keeping her body functioning. Her family wants to continue life support, saying they have hope she will still pull through.
Shortly before a previous ruling would have allowed doctors to end life support at 5 p.m. Monday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo ordered the hospital to keep Jahi on a ventilator until Jan. 7 to give the family time to file a petition in state appellate court.
Grillo’s ruling Monday is the latest twist in a harrowing legal and medical fight that has reignited a heated debate about when life support should end for a severely brain-damaged person.
Also on Monday, the family’s lawyer filed suit in federal court, requesting that the hospital be compelled to perform a tracheotomy for breathing and to insert a feeding tube — procedures that would allow Jahi to be transferred to a facility willing to care for her. The hospital has said it’s unethical to perform surgery on a person who is legally dead.
Sam Singer, a hospital spokesman, said it would comply with the judge’s new order but would oppose any efforts by Jahi’s family to convince a court that she is still alive and entitled to the same rights as a living person.
“We are hopeful we will be successful so this tragedy can end,” Singer said.
He also dismissed claims by Jahi’s relatives that she has shown signs of life, saying any muscle activity was an involuntary muscle reflex.
The family’s lawyer, Christopher Dolan, said when he called Jahi’s mother at the hospital about the extension of the deadline, she said hospital staff had cleared family members out of a waiting room as doctors prepared to remove Jahi from the ventilator.
“He’s giving us a meaningful opportunity to seek relief and what I consider a stay of execution,” Dolan said of the judge’s ruling. “I feel like I’m a death row lawyer, and it does not feel good.”
The attorney said he knows he has been widely criticized by some for giving the girl’s family a false sense of hope. But he said, “I am fighting for the right of parents to direct the health care of their child and for them to make the choice.”
Doctors at Children’s Hospital and an independent pediatric neurologist from Stanford University have concluded Jahi is brain dead.
She underwent a tonsillectomy at the hospital Dec. 9 to treat sleep apnea and other issues. After she awoke from the operation, her family said, she started bleeding heavily and went into cardiac arrest. Then she was declared brain dead three days later.
In a declaration filed with the federal action by Jahi’s family, Dr. Paul Byrne, a pediatrician who has questioned the definition of brain death, said he visited Jahi’s bedside and observed her responding to her grandmother’s voice and touch with a squirming movement.
“In my professional opinion, she is not a cadaver,” Byrne said. “Her heart beats thousands of times a day.”
The family’s court filings said the New Beginnings Community Center in Medford, N.Y., is willing to take Jahi and provide 24-hour medical care. The facility’s management could not be reached for comment Monday night.
Arrangements also have been made, according to the documents, with an air ambulance company for a doctor to accompany Jahi on a private jet from Oakland to Long Island for $27,950.
By Monday night, the family’s fundraising website had raised more than $29,000 for a possible transfer.
Dolan said in a phone interview that he has also been in talks with a facility in Arizona because the family would like to keep Jahi as close as possible.
Earlier, Singer, the hospital spokesman, reiterated the position of its doctors.
“This is one of the most tragic situations imaginable,” Singer said. “A family has lost their young daughter. But unfortunately, Jahi is deceased. No amount of hope, prayer or medical procedures will bring her back.”
Hospital spokeswoman Cynthia Chiarappa has said officials would have to understand the capabilities of the New York facility before allowing a transfer. The hospital also said it would need to confirm there is lawful transportation included in any transfer plan and there is written permission from the coroner.
Associated Press writer Channing Joseph in San Francisco contributed to this report.
Will 2014 Be the Year Americans Finally Say Enough Is Enough?Posted December 31, 2013 at 12:30 am by Erica Ritz
On The Glenn Beck Program Monday, TheBlaze’s national security editor Buck Sexton took “a look back” at 2013, and considered what 2014 will hold for the American people.
“Will 2014 be the year the pendulum finally swings back away from progressives?” the guest host asked. “Can conservatives finally re-take the high ground?”
Sexton said the long list of scandals and debacles plaguing the Obama administration should pose an opportunity for those on the right to present a path to more individual liberty.
“How many more big government failures and scandals does one need before (people) realize, it ain’t working!” Sexton said. “I bet you’ve forgotten more Obama scandals and debacles than most administrations ever have.”
Sexton proceeded to reference the IRS targeting of conservative groups, NSA “spying,” the rollout of Obamacare, quantitative easing, millions wasted on green investments, Benghazi, Fast and Furious, and more.
As the former CIA officer described it, if we can’t “restore some semblance of liberty,” we “deserve our fate.”
Sexton added that the Obama administration isn’t the only political adversary facing conservatives. There is also increasing tension within the Republican Party itself.
“2014 is going to be a fight,” Sexton said simply, describing how voters will have to choose between the “moderate establishment candidate” and the “candidate who stands on Tea Party conservative principles.”
“Is 2014 the year people drop their allegiance to party?” Sexton asked. “Is this the year even those on the left realize that government has grown to dangerous and unprecedented levels of control? Is this the year people say enough is enough?”
“I sure hope so,” he concluded. “Because there’s only so much big government progressivism this country can withstand, and we are teetering close to the edge.”
The full episode of The Glenn Beck Program, along with many other live streaming shows and thousands of hours of on-demand content, is available on just about any digital device. Get it all with a FREE TRIAL.
Watch the 2009 Video That Has Phil Robertson Under Fire Yet AgainPosted December 31, 2013 at 12:06 am by Jason Howerton
Left-leaning bloggers have unearthed a 2009 video of embattled “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson that they claim features him advising grown men to marry underage girls. We will lay out exactly what he said, along with the short video that is circulating, and let you decide for yourself if that’s what he is advocating or if there is more to his comments.
During a Sportsmen’s Ministry retreat in Georgia back in 2009, Robertson starts by recalling a conversation he had with a young man who was dating a girl — but the two weren’t married. He says he provided the boy with some advice.
“Make sure that she can cook a meal. You need to eat some meals she cooks,” he said. “Make sure she carries her Bible — that will save you a lot of trouble down the road. And if she picks your ducks, now that’s a woman.”
He continued: “They got to where they’re getting hard to find. Mainly because these boys are waiting until they get to be about 20-years-old before they marry them. Look, you wait unit they get to be 20-years-old, the only picking that’s going to take place is your pocket. You gotta marry these girls when they are about 15 or 16 and they’ll pick your ducks.”
“You need to check with mom and dad about that of course,” Robertson advised. “The reason you Georgia boys can deer hunt, duck hunt, squirrel hunt, hog hunt, that’s the reason you can do it, what I’m holding in my hand right there. That’d be a Bible.”
While Robertson’s critics argue he was advising grown men to marry teenagers, others will say he was simply advising boys and girls to get married young. He married his own wife, Kay, when she was 16 and he was 20.
Further, he specifically references “these boys,” possibly indicating he was speaking directly to boys in the audience. The difference between the two statements is quite significant, though many media outlets reporting on the video don’t appear to be in a rush to confirm the context of the comments.
Those who watch “Duck Dynasty” also likely understand that there is often a dose of exaggerated humor in statements made by Robertson. But no one really knows for sure exactly what he meant, except for Robertson himself.
Because of the scrutiny already on Robertson, it’s likely he will address the remarks at some point and clarify them. Until then, speculation will run wild. Take our poll and let us know what you think:
He’s About to Find Out What Happens When You Throw Boiling Water in the Air in Subzero TemperaturesPosted December 30, 2013 at 10:45 pm by Oliver Darcy
A new video uploaded to the Internet Monday appears to show boiling water freeze almost instantly as it is tossed in midair on a subzero morning in Minnesota.
According to YouTube user Andrew Krueger, who uploaded the video, the footage was taken Monday morning near Duluth, where temperatures sunk to nearly 20 degrees below zero.
And, while the video is titled “Boiling Water Freezes in Midair on Subzero Morning,” Krueger notes that “not all of the water froze.” Nonetheless, it appears a lot of it did immediately vaporize midair.
Last year, a similar video titled “Instant Vapor” went viral on the Internet, achieving over 1-million views.
According to AccuWeather, “boiling water thrown into the air quickly freezes into tiny ice crystals” and “hot water can freeze faster than cold water thanks to the ‘Mpemba effect.’”
A University of California scientist theorized that this happens because a “lack of dissolved gas may change the ability of the water to conduct heat, or change the amount of heat needed to freeze a unit mass of water.”
Watch the video:
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‘I Didn’t Kill Enough, and I Didn’t Save Enough’: Medal of Honor Recipient Shares His Struggles With TheBlaze TVPosted December 30, 2013 at 10:30 pm by Erica Ritz
Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer spoke with TheBlaze’s Will Cain in a gut-wrenching interview about how he fought his way into an ambushed Afghan ravine five times in 2009, defying orders but saving dozens of lives.
“Bodies were everywhere,” the retired U.S. Marine said. “It was just — you know, you always try to picture the worst in your head, and it was just – it was the worst you could ever imagine, and then it was worse than that.”
The interview aired in a ‘Real News From TheBlaze’ special report Monday.
Meyer described how he didn’t think he was going to die — he “knew” he was. He recalled one time when, gunfire seeming to fly from every window, a man trapped him and began choking him. But Meyer managed to grab hold of a rock and bludgeon the man.
“I’ll never forget the first time I hit him, the look in his eyes,” Meyer said. “I mean you’re looking at a man face to face who’s fighting for his country and what he believes in just as much as you are. But it’s got to be one of you.”
But Meyer said he doesn’t regret killing his enemies. When asked how many people he saved, Meyer told Cain: “Not enough. Not enough.”
“Everybody asks, you know, ‘How many guys did you get out?’ Or, ‘How many guys did you kill?’ I didn’t kill enough, and I didn’t save enough,” Meyer said simply. “If I had saved enough, everybody would still be living, and if I’d killed enough, the war would be over.”
Watch more from the interview, below:
The full episode of The Glenn Beck Program, along with many other live streaming shows and thousands of hours of on-demand content, is available on just about any digital device. Get it all with a FREE TRIAL.
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- There’s Another ‘Lone Survivor’ Story You May Not Have Heard — But You Definitely Know His Name
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CNN’s Don Lemon Shreds ‘Smug’ MSNBC for Making Fun of Romney Family Photo Featuring Adopted Black GrandchildPosted December 30, 2013 at 10:13 pm by Jason Howerton
UPDATE: MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry apologized Tuesday for the remarks made about Mitt Romney’s adopted grandson. You can read more about it here.
CNN host Don Lemon is not giving MSNBC a pass for mocking Mitt Romney’s family photo, which featured his adopted black grandson. MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry and her panel apparently thought the black child being pictured alongside the white family was hysterical.
See our original story here.
Lemon argued that there would have been plenty of outrage if Fox News hosts had put on the exact same segment and even slammed MSNBC as an echo chamber that doesn’t allow any kind of diversity in opinion.
“If someone on Fox [said], ‘one of these things is not like the other,’ to a black baby in a white family, what do you think would happen?” Lemon asked Marc Lamont Hill.
Hill argued that the MSNBC panel didn’t make fun the baby, but rather Romney and the Republican Party. He said it wasn’t the best joke, but also wasn’t “inappropriate.”
Lemon then set his sights on MSNBC as a network, saying former Mitt Romney adviser Stuart Stevens had a point when he called the network “a club where the smug go to exchange hateful opinions and reassure each other it’s acceptable.”
Though Hill had nothing but praise for Harris-Perry, even he admitted that “pockets” of MSNBC can sometimes be “smug and condescending.”
“But a bunch of people on the left who all agree with each other and there’s no diversity of opinion…and saying mean, smug things about people who may disagree with them,” Lemon pressed.
Watch the segment via CNN below:
Also, Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher chronicles some of the “apologies” the MSNBC panel made following the backlash the segment sparked, here.
Why a New Debt Report Has Some Chinese Leaders WorriedPosted December 30, 2013 at 10:00 pm by Becket Adams
BEIJING (TheBlaze/AP) – China may be one of the United States’ top creditors, but that doesn’t mean the country is exempt from having debt issues of its own.
In fact, China’s local government debt has increased by approximately 70 percent over the past three years, according to an official audit Monday.
Local governments owe directly or have guaranteed 17.7 trillion yuan (roughly $2.9 trillion) in debts as of June, the National Audit Office reported.
That’s up from nearly $1.7 trillion at the end of 2010.
The report, which follows warnings rising debt could endanger China’s economic growth, has prompted Communist Party leaders to pledge to make getting debts under control an official priority.
The audit advises that local leaders find a way to reduce the alarming increase.
Debt still is “rising relatively fast,” the report said. It said local leaders need to tighten control over borrowing and create an “emergency response mechanism” for their stock of debt.
The Chinese central bank has tried to allay concern, saying debt risks are manageable. But private sector economists say the rapid increase is dangerous for the financial system.
The audit was ordered in July by the new government under President Xi Jinping, which took power in March.
In a statement last month following an annual planning meeting, ruling party leaders promised to make resolving local government debts an “important task.”
Chinese leaders are in the midst of a marathon effort to reduce reliance on trade and debt-fueled investment to drive economic growth. They are trying to shift to more sustainable growth supported by domestic consumption. But household spending is rising more slowly than planned, which has forced Beijing to prop up growth with spending on railway construction and other projects.
With central government borrowing added in, China’s total official debt stood at $4.9 trillion as of June 30, according to the audit report at least. True, this pales in comparison to U.S. debt, but the rapid increase in local government debt still has analysts worried.
A big share of the debt stems from spending on new airports and other public works as part of Beijing’s stimulus that supposedly helped China rebound from the 2008 financial crisis.
While Western governments borrowed directly to pay for their stimulus, China’s debt was concealed temporarily on the books of state banks. Analysts have warned the rapid increase in lending could lead to a rise in unpaid loans.
Local governments also borrow to pay for schools and other social programs that are promised but not paid for by the central government.
The total debt burden was obscured because local governments created separate investment agencies to pay for construction of highways and other infrastructure. Some have run into trouble raising revenues to repay lenders.
Monday’s audit report also cited problems including high debts for local industry, heavy reliance by local leaders on land sales to raise revenue and improper activities surrounding some government debt.
Auditors found some $2.2 billion that was improperly invested in stocks and real estate or spent on unauthorized construction, the report said. It said 69 people were implicated but gave no other details.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter
Featured image ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images.
This Could Be the Most Unpopular War in U.S. HistoryPosted December 30, 2013 at 9:15 pm by Oliver Darcy
Support for the war in Afghanistan has dropped to an all time low, possibly rendering it the most unpopular war ever in American history, according to a new CNN survey.
The poll released Monday found that 82 percent of the American public opposes the war, with only 17 percent firmly standing behind it.
The disapproval number is significantly up from four years ago, when only 46 percent of individuals asked opposed the war.
“Those numbers show the war in Afghanistan with far less support than other conflicts,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “Opposition to the Iraq war never got higher than 69% in CNN polling while U.S. troops were in that country, and while the Vietnam War was in progress, no more than six in 10 ever told Gallup’s interviewers that war was a mistake.”
According to the poll, 57 percent of people think the conflict is not going well for the U.S. and only a third think America is winning.
“Independents have a much gloomier view of the war in Afghanistan than Republicans or Democrats,” Holland said. “That may be because a Republican president started the war and a Democratic president has continued it, so there may be some residual support among people who identify with either party.”
Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter
The Applebee’s Experience That Costs a Jaw-Dropping $375 Per PersonPosted December 30, 2013 at 9:00 pm by Oliver Darcy
America’s “favorite neighbor” Applebee’s is offering their loyal customers the unique opportunity to spend New Years Eve in Times Square this year — for the mere price of $375.
According to the New York metropolitan area franchisee website, individuals can purchase the tickets at the “early bird rate” of nearly $400 to enjoy New Years Eve “steps away from the NYE Ball Drop” at two convenient locations.
“Be in the center of it all — and feel the electricity & excitement of a ‘real’ Times Square New Years Eve experience!” the website says.
For the jaw-dropping price, individuals can expect a “chef’s selection buffet” and a “premium open bar.”
The “non-stop fun” will also include “live entertainment” accompanied by a dance floor and champagne toast at midnight to ring in 2014.
Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter
Did Beyonce Really Use Audio From the Challenger Shuttle Tragedy in a Pop Song?Posted December 30, 2013 at 8:45 pm by Becket Adams
Multimillionaire pop star Beyonce Knowles is under fire for using audio from the 1986 space shuttle Challenger tragedy in a song on her new album.
The new song, titled “XO,” features audio of NASA public affairs officer Steve Nesbitt speaking during a live broadcast of the Challenger’s takeoff.
“(F)light controllers here looking very carefully at the situation … obviously a major malfunction,” Nesbitt can be heard saying in the Beyonce song.
Here’s audio of the 1986 explosion:
And here’s the song:
Although Beyonce’s album was released nearly two weeks ago, the issue of her using the Challenger audio didn’t come to light until former NASA employee, Keith Cowing, blasted the “repugnant” song in a blog post on Monday.
Retired astronaut Clayton Andersen, Challenger widow June Scobee Rodgers, and NASA have also come forward with statements on the issue.
“The Challenger accident is … a tragic reminder that space exploration is risky and should never be trivialized,” NASA said in a statement far more gentle than anything Cowing had to say.
Rodgers and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education said the following in a statement: “We were disappointed to learn that an audio clip from the day we lost our heroic Challenger crew was used in the song ‘XO’. The moment included in this song is an emotionally difficult one for the Challenger families, colleagues and friends.”
For her part, Beyonce claims the Challenger audio was used to “memorialize” the ship’s crew, the Washington Post reported.
Here’s what Beyonce said in a statement given to ABC News:
My heart goes out to the families of those lost in the Challenger disaster. The song ‘XO’ was recorded with the sincerest intention to help heal those who have lost loved ones and to remind us that unexpected things happen, so love and appreciate every minute that you have with those who mean the most to you. The songwriters included the audio in tribute to the unselfish work of the Challenger crew with hope that they will never be forgotten.
However, contrary to her statement, the song “XO” seems to be more about romantic relationships then it is about “memorializing” a national tragedy.
Further, as noted by Cowing, the song’s bizarre, carnival-themed music video has left many wondering whether the song is indeed about the men and women who lost their lives in the Challenger explosion.
Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter
Fake Punt Attempt in College Bowl Game Fails So MiserablyPosted December 30, 2013 at 8:24 pm by Jason Howerton
During the second quarter of the Music City Bowl on Monday, Georgia Tech attempted to fool Ole Miss with a fake punt play on 4th down.
The result was a few very embarrassing seconds. Watch via ESPN:
The play came on 4th-and-11 on the Rebels’ side of the field. Punter Sean Poole wasn’t touched, but he still ended up falling face-first onto the turf before he even reached the line of scrimmage.
Leading 13-7, Ole Miss took possession after the turnover on downs. However, the Rebels ended up missing a field goal on the drive, so at least the botched fake punt didn’t result in points for the other team.
Not surprisingly, the horrible play has already been uploaded on YouTube by ESPN as a “Not Top 10″ play.
(H/T: Bleacher Report)
NBC Chief Medical Editor: ‘I Think There Should Be … Single-Payer’Posted December 30, 2013 at 8:15 pm by Erica Ritz
NBC’s chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman said Monday that she believes “the biggest fix” to ensuring better and more affordable healthcare is more government.
“I think there should be a single-payer systems (sic),” she said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “And increasingly, you’re seeing physicians in their late fifties, sixties and seventies, who are saying, ‘You know what? We got it wrong. We should have taken Medicare, expanded it, and done it smarter.’”
Dr. Snyderman also discussed how one of the primary challenges facing the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – is getting the young and the healthy to sign up. Without them, the model cannot sustain itself.
“I made my kids sign up,” she said with a smile, “cause I just said, ‘This is your, you know, patriotic duty.’”
Newsbusters’ Mark Finkelstein commented: “Consider the implications of NBC/MSNBC choosing someone from the left-side of the spectrum as their chief voice on medicine.”
Watch the complete clip courtesy of MSNBC, below:
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- How Obamacare Has Changed One Family’s Situation to ‘It’s Either Eat or Buy Health Insurance’
‘Felony Stupid’: Armed Home Invasion Ends After Pair of Suspects Ask Victim for Ridiculous FavorPosted December 30, 2013 at 8:00 pm by Oliver Darcy
In an odd turn of events, a pair of home invasion suspects allegedly demanded their victim perform one bizarre act Saturday — tie them up and then identify them to Los Angeles police as victims.
Police say the bizarre scene unfolded after four suspects, armed with a shotgun and three handguns, allegedly entered a resident’s home just before 3 a.m., according to the Los Angeles Times. However, the resident spotted the alleged intruders on a home surveillance system and dialed 911.
When authorities arrived, one suspect was reportedly seen fleeing the scene and quickly nabbed by officers. Another ran and hid, leaving two of the alleged intruders inside the home.
That’s when the pair of suspects allegedly demanded the victim tie them up and also identify them to police as victims of the crime they were actually allegedly committing.
The resident obliged, tied them up, then walked out and told police what happened as the pair of suspects remained helplessly tied up inside.
Police did not immediately enter the residence and eventually the suspects “got tired of waiting” and walked outside, according to authorities.
“They came out, still tied up, thinking that we were going to believe they were victims also,” officer Norma Eisenman said. “That’s what you call felony stupid.”
The fourth was apprehended by officers after being caught hiding in the backyard. No injuries were reported in the bizarre home invasion and all suspects were successfully captured by police.
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Allen West: 6 ‘Disturbing Unanswered Questions’ About BenghaziPosted December 30, 2013 at 7:30 pm by Jason Howerton
Though the White House still considers the deadly Benghazi terror attack a “phony” scandal, former Florida Congressman Allen West still has several “disturbing unanswered questions” about what happened in Libya on Sept. 11, 2012. The terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi claimed the lives of four Americans — including a U.S. ambassador.
In an op-ed in the Washington Times on Monday, West writes that the “story of what happened that night when Americans were abandoned in Benghazi to die will not go away.” The former Republican congressman then lays out six unanswered and important questions that remain.
West’s top question is one that Congress and Americans have been trying to figure out for some time: “Why was U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi on 9-11? It should be standard practice that high value targets do not move around in hostile terrorist territory, which Benghazi was on that day.”
Take a look at West’s five remaining unanswered questions below:
• When the message came that the consulate was under attack, why were all immediate resources not allocated? As a former career Soldier who sat on the House Armed Services Committee, I am well aware of security protocols. Why weren’t they followed?
• Where was President Obama the evening of the attack? We were treated to all the White House situation room pictures of the raid on Osama bin Laden — but where are the photos from that night?
• According to the president, he ordered Secretary of Defense Panetta and CJCS General Dempsey to get the Americans in Benghazi the support they needed. If true, then who disobeyed the president’s order, and why did Obama never follow up with Panetta and Dempsey?
• Who came up with the video scapegoat excuse, and why was the U.N. ambassador called out for the Sunday shows and not the person responsible, the secretary of state?
• Ambassador Stevens had met with a Turkish representative in Benghazi, but why were his requests for additional security denied, and by whom?
West also provides his theory on what actually happened that night in Benghazi.
Here is my assessment: Ambassador Chris Stevens was sent into the heart of Islamic terrorist badlands, where the black al-Qaeda flags flew prominently, to negotiate an arms transfer from the Libyan rebels, al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood-supported terrorists groups through Turkey and into Syria to support those Islamic terrorist, rebel groups. Something went awry since intelligence chatter had picked up al-Qaeda leader al-Zawahiri calling for retribution attacks after the drone killing of an al-Qaeda leader.
Read West’s entire column here.
Which Liberal State Owes the Feds Big on Medicaid Overpayments?Posted December 30, 2013 at 7:00 pm by Fred Lucas
Maryland, one of the nation’s most liberal states, is now indebted to the federal government for $115.3 million in overpaid Medicaid grants.
The state increasingly known for its heavy taxing and spending policies, and more recently for having a troubled health care exchange website that almost mirrors the federal problem, obtained more Medicaid money than it spent from fiscal year 2009 through 2011, according report by the by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service Inspector General.
The title of the report is “Maryland Withdrew Excessive Federal Medicaid Funds for Fiscal Years 2009 through 2011.”
TheBlaze called a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene but did not get a response as of this writing. However, the department’s Secretary Joshua Sharfstein responded in a letter to the IG, objecting to the title, but agreeing with the findings of the report.
“The State concurs that $115,331,662 should be refunded,” said a letter from the Maryland’s Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Joshua Sharfstein. “During the period of time reflected in the audit, several reconciliation errors caused federals funds to be drawn in excess of the federal matched supported by CMS-64 reports. However, these errors did not alter the underlying integrity of the state constitution, nor did they substitute for state funds.”
Chief among those recommendations was “refund $115,331,662 to the federal government,” along with better monitoring on the part of the state to ensure that withdrawals are accurate.
“The state agency obtained Federal Medicaid funds for FYs 2009 through 2011 that were not supported by expenditures,” the IG report says.
Maryland obtained $12.88 billion in grants from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but spent $12.76 in expenditures, the IG found.
This is one of a series of state audits that the HHS IG will be doing. Under the Medicaid joint federal-state program that provides free health coverage for the poor, states estimate their quarterly Medicaid spending, which generally determines the amount of their grant. If the state underestimates the amount needed in a quarter, it can request more federal dollars. If a states makes receives grants in excess of the estimate – as Maryland did – the IG report says a state is expected to “reduce a future withdraw by the difference.”
Maryland didn’t do that.
It also comes as Maryland – one of the states that decided to establish its own health care marketplace under the Obamacare law – has had numerous problems with the Maryland exchange website for purchasing plans.
Since Gov. Martin O’Malley was first elected in 2006, Maryland has enacted two dozen tax hikes, legalized gay marriage, provided in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants, and has been one of the lowest rated states in job creation. The leanings of the state have even prompted a group of citizens in the more conservative western side of the state to talk about secession and starting a new state.
White House Official Responsible for Development of Obamacare Website to RetirePosted December 30, 2013 at 6:45 pm by Becket Adams
The White House official responsible for developing the error-plagued Obamacare website will retire at the end of the year, administration officials announced Monday.
Michelle Snyder, the “No. 2 official” responsible for the rollout of the health care law, according to The New York Times, is currently the chief operating officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, meaning she is responsible for the agency’s day-to-day activities.
She also oversees the agency’s budget and allocation of personnel, meaning the agency’s tech experts report to her.
Snyder’s exit will mark the second time since the healthcare.gov website first launched on Oct. 1 that a top Obamacare official has decided to part ways with the Obama administration.
Tony Trenkle, the Medicare agency’s former chief information officer, resigned in November.
Snyder will leave the agency “after 41 years of outstanding public service,” said Marilyn B. Tavenner, administrator of the Medicare agency in an email to agency employees.
“While we celebrate her distinguished career, we are also sadly saying farewell to a good friend and a key member of the agency’s leadership team,” Tavenner wrote. “Michelle’s intelligence, experience and formidable work ethic have been indispensable to me and to many of you during her tenure.”
Tim Love, Snyder’s deputy, will assume her duties in meantime, according to the The New York Times.
As of this writing, Snyder’s plans for the future are unknown.
“It’s her personal decision to retire now,” an agency official told the Times.
Snyder had reportedly planned on leaving the agency in 2012, but stayed on at the request of Tavenner.
Unsurprisingly, Snyder’s role in the development of the troubled Obamacare website and the timing of her exit has raised a few eyebrows.
“She had to go. She was responsible for the implementation of Obamacare. She controlled all the resources to get it done. She was in charge of information technology. She controlled personnel and budget,” a former agency official told the Times.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during a Congressional hearing on Oct. 30 specifically named Snyder as the person responsible for developing the Obamacare website.
Still, it’s worth noting that Sebelius followed up by saying, “Michelle Snyder is not responsible for those debacles. Hold me accountable for the debacle. I’m responsible.”
Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter
Reporter Passes Out in the Snow on Live TV – It’s What She Does After She Wakes Up That’s SurprisingPosted December 30, 2013 at 6:34 pm by Jason Howerton
A reporter with Salt Lake City’s KUTV suddenly passed out while she was giving a live report on cross-country skiing recently, and now her embarrassing moment is going viral.
KUTV reporter Brooke Graham fell backwards onto the snow fairly hard just as she asked a skiing expert her very first question.
When she came to, she displayed just how much of a professional she is by getting right back to the report. Graham finished the live shot from the ground. Watch below:
“After I went down I sat up and had no idea how long I had been out but saw the camera pointed at my face and decided to keep on talking,” the reporter later explained.
Graham also explained that she sometimes faints when she’s in high altitudes and freezing temperatures.
“I could feel myself getting light headed and tried to warn the producer that I was sick,” she said.
All in all, Graham is being a really good sport about the whole thing. She even suggested that someone should dub the song “Timber” over the video and play the fall in slow motion.
Note: A similar thing happened to TheBlaze’s Editor-in-Chief Scott Baker. That video can be seen here!
Obama’s Constant Pal During Hawaii TripPosted December 30, 2013 at 6:21 pm by Fred Lucas
During his year-end trip to Hawaii, President Barack Obama joined his longtime friend Bobby Titcomb – convicted two years ago on solicitation of prostitution – nearly every day of the trip for golfing at Mid-Pacific Country Club in Honolulu, as well as a barbecue and some college basketball.
Titcomb joined the president on the golf course along with the usual cast of golfers that included Obama friends and White House aides on Monday, just as he has since Dec. 21 when the first family began their outing.
Obama and Titcomb have known one another since high school.
On Saturday, Obama and his family attended a barbecue at Titcomb’s home.
On Dec. 22, Titcomb attended a college basketball game with the Obama family and the Michelle Obama’s family, the Robinsons, to see Akron take on Oregon in a game held there. The first lady’s brother Craig Robinson is the Oregon State basketball coach.
In the summer of 2011, the then-49-year-old Titcomb pleaded no contest to soliciting a prostitute in Hawaii. The judge agreed to dismiss the case in six months if Titcomb stayed out of trouble and paid a $500 fine, the Associated Press reported. The AP quoted Titcomb’s attorney saying his client didn’t fully agree with the facts of the case against him, but wanted to move on.
Others who golfed with the president over the last two weeks, according to the press pool report, were White House aides Marvin Nicholson and Sam Kass. It also included Chicago friends, medical executive Eric Whitaker and investors Marty Nesbitt and Andrew Dibble. Mike Ramos, who like Titcomb, was friends with Obama going back to high school, was also on the links with the group Monday.
Obama golfed with generally the same group of people each time, but Titcomb made every outing, as did Nicholson.
According to pool reports, the same group golfed on Sunday and Thursday golfed minus Dibble. On Christmas Eve, former White House aide Reggie Love joined the Obama, Titcomb, Ramos, Nicholson, Whitaker and Kass for golf. On Dec. 23, Obama golfed with just Titcomb, Nicholson and Whitaker. On Dec. 21, Obama golfed with Nicholson, Kass and Titcomb.
Report: The NSA Can Secretly Activate an iPhone’s Microphone, Camera… and That’s Not AllPosted December 30, 2013 at 6:15 pm by Oliver Darcy
The National Security Agency can remotely activate an iPhone’s camera and microphone without the user knowing, according to a leaked document obtained by German news magazine Der Spiegel.
The spy agency can also interrupt text messages, access contact lists and use cell towers to identify the location of the phone, according to The Daily Dot:
According to leaked documents, the NSA claims a 100 percent success rate when it comes to implanting iOS devices with spyware. The documents suggest that the NSA needs physical access to a device to install the spyware—something the agency has achieved by rerouting shipments of devices purchased online—but a remote version of the exploit is also in the works.
Here is the leaked doc:
The security researcher that initially obtained the documents noted that this presents one of two possibilities.
“Either [the NSA] have a huge collection of exploits that work against Apple products, meaning they are hoarding information about critical systems that American companies produce, and sabotaging them, or Apple sabotaged it themselves,” Jacob Appelbaum said at a conference.
“Do you think Apple helped them with that?” he asked. “I hope Apple will clarify that.”
Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter
Tim Tebow Just Landed a New JobPosted December 30, 2013 at 6:00 pm by Jason Howerton
Story by the Associated Press; curated by Jason Howerton
ATLANTA (AP) — Tim Tebow has his next football job – talking about the sport on TV.
The Heisman Trophy winner has been hired as a college football analyst for the new SEC Network in a return to his Florida glory days, but he still hopes to play quarterback in the NFL.
Tebow will appear on “SEC Nation,” a pregame show that will travel to a different campus each week after the channel launches in August. The multiyear deal “will not preclude him from continuing to pursue playing opportunities in the NFL,” ESPN, which runs the network, said in a statement Monday.
Tebow did not play in the league in 2013 after he was cut by the Patriots in August. In the span of just over one season, he went from a national sensation who led the Denver Broncos to the playoffs, to a backup, to out of the NFL.
“While I continue to pursue my dream of playing quarterback in the NFL, this is an amazing opportunity to be part of the unparalleled passion of college football and the SEC,” Tebow said in a statement released by ESPN.
ESPN senior vice president Justin Connolly called Tebow an “SEC icon with a national fan base and broad appeal.”
Tebow will make his ESPN debut during pregame coverage of the BCS championship Jan. 6.
After winning the 2007 Heisman and two national championships for the Gators in the SEC, Tebow became one of the biggest stories in the NFL in his second season. He went 7-1 in his first eight starts in 2011 then threw an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime to give the Broncos a 29-23 playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But he was still dogged by doubts about his passing ability, and Denver traded him that offseason to the New York Jets after acquiring Peyton Manning.
He languished on the bench while coach Rex Ryan ignored fans’ calls for Tebow to replace a struggling Mark Sanchez. Tebow threw just eight passes, ran only 32 times and was cut last April 29.
For six weeks no team wanted him until the Patriots signed him to a low-risk, two-year contract with no guaranteed money.
Feds Make Big Move on DronesPosted December 30, 2013 at 5:45 pm by Liz Klimas
Story by the Associated Press; curated by Liz Klimas.
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration announced six states on Monday that will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the unmanned aircraft’s march into U.S. skies.
The agency said Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia as states that will host research sites.
Drones have been mainly used by the military, but governments, businesses, farmers and others are making plans to join the market. Many universities are starting or expanding drone programs.
“These test sites will give us valuable information about how best to ensure the safe introduction of this advanced technology into our nation’s skies,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.
The FAA said when selecting the sites it considered geography, climate, location of ground infrastructure, research needs, airspace use, aviation experience and risk.
In the case of Alaska, the FAA cited a diverse set of test site range locations in seven climatic zones. New York’s site at Griffiss International Airport will look into integrating drones into the congested northeast airspace.
The state of North Dakota already has committed $5 million to the venture and named a former state Air National Guard Commander as its test site director.
The FAA does not allow commercial use of drones, but it is working to develop operational guidelines by the end of 2015, although officials concede the project may take longer than expected. The FAA projects some 7,500 commercial drones could be aloft within five years of getting widespread access to American airspace.
An industry-commissioned study last spring predicted more than 70,000 jobs would develop in the first three years after Congress loosens restrictions on U.S. skies. The same study projects an average salary range for a drone pilot between $85,000 and $115,000.
“Safety continues to be our first priority as we move forward with integrating unmanned systems into U.S. airspace,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in a statement. “We have successfully brought new technology into the nation’s aviation system for more than 50 years, and I have no doubt we will do the same with unmanned aircraft.”
Associated Press writer Dave Kolpack in Fargo, N.D., contributed to this report. Featured image via Shutterstock.
Going Viral: ‘The Price Is Right’ Contestant Reacts as Expected After Winning $157,000 CarPosted December 30, 2013 at 5:32 pm by Jason Howerton
A woman from Tacoma, Wash., won a $157,000 Audi R8 Spyder and $10,000 cash on “The Price Is Right” in an episode that aired on Monday, becoming the biggest winner in the history of the show’s daytime broadcast.
Sheree Heil was more than a little excited about winning the car too.
Heil won the car playing “Gas Money,” a game that gives players a chance to win a car and $10,000 cash. As soon as host Drew Carey announced that she had won, Heil screamed and ran around the stage excitedly, giving the model a hug and hopping into her new car.
Now, she’ll still have to pay taxes and other fees associated with the expensive vehicle, but it’s still quite a deal.
Watch the video via CBS below:
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