The Heartwarming Story of How a ‘Failed’ Service Dog Touched One FamilyPosted February 24, 2014 at 4:07 pm by Oliver Darcy
This black lab was always destined to help others. He just didn’t take the path most people expected him to follow.
Before he was scheduled to go to school to become a service dog, Pesto — then a puppy — became a regular at the Aurora Public Library in Colorado. Kimistry Howard and her two disabled boys, who were being homeschooled, were also regulars.
One day they all met. Howard says she felt a connection with the dog like no other.
“This beautiful puppy came into this room. I said I never believed in love at first sight, well, I had love at first sight,” she told WXIA-TV. “It’s a love story from beginning to end and it’s not over.”
The two boys, one with autism and the other with a rare spinal disorder, fell in love with Pesto. They were inseparable.
But, the black lab would eventually have to say goodbye to the family, leaving them behind for training to become a certified service dog.
And, while the boys missed him, they always wanted the best for Pesto.
“We wanted him to be placed with a phenomenal human being that would love him as much as we’ve seen him be able to love an entire library of people,” Howard told WXIA-TV.
Pesto passed all of his tests with flying colors. Howard was expecting to receive a call, saying he’d been placed with a loving family, but that’s when something surprising happened.
“Then it wasn’t that call it was a different call,” she said.
Pesto was not going to be a service dog, after all.
“I couldn’t believe he didn’t pass, but they said he didn’t graduate,” Howard said.
Instead, the black lab that had touched Howard’s family would return back to Colorado. Two years later, he comforts Howard’s boys, helping them with day-to-day tasks.
Howard told WXIA-TV that she is convinced Pesto intentionally failed so he could be reunited with her family.
“It’s so beautiful they say he failed,” she said. “What I’m convinced is Pesto made a choice.”
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Bank Teller’s Priceless Reaction to a Robbery AttemptPosted February 24, 2014 at 3:33 pm by Becket Adams
A Chinese bank teller seemed totally unfazed by one man’s attempt to hold up her bank, at one point even turning to her colleagues and actually laughing out loud during the ordeal.
Police arrested the would-be robber in Shanghai, China, after he tried unsuccessfully to rob a bank with a meat cleaver.
Talking on a phone, the man walked into a China Construction Bank and at first looked like he was going to pull the fire alarm, according to the Chinese website XinhuaNet.
A nearby security officer reportedly chased him away from the fire alarm, prompting the perpetrator to produce the meat cleaver and announce, “This is a robbery!”
Still on the phone, the man approached the teller’s station. But there was a problem: Separating the man from the teller was a plate of bulletproof glass.
The teller was obviously amused by the whole situation and it showed:
The man was quickly subdued by a nearby security guard and later taken into custody by Shanghai authorities.
Law enforcement officials are reportedly interested in evaluating the man’s mental state, Xinhuanet reported.
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Challenging the Long-Held Notion That Israeli Settlements Are ‘Illegal’Posted February 24, 2014 at 3:17 pm by Sharona Schwartz
It’s an almost undisputed consensus in diplomatic circles and much of the media that Israeli settlements are “illegal” or “illegitimate.” In news organizations like Al Jazeera, the adjective and noun “illegal settlement” are practically inseparable.
Australia’s foreign minister, therefore, caused quite a stir last month when she suggested that settlements may not be illegal under international law and that people should stop calling them illegal until their status is determined by Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
“I would like to see which international law has declared them illegal,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the Times of Israel.
Her remark stirred outrage from Palestinians and their supporters. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat accused Bishop of trying to “reinvent international law,” writing in the Sydney Morning Herald that it “does not allow acquiring land through the use of force.”
But, as Bishop asked, is international law clear-cut?
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has referred to settlements as “illegitimate” — as did his predecessor Hillary Clinton — and unhelpful to the peace process. Similar assessments have been voiced by administrations prior to President Barack Obama’s and have not been limited to Democrats.
“Every administration in recent memory has said that the settlements are illegitimate,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in November. “So it’s been a pretty consistent position for quite some time now.”
Palestinian negotiator Erakat, who called settlements “colonies” and settlement building activity a “war crime,” based the core of his argument on the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which, he wrote, “prohibits Israel, as an occupying power, from directly or indirectly transferring its citizens into occupied Palestinian territory.”
The Geneva document reads: “[t]he Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
Israel’s parliament held a hearing to discuss the legality issue which is a key talking point used by supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel and pro-Palestinian students spearheading the so-called “Israel Apartheid Week” which kicked off on U.S. campuses Monday.
“If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth,” Harel Arnon of the pro-settlement Legal Grounds Coalition told lawmakers. “One of the biggest lies, which is feeding the wild incitement campaign that Israel has been dealing with over the last few years, is that Israel is unlawfully occupying Judea and Samaria, and that the presence of the settlements and of Israelis in Judea and Samaria is a violation of international law.”
William Jacobson, professor at Cornell Law School and author of the blog Legal Insurrection, told TheBlaze in an email that there are “serious and substantial arguments that Israel does not illegally occupy the West Bank, as well as that Israel has not illegally transferred population into that territory.”
In a 2010 column for the American Interest, Nicholas Rostow, then-counsel and vice chancellor for legal affairs at the State University of New York and today director of the Center for Strategic Research at National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies, described five of the arguments made by those who disagree that the Geneva Convention prohibits Jewish Israelis from living legally in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
In their view, the Geneva Convention is inapplicable because under Article 2, the Convention applies only to territory that is occupied by “a High Contracting Party.” Because no country has a legally recognized claim to the “occupied territories,” the argument goes, the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem do not belong to any contracting party.
Rostow wrote: “In making this argument, advocates of legality stress that the international community did not recognize Jordan’s annexation of the West Bank and that now Jordan has withdrawn its claim.”
Jordan formally annexed the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1950. Rostow explained that only Britain and Pakistan recognized the annexation of the West Bank, but that Britain would not recognize the annexation of Jerusalem. The Arab states did not recognize Jordan’s annexation of both the West Bank and Jerusalem, decisions that contribute to today’s questions about ultimate ownership of the land.
A second argument for legality of settlements is that “even if the Geneva Convention does apply, it was not directed at the kind of activity undertaken by Israel,” Rostow wrote.
Morris Abram, a member of the U.S. staff at the Nuremberg Tribunal who contributed to the writing of the Fourth Geneva Convention, once said that Article 49 of the Geneva Convention was aimed at the Nazis’ forced transfer of large populations to concentration camps and was not designed to apply to Israeli settlements.
“Proponents of this view argue that the nature and extent of Israeli settlements in the West Bank do not threaten the native population and therefore would not violate the Geneva Convention even if it applied,” Rostow wrote.
Those who argue that settlements are legal make a third argument, Rostow said: that the Geneva Conventions do not prohibit Jewish settlements, because Britain’s “Palestine Mandate granted extensive rights to Jews in Palestine and that, until the final status of a particular area is resolved, there is no legal basis for barring Jews from settling there.”
Another argument for legality asserts that because Jordan, the previous holder of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, had seized the territory unlawfully “the state subsequently taking the territory in lawful exercise of self-defense has, against the unlawful prior holder, better title,” Rostow said. Israel captured both the West Bank and Jerusalem in defending itself from Jordan and other Arab armies during the 1967 war.
The fifth argument that Rostow detailed rests on Jews’ historical claim to the land of Israel as described in the Bible, and the Jews’ continuous historical presence in the land for thousands of years, though this is not an argument based on modern law.
The “illegal settlement” mantra is the cornerstone of the push by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and allied groups like Code Pink in their effort to convince consumers to boycott products manufactured in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. It has also been the basis of their criticism of actress Scarlett Johansson who joined the Israeli company SodaStream as a brand ambassador.
Daniel Mandel, director of the Zionist Organization of America’s Center for Middle East Policy, wrote in the Canberra Times this month that because Jewish settlers have not been transferred forcibly to communities in the West Bank, but rather wanted to move there, Article 49 of Geneva does not apply.
“Palestinians are not being deported from the West Bank to another territory. Nor are Jews being deported from Israel to the West Bank; they are moving of their own free will,” Mandel wrote.
Mandel supported the Australian foreign minister’s skepticism regarding the “flat-earth assertion” that settlements are illegal, writing:
The West Bank, illegally seized by Jordan in 1948, captured by Israel following Jordanian attack in 1967, is unallocated territory under international law. Only Israeli annexation or an Arab/Israeli agreement could alter its status – neither of which have occurred. In short, Article 49 has no bearing on the situation, as it deals solely with sovereign territories.
The original international decision at the 1920 San Remo Conference earmarking this territory for Jewish settlement has never been superseded by an internationally binding agreement. The 1947 UN partition plan, which sought to create Arab and Jewish states, could have been such an agreement, but it was rejected by the Arab powers and Palestinian Arabs. Being a UN General Assembly resolution, the plan had no legal force of its own.
Last year, Jacobson, the Cornell professor, directed readers to what he described as “one of the best explanations” of the legal status of the disputed territories, delivered by Northwestern University law professor Eugene Kontorovich.
“He puts the lie to the currently fashionable notion that the ‘1967 borders’ have any legal or historical significance, and demonstrates that Israel does not ‘illegally occupy’ the West Bank. In fact, it was Jordan which illegally occupied the West Bank prior to 1967,” Jacobson wrote.
Pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon who attended Kontorovich’s 2012 lecture wrote of the presentation that decades of decisions by international players and armistice agreements such as in 1949 failed to establish legal borders and therefore do not offer incontrovertible backing to Palestinian claims to ownership of the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
That point was echoed in Rostow’s survey in the American Interest: “Since 1949, despite several wars, innumerable U.N. resolutions, and endless argument about the relative merits of claims to the lands of the Mandate, the status of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem has never been resolved finally as a legal matter.”
“If the Arabs had accepted the 1947 Partition Plan, then the further partition of Palestine into an Arab and Jewish state would have legal weight. But since they didn’t, the Jewish claim on all of Palestine remained in force,” Elder of Ziyon wrote, summarizing one of Kontorovich’s explanations. “Kontorovich said that there is a big question in international law about whether one can legally acquire territory via conquest in a defensive war. He looked up five sources written before 1967 on the question; two said yes, two said no and one didn’t think about it.”
Those supporting the notion that settlements are legal also cite the 1967 U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 which called for “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” They note that the phrase used was “territories occupied” not “the territories occupied,” leaving open the exact boundaries to which Israel was being called on to withdraw.
In 2004, the U.N.’s International Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion that Israeli settlements are illegal. The website Myths and Facts presented arguments here about why it believes that decision was misguided.
Emphasizing the power of words, Myths and Facts described the evolution of U.N. resolution phrasing which gradually adopted as fact Palestinian ownership of land that as some legal scholars have suggested, may not be an established fact.
“Examination reveals how over the years U.N. General Assembly resolutions and the wording of resolutions by sub-committees moves from ‘territories’ to ‘occupied territories’ to ‘Occupied Territories’ and ‘Arab territories’ to ‘occupied Palestinian territories’ to ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory’ and ‘occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem,’” the site wrote.
Hot List: Animals Running for Political OfficePosted February 24, 2014 at 3:00 pm by Amy Holmes
Amy Holmes takes a look at some four-legged friends who “ran” for office:
Mysterious Illness in California Hits Two Dozen Kids — and the ‘Best-Case Scenario’ Is TerrifyingPosted February 24, 2014 at 2:53 pm by Liz Klimas
Up to two dozen children in California have been struck with a polio-like syndrome that doctors say is leaving them with paralyzed limbs even in the best of cases.
“Although poliovirus has been eradicated from most of the globe, other viruses can also injure the spine, leading to a polio-like syndrome,” Dr. Keith Van Haren, a pediatric neurologist at Stanford University’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, said in a statement. “In the past decade, newly identified strains of enterovirus have been linked to polio-like outbreaks among children in Asia and Australia.”
Van Haren thinks something similar could be happening in California.
According to USA Today, the first case in California emerged in 2012 with then-2-year-old Sofia Jarvis. Two years later, Jarvis can’t move her left arm and has trouble with her left leg.
Van Haren and his colleagues began looking into the polio-like illness after seeing others similar to Jarvis. Children who exhibited sudden paralysis were included in the state’s Neurologic and Surveillance Testing program from August 2012 to July 2013. The news release about the case study stated that all the children had received the polio vaccine.
“What’s we’re seeing now is bad. The best-case scenario is complete loss of one limb, the worst is all four limbs, with respiratory insufficiency, as well. It’s like the old polio,” Van Haren told USA Today.
He said that there could be up to 25 cases in the state.
But Van Haren doesn’t want parents to panic.
“We would like to stress that this syndrome appears to be very, very rare. Any time a parent sees symptoms of paralysis in a child, the child should be seen by a doctor right away,” he said.
Five children in the case study experienced paralysis of at least one of their limbs with the full severity of the symptoms coming on in just a couple of days. Of this group, two were found to have enterovirus-68, which has been associated with polio-like symptoms but no cause was found in the other three children.
USA Today reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with Van Haren to see if any cases outside of California have occurred. None have been reported so far.
Dr. Carol Glaser with the California Department of Public Health said doctors should report any cases of children experiencing sudden paralysis.
“We want to hear from local public health jurisdictions and physicians who are seeing similar illnesses,” Glaser told the Los Angeles Times.
The case report was released this week and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 66th annual meeting in April.
Watch Monday’s BlazeCast Rewind: Insights on Justina Pelletier CasePosted February 24, 2014 at 2:49 pm by Scott Baker
This broadcast with TheBlaze Editor-in-Chief Scott Baker will begin at 3pm ET.
To join the chat — there is a button on the top right of the player window or you can hover your cursor over the player window for options.
To ask a question — click the button at the bottom. We’ll be able to display your question or comment in the player window!
And as always you can leave other comments in the regular comment section below!
Seven Egyptian Christians Found Killed ‘Execution-Style’ on Libyan BeachPosted February 24, 2014 at 2:19 pm by Erica Ritz
Seven Egyptian Christians were found shot dead on a beach in eastern Libya Monday, security officials and local residents told Reuters.
“They were killed by headshots in execution style,” a police officer said. “We don’t know who killed them.”
The Egyptians were living in Benghazi and, according to a local Egyptian worker who asked not to be identified, were kidnapped and dragged away from their homes Sunday night.
Though no one has claimed responsibility for the brutal attack, Reuters reported that Islamist militants remain active in the Benghazi area, and assassinations, kidnappings and car bombs are not uncommon. In the wake of the “Arab Spring” movement that swept Moammar Gadhafi from power, the country has struggled to control the well-armed militias that joined in the fighting.
On Sept. 11, 2012, heavily armed militants attacked a U.S. diplomatic outpost in the city, killing four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. More than a year later, the attack on the Egyptian Christians marks the second execution-style killing of 2014; a British man and a woman from New Zealand were shot in the same style on a beach west of Tripoli in January. The two were working for an oil and gas plant in the area and had decided to have a picnic on the beach.
Tens of thousands of Egyptians are living in Libya, many working as laborers. In January, according to the AFP, gunmen kidnapped five Egyptian diplomats in Tripoli and held them for several hours.
Dash-Cam Video Reveals What Really Happened When Cops Arrested Man During Traffic StopPosted February 24, 2014 at 2:00 pm by Oliver Darcy
New Jersey prosecutors have dropped all charges against a man accused of assault, eluding police and resisting arrest following the release of new dash-cam video that proved his innocence.
Marcus Jeter, 30, was facing years in prison and says he would have been convicted had the video not surfaced. Now, it’s the officers seen in the video striking Jeter — clearly not resisting and with his hands up — who are facing face charges.
“I’d be in jail,” he told WABC-TV, adding that his “first plea was five years.”
The video, which was only turned over after Jeter’s lawyer filed a request for the records, documents the 2012 incident with Bloomfield police.
It started when officers were called to the home he shared with his girlfriend, according to WABC-TV. No charges were filed and Jeter peacefully left after speaking with police.
“They say you eluded police,” WABC-TV reporter Sarah Wallace told Jeter in an interview.
“When they got behind me, I pulled over,” he replied.
Dash-cam video shows exactly that. It clearly shows Jeter pulling over and stopping on the highway.
Moments later, officers drew their guns and another squad car crossed over the median into oncoming traffic, striking Jeter’s car. There was no mention of that additional squad in the police report.
“It was incredible, I didn’t believe it at that point in time,” he told WABC. “The next thing I know, one of them busts the door and there is glass all over my face.”
Jeter can be seen in the new dash-cam video with his hands up, not resisting. Meanwhile, officers continue hitting the 30-year-old, shouting “do not resist” while repeatedly striking him.
“All I keep saying is I’m not doing anything,” Jeter recounted. “They handcuffed me and one of them hits me in the back.”
When prosecutors viewed the footage, all charges were immediately dropped. Two Bloomfield officers have now been indicted for falsifying reports. A third has already pleaded guilty to tampering.
An investigation launched by internal affairs concluded that there had been no wrongdoing by officers, WABC reported.
“I believe the blame is with the Bloomfield police department for not providing that tape,” said Steven Brown, Jeter’s attorney. “If we hadn’t had the tapes in this case, an innocent man would be in jail today.”
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Judge Rules to Put Justina Pelletier in Foster Care, Father SaysPosted February 24, 2014 at 1:51 pm by Liz Klimas
The Suffolk County Judge Joseph Johnson presiding over the case of Justina Pelletier in Boston ruled Monday to put the 15-year-old in foster care, according to the teenager’s father.
“It’s a foster care facility,” Lou Pelletier told TheBlaze, specifying that his daughter will be transfered to Shared Living Collaborative in Merrimac, Mass.
Ahead of Lou Pelletier speaking with the media, WTIC-TV’s reporter Beau Berman tweeted the courtroom news attributing it to “Reverend” at the time:
Berman later said said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the D.C.-based Christian Defense Coalition, briefed the media outside Suffolk County Juvenile Court where the hearing took place and is speaking on the family’s behalf.
Berman also said Mat Staver, founder and chairman with Liberty Counsel, was serving in a similar role. Staver said in an interview with TheBlaze Monday afternoon that while he wasn’t allowed in the court room, he was informed by the family’s local lawyer and others that the judge ruled Justina be moved into foster care at a non-medical facility.
Staver explained that he wasn’t allowed in the court room while this decision was made because he had to motion to be allowed in as an attorney for the family. The judge didn’t immediately grant this motion, Staver said, and is allowing DCF 48 hours to contest it.
The teenager from West Hartford, Conn., became the subject of the custody battle between her parents — Lou and Linda Pelletier — and the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families after they disagreed with physicians at Boston Children’s Hospital over a medical diagnosis that was issued by a doctor at Tufts Medical Center.
For the last year, the Pelletiers have been in and out of court while their daughter remained in a psychiatric ward at BCH, until a few weeks ago when she was moved to another facility.
The Pelletier family’s reaction to today’s news was emotional. Lou Pelletier was seen yelling and at one point sitting on a bench crying, while Linda Pelletier fainted and was on her way to the hospital for evaluation, Staver said.
Berman tweeted more on the immediate reaction of the family.
Mahoney posted a picture of Linda being attended to by paramedics. Brewer also tweeted a picture of her being taken away in an ambulance:
Linda Pelletier, the mother of Justine, passed out in court after they Ordered her to a nonmedical facility. pic.twitter.com/cZawNLn10C
— Rev. Patrick Mahoney (@revmahoney) February 24, 2014
— Beau Berman WTIC TV (@BeauBermanFOXCT) February 24, 2014
Rhondella Richardson with WCVB-TV tweeted that Lou Pelletier was “crying” on a court bench while the family paced the halls directly after the ruling, not yet allowing an interview.
After the decision, Lou Pelletier told a producer at TheBlaze that the system was corrupt and the country could go to hell.
Ahead of the hearing, protesters organized in support of the Pelletier family holding signs that read “you can’t gag America” — alluding to the gag order imposed on Lou Pelletier, which DCF filed a motion last week asking that he be held in contempt of court for breaking — and “free Justina.”
“The Justina Pellitier case represents a troubling and disturbing trend of government officials usurping the rights of parents and disregarding their unique and special role in raising their children,” Rev. Mahoney, who organized events to support Terri Schiavo in Florida up until 2005, said in a statement ahead of the decision. “We call upon the State of Massachusetts to immediately return Justina into the loving arms of her parents so the healing process can move forward. We also call upon the faith community and people of good will across the nation to work tirelessly and passionately until this family is reunited.”
Staver told TheBlaze that while the “whole day was shocking,” the judge set dates for two new hearings on March 17 and March 24 to address the care and custody of Justina Pelletier further and to hear the case on Lou Pelletier’s alleged gag order violation. Staver plans to address whether the gag order was constitutional in the first place as well.
“Yesterday, I thought it was going to be agree upon that Tufts would be taking over her medical care,” Lou Pelletier told TheBlaze Tuesday.
Lou Pelletier said his family has been “teased with a carrot” that they could get Justina back. He said that the judge is asking that the family’s lawyer present the plan with doctors for Justina’s care for review but noted that they’ve been asked to present this information twice already.
Though Justina will be in a non-medical facility for the time being, Staver said she will be getting some medical treatment, though he did not specify what it would entail. Lou Pelletier said that he believes BCH doctors could still be “pushing behavioral modification,” which he considers “inhumane criminal behavior” on the part of the physicians.
Even with this latest decision, Staver said the family has hope.
“The hope is that soon custody and care will be put back with parents,” he said. “Yes, there’s still hope. They’re just kind of at their wits end.”
UPDATE: Author Liz Klimas joined Editor-in-Chief Scott Baker to discuss details of the case during Monday’s BlazeCast. You can watch that below:
This post has been updated to include TheBlaze’s interview with Lou Pelletier.
Ousted Piers Morgan Shoots Off One Final Warning to the NRAPosted February 24, 2014 at 1:21 pm by Becket Adams
His CNN show is ending, but Piers Morgan warned the National Rifle Association on Monday that he’s “not done” with them.
“I wouldn’t get too excited @NRA – I’m not done with you yet,” Morgan tweeted.
CNN confirmed that “Piers Morgan Live” is going off the air after suffering perennially low ratings, though has not said when the final show will air. The New York Times reported it will end “probably in March.”
During his tenure on the program, Morgan has made himself a clear opponent of the NRA.
After reports of the show’s cancellation surfaced Sunday, the NRA tweeted the news from its official Twitter account, presumably prompting the tweet back from Morgan.
The NRA did not respond to Morgan’s warning.
Morgan is reportedly in talks with CNN to stay on in some capacity, though it’s unclear what that would be.
(H/T: Washington Examiner)
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‘Ghostbusters’ Writer, Actor Harold Ramis Dies at 69Posted February 24, 2014 at 12:54 pm by Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Comedy actor, director and writer Harold Ramis, best known for his roles in movies such as “Ghostbusters” and “Stripes,” died Monday at his suburban Chicago home after a four-year battle with an autoimmune disease, his talent agency said.
Ramis, 69, died early Monday morning of complications from vasculitis, which causes inflammation and damage to blood vessels, said Chris Day, a spokesman at United Talent Agency. Ramis was surrounded by family and friends.
Ramis was a key factor in some of the biggest blockbuster comedies in the 1970s and 1980s.
He co-wrote “Animal House,” which starred fellow Second City alum John Belushi. He teamed up with Second City alums Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd on “Ghostbusters,” in which Ramis co-starred and helped write.
He also co-wrote and directed “Groundhog Day” and “Caddyshack,” and co-wrote “Meatballs” – all of which starred Murray.
“The best comedy touches something that’s timeless and universal in people,” Ramis told The Associated Press in a 2009 story about the 50th anniversary of Second City. “When you hit it right, those things last.”
More recently, he directed “Analyze This,” starring Billy Crystal and Robert DeNiro.
Aykroyd issued a statement Monday, saying he was “deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my brilliant, gifted, funny friend … May he now get the answers he was always seeking.”
Ramis was born Nov. 21, 1944 in Chicago. He is survived by his wife, Erica Ramis; sons Julian and Daniel; daughter, Violet, and two grandchildren.
Top Google Engineer: 15 Years Until Computers Outsmart HumansPosted February 24, 2014 at 12:43 pm by Elizabeth Kreft
Computers will know how to think, flirt and tell jokes within 15 years, and they may do it even better than humans, a famed artificial intelligence scientist is predicting.
Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering, says computers will be more clever than humans by the year 2029, and that they will be able to understand what we say and learn from experience.
How could this happen? Computers reaching the next step of human understanding and grasping nuanced meanings may be achieved through Kurzweil’s current job at Google. He told the Observer that the Internet giant has essentially given him one directive, to help bring natural language understanding to Google:
“My project is ultimately to base search on really understanding what the language means. When you write an article you’re not creating an interesting collection of words. You have something to say … The message in your article is information, and the computers are not picking up on that.
So we would like to actually have the computers read. We want them to read everything on the web and every page of every book, then be able to engage an intelligent dialogue with the user to be able to answer their questions.”
Though Kurzweil is seen by some as an eccentric computer genius, he has a reputation for creating devices that leave a real impact: he invented the first flatbed scanner, the first text-to-speech synthesizer and the first computer program that could recognize a typeface.
In 1990 Kurzweil famously predicted a computer would defeat a human in chess by 1998, and he was proven correct a year before the deadline. In 1997 Garry Kasperov, Russian grand Chessmaster, lost to IBM’s Deep Blue, the first time a computer ever defeated a world champion in match play.
But the proposed computer intelligence Kurzweil describes takes the playful chess defeats and useful processing tools to an entirely different level. His concept of “Singularity” defines the moment when human intellect is overrun by computer intelligence, and some of Kurzweil’s co-workers fear the worst, especially since Google has purchased dozens of robotics and artificial intelligence companies in the last several years.
“I don’t see any end point here,” said Dan Barry, a robotics faculty member at the Kurzweil-founded and Google-funded Singularity University. That includes the use of military robots: “At some point humans aren’t going to be fast enough. So what you do is that you make them autonomous. And where does that end? ‘Terminator’?”
So where are we now? The Guardian reported Kurzweil described the IBM Jeopardy super-computer Watson as the most successful example of natural-language processing so far, winning the game in 2011:
“And Jeopardy is a pretty broad task. It involves similes and jokes and riddles. For example, it was given “a long tiresome speech delivered by a frothy pie topping” in the rhyme category and quickly responded: “A meringue harangue.” Which is pretty clever: the humans didn’t get it. And what’s not generally appreciated is that Watson’s knowledge was not hand-coded by engineers. Watson got it by reading. Wikipedia – all of it.
If Kurzweil’s past predictions are any indicator, computers may outsmart humans in less than the 15 years he predicted. But a common question is — why? Kurzweil predicts computers will not only overcome human intelligence, but humans will eventually have artificially enhanced robotics interconnected with human bodies that will enable “radical life extension.”
“We are talking about making ourselves millions of times more intelligent and being able to have virtually reality environments which are as fantastic as our imagination,” Kurzweil said. “According to my model it’s only 10-15 years away from where we’ll be adding more than a year every year to life expectancy because of progress. It’s kind of a tipping point in longevity.”
Sounds much more complex than a chess win, but with Google’s massive treasure chest of support, Kurzweil’s vision may become reality — and soon.
(H/T: The Independent)
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, will be on The Glenn Beck Program Monday at 5 p.m. ET.
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter
‘Got Milk?’: Why You Won’t Be Seeing That Iconic Question AnymorePosted February 24, 2014 at 12:01 pm by Becket Adams
After more than two decades, the iconic “Got Milk?” ad campaign is being put out to pasture.
Created in 1993 by the advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, the ad was first used by the California Milk Processor Board. After finding success in the Golden State, “Got Milk?” was later licensed for use by milk processors and dairy farmers.
The print and television ads, which featured notable celebrities, have been credited with increasing milk consumption first in California and later throughout America.
But now, the Milk Processor Education Program has decided to go in a different direction with ad agency Lowe Campbell Ewald, according to Business Insider.
The new campaign slogan? “Milk Life.”
“Milk Life” will market milk for its protein and the important role it can play in athletic activities.
Here’s the first ad from the new campaign:
If it’s any consolation, the “Got Milk?” campaign isn’t completely dead — the California Milk Processor Board plans to continue using the tagline.
Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons. This post has been updated.
What the Austin Police Chief Said In the Wake of the Viral Jogger Arrest That Had Him Apologizing the Next DayPosted February 24, 2014 at 11:38 am by Oliver Darcy
Austin police chief Art Acevedo apologized Saturday for a controversial remark he made earlier while defending the controversial actions his officers took against a jaywalker Thursday.
In a widely-circulated video, Austin police were seen detaining and ultimately arresting Amanda Jo Stephen, 24, after she crossed an intersection at a red light while jogging. Wearing headphones and sporting a pair of toe shoes, the 24-year-old initially failed to obey orders from an officer after he saw her jaywalking.
Acevedo appeared to trivialize the viral arrest Friday, defending his officers for their actions and contending that what they did wasn’t too bad, considering the things other officers from different departments allegedly do while on duty.
“In other cities there’s cops who are actually committing sexual assaults on duty, so I thank God that this is what passes for a controversy in Austin, Texas,” Acevedo said.
“Thank you lord that it’s a controversy in Austin, Texas that we actually have the audacity to touch somebody by the arm and tell them ‘oh my goodness, Austin Police, we’re trying to get your attention,’” he added.
On Saturday, after growing controversy Acevedo was forced to issue an apology claiming that, “In hindsight, I believe the comparison was a poor analogy and for this I apologize.”
“I stand committed to transparent leadership and will continue to engage the community we serve in an open, honest, and timely manner,” he added, saying his comments came at the end of an “emotional week” following the conviction of an individual for the killing of an Austin police officer in 2012.
Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter
Apple’s Security Breach Should Scare You More Than Target’s DidPosted February 24, 2014 at 10:44 am by Elizabeth Kreft
Apple’s security protocol breach is nearly as bad as handing your credit card straight to a hacker rather than making them steal the information through the magnetic stripe readers.
The flaw in Apple’s iOs and OS X platforms essentially allows a hacker to get in between the initial verification “handshake” connection between the user and the destination server, enabling the adversary to masquerade as a trusted endpoint. This means the connection which is supposed to be encrypted between you and your bank, email server, healthcare provider and more is open to attack.
Security experts across the web recommend updating iPhones and iPads with the available iOS patches now, and using browsers other than Safari for OS X systems without an available Apple fix.
Usually to achieve encrypted web traffic, a handshake is accomplished through a Secure Sockets Layer — SSL for short — or more recently, Transport Layer Security, or TLS; both are Internet protocols that provide a secure channel between two machines operating over the Internet or an internal network.
The full severity of the security flaw has yet to surface, but the duplicated line of code which is causing all the ruckus has been in place since September 2012. This means theoretically that if you’ve been using the flawed iOS or OS X systems since then, a hacker on your shared network could have captured all your data that should have been SSL- or TSL-encrypted for the past 18 months.
Think of all the banking, online dating, email writing and Internet purchases you’ve made in the last year and a half.
The SSL/TLS effort requires nearly zero interaction from us — the users — but you may be familiar with the little lock icon that appears on the browser, indicating a secure connection has been achieved. This is where the Apple flaw comes in; anyone using the same network connection — the person sitting next to you at the coffee shop or at work right now — could fake the secure connection and intercept communication between your browser and a site.
Even worse, the flaw allows for modification of the “data in flight,” meaning a hacker could deliver exploits to take control of your system, according to Crowdstrike. And other applications that you may not immediately associate with Internet browsing are affected as well.
Apple released a fix to the flaw housed in iOs 6 and 7 authentication logic, but the company only says the OS X fix is coming “very soon,” according to Reuters. This means Mac desktops and notebooks are still vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks.
Apple’s support page says the company will not “disclose, discuss, or confirm security issues until a full investigation has occurred and any necessary patches or releases are available,” but describes the fail was addressed by “restoring missing validation steps.”
Apple did not immediately respond to TheBlaze for clarification on how soon fixes for Mac desktops and notebooks will be available.
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter
‘You Can’t Gag America’: Protesters Explain Why They’re Organizing in Front of Boston Court Ahead of Today’s Justina Pelletier HearingPosted February 24, 2014 at 10:36 am by Liz Klimas
In the Monday morning chill, about a dozen protesters gathered outside a Boston court to support the family of Justina Pelletier, the teenager at the center of a controversial custody and parents’ rights battle with its roots in a disagreement over two medical diagnoses.
Protest organizer Melissa Kerins told TheBlaze she thinks supporter numbers could rise as high as 100.
“We anticipate this one will be the largest of all of them,” Kerins said, adding that previous protests have seen about 20 people.
Protesters held signs, which were not on sticks because Kerins said police could view them as weapons, that read “You can’t gag America,” “save Justina,” “freedom for Justina” and more.
“I expect that having very strong support for the family will [help] them but also show the world that we’re not going to accept that our children can just be taken away from us without any proof, evidence or conviction. It’s unacceptable and we’re not going to tolerate this,” Kerins said.
Lou and Linda Pelletier, Justina’s parents, have appeared in court several times in the last year after the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families took custody of the 15-year-old from West Hartford, Conn., when Boston Children’s Hospital alleged she had been the victim of medical child abuse.
The Pelletiers had been treating Justina for mitochondrial disease under the diagnosis and direction administered by their Tufts Medical Center physician. When Justina had complications with the flu in February 2013, it was recommended that they take her to Boston Children’s Hospital to see a gastrointestinal specialist.
When they arrived at the hospital, they were admitted by another doctor, a neurologist, who ended up disagreeing with Justina’s mitochondrial disease diagnosis, saying she instead had somatoform disorder, which is psychological.
Several days later, when the Pelletiers learned that Boston Children’s doctors wanted to take Justina off treatments for mitochondrial disease, they disagreed. They tried to have their daughter discharged and brought back to Tufts, but instead they were met with a DCF form alleging that they were over-medicalizing their daughter for a disease that the second set of doctors believed she didn’t have.
That was Feb. 14, 2013. Since that date, the Pelletiers have been able to visit their daughter for one hour each week. They say that without treatment for medically diagnosed mitochondrial disease, her health is worsening.
Earlier this month, a judge ruled that Justina be moved from Boston Children’s Hospital to another facility, but the course of her care is still being decided. Last week, Lou Pelletier told TheBlaze Justina wasn’t even at a medical facility anymore, awaiting today’s hearing to decide the course of her care.
“She needs physical therapy. She needs to be back on the vitamin cocktail. She needs to be treated for the goddamn diagnosis she had from the beginning,” Lou told TheBlaze in a face-to-face interview a week ago. “I need to save my daughter. If we don’t do something, she is going to die.”
The family’s hope is that Monday’s hearing will bring Justina back to Connecticut where she could be treated for mitochondrial disease.
The hearing will also address the motion by DCF that Lou Pelletier be held in contempt of court after he broke his silence speaking with the media, including TheBlaze last week, an action which DCF says violated a judge-issued gag order.
“The gag order is not in writing,” said Mat Stavver, founder and chairman with Liberty Counsel, which is advising the Pelletiers. “It was apparently something that the judge mentioned to the attorneys in a sidebar.”
In addition to opposing the contempt motion, Staver said they hoped to have the gag order overturned completely because, as he sees it, “it’s unconstitutional, prohibiting parents from talking about their daughter’s medical treatment.”
Staver told TheBlaze he can’t see any reason why a gag order should have been imposed in the first place.
“There’s no jury trial, no impending trial, no risk to have a bias,” he said.
As for Justina’s situation, Staver said that the more he evaluated the case “the more I’m in disbelief as to the circumstances.”
Kerins, the protest organizer from Boston, said she is a concerned parent whose son has PANDAS, Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections. In 2012, Boston Children’s Hospital and DCF were involved in a similar custody case involving then-16-year-old Elizabeth Wray and her parents. It was at this time that Kerins began organizing similar protests for parents’ rights in defense of Wray.“Now, I’m looking back and I’m saying, ‘if someone did something … there would not be a Justina Pelleteir issue.’ I think this could have been prevented because we’ve already had a history of this,” Kerins said.
This post has been updated to correct the spelling of Mat Staver’s last name, which was incorrectly spelled Starver.
Caught on Camera: Bird Implodes Airplane Windshield on ImpactPosted February 24, 2014 at 9:52 am by Liz Klimas
A Florida man was flying his 1986 Piper Saratoga back to the airport when a bird not only hit his windshield, but imploded the glass on impact — and cameras were rolling to capture the moment.
Rob Weber was returning to Page Field in Fort Myers, Fla., Saturday when the bird slammed through his windshield as he traveled 170 miles per hour.
“It was a total shock,” Weber told the News-Press. “I have a had a lot of close-call bird strikes, but this was the first hit.”
Though the plane wavered for a moment after the incident, Weber recovered quickly.
“Everything went cattywampus. At first, it kinda knocked it out of me, startled me,” he told the newspaper. “The wind got my eyes real bad, and I tried to cup the mic so the controller could hear me.”
Though he had a gash on his head and was bleeding, Weber was able to land the plane safely and declined professional medical treatment.
When on the ground, the camera still recording caught Weber giving a a little chuckle.
While that laugh might have been out of his relief to be alive, Weber showed his sense of humor in an interview wearing an Angry Birds T-shirt.
Watch this report, which includes both the footage of the bird strike and Weber’s post reaction:
Weber, who is an experienced pilot, told the News-Press Sunday as he inspected the damage of his plane that bird strikes are not uncommon but capturing them on camera is rare.
All he found left of the bird was a leg.
Are You Ready For Some Duck Commander Football?Posted February 24, 2014 at 9:36 am by Becket Adams
You have heard of the Sugar Bowl. You’ve heard of the Rose Bowl. You’ve even heard of the Orange Bowl.
Now get ready for the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.
The family-owned business at the heart of the hit television show “Duck Dynasty” has reportedly made an offer to purchase the rights to the Independence Bowl, more commonly known as the AdvoCare V100 Bowl, according to Bleacher Report.
The deal will run through 2019, according to initial reports.
Reports of the Robertson family’s bid for a college bowl title comes shortly after they announced they would sponsor NASCAR’s spring Sprint Cup 500 race, which is now known as the “Duck Commander 500.”
A Robertson spokesman did not immediately respond to TheBlaze’s request for comment.
Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter
The Terrifying Thing a Snake-Handling Preacher’s Son Reportedly Did Just One Week After a Serpent Killed His DadPosted February 24, 2014 at 8:59 am by Billy Hallowell
Just days after a snake-handling preacher died as a result of a serpent’s poisonous bite, his son has pledged to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Cody Coots purportedly held the very same snake that killed his father, Pastor Jamie Coots, over the weekend, pledging not to seek medical attention if he, too, is bitten.
Coots, 21, brought the snake out in front of parishioners Saturday night at Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name in Middlesboro, Ky., according to TMZ.
A video obtained by the popular entertainment website features Coots dancing and interacting with a snake in front of his congregation.
Watch the clip below:
If he’s eventually bitten, Coots told TMZ he has no plans to seek medical attention.
“I will lay right there and say to everyone, it’s God’s will,” he said. “It’s good enough to live by, and good enough to die by.”
Coots previously told WBIR-TV that he planned to lead the church and continue in his father’s tradition, despite previously telling his father that he doesn’t want to be a pastor.
“For me to step down on those things that he taught me, I don’t know if he would come back out of his grave and slap me clean across the face,” Coots said. “That’s how much he believed in it. I mean he was that strong in it. He believed in it enough he died for it, so I won’t step down for anyone.”
Jamie Coots was featured last year on National Geographic Channel’s “Snake Salvation” reality show.
TheBlaze has explored snake handling in detail.
(H/T: Huffington Post)
Featured image via Shutterstock.com
In The Marketplace: Texas Bred, Born and BrewedPosted February 24, 2014 at 8:52 am by Ted Tuttle
Being born in the state where “everything is bigger” doesn’t automatically give someone an extra-big heart. But one Texas small business owner is proving her heart is as big as the Texas sky. The evidence, interestingly enough, is in her salsa.
Realizing one summer that her garden was producing more tomatoes than her family could eat, Brenda Craig’s first idea was to share them with her friends and neighbors. When the harvest produced more tomatoes than she could possibly give away, Brenda and her husband started roasting them on their backyard grill and canning them to create a unique, new type of salsa.
“People began requesting jars,” Brenda said.
With true entrepreneurial spirit, Brenda kept making the salsa, entering it in contests and selling it at events. The smoky roasted flavor was a huge hit with everyone who tasted it and demand quickly increased, leading Brenda to start her business, Texas Brew Salsa.
As her business grew, so did Brenda’s desire to help others in need.
“A family known to my church was sick and her children had to temporarily live with someone else which bringing the total number of children in the home to around nine, I believe. Finances were stretched and there was great need. This gave my company the divine opportunity to help provide for their needs,” she said.
Brenda didn’t stop there. With the growth of her business, she continued donating a portion of her earnings to support and care for widows and orphans in her community.
“I certainly believe my company is here not only to provide for my family but to make life more enjoyable for others,” Brenda said. “Whether it be by providing quality condiments or by helping to provide the basic needs created by life’s challenges when they occur.”
When asked what inspires her most, Brenda answered, “My customers, who constantly send me comments, create recipes and most of all become my friends in so many encouraging ways.”
Not surprisingly, Brenda has successfully made a lot of friends, who love her as a person as much as they enjoy her salsa. What started as an overabundance of tomatoes in her garden has given her the opportunity to not only start a business, but to open up her heart and help people in need.
“I have more new relationships than I ever imagined which have opened and are still opening more doors of opportunity to be creative and to give back to my community,” Brenda said.
To have stories like this delivered to your inbox, sign up for The Marketplace email newsletter here.
Are Public Universities Discriminating Against Christians With Recent Hotel Bible Bans?Posted February 24, 2014 at 8:21 am by Billy Hallowell
A conservative legal group is urging two public universities to reverse their decision to ban Bibles from hotel rooms following demands from an atheist activist group.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal firm based in Arizona, is urging both the University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University to continue allowing Gideon Bibles in night stands. The organization is claiming that the First Amendment does not preclude their presence in public accommodations, Christian News Network reported.
Rather than protecting constitutional rights, Alliance Defending Freedom argues that the universities may actually be discriminating against religion in deciding to remove the holy book.
“In reality, the First Amendment does not require you to remove these Bibles, and by removing them, you may have demonstrated the very viewpoint discrimination and hostility towards religion that the First Amendment prohibits,” the letter reads.
It continues, “The Supreme Court and numerous other federal courts have repeatedly condemned efforts to exclude or restrict religious materials and activities as viewpoint or content discrimination, both at universities and elsewhere.”
The letter goes on to note that hostility toward a particular faith is not permitted under the U.S. Constitution and that the Establishment Clause is not a requirement that public institutions entirely divorce themselves from everything remotely religious.
While both the University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University were likely attempting to avoid a potential lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation — the atheist group that advocated for the removal of the Bibles — potential legal problems could still abound.
The Alliance Defending Freedom explained in the letter that a religious discrimination lawsuit could be waged over the removal of the Bibles, Christian News Network reported.
“Presumably, your guest rooms include a variety of printed materials, including magazines, phone books, and information about the campus and guest facility,” the letter continued. “By removing the Bibles because they are religious, you may have engaged in viewpoint discrimination, which is ‘an egregious form of content discrimination’ and a ‘blatant’ violation of the First Amendment.”
Alliance Defending Freedom wants both universities to restore the Bibles in public hotel rooms.
As TheBlaze previously reported, starting March 1, Bibles will be removed from night stands Iowa State University’s Hotel Memorial Union.
And last month, the University of Wisconsin-Extension, the outreach arm of the state’s public university system, also complied with the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s demands to end the tradition of placing Bibles in guest rooms at a campus conference center.
David French, senior counsel at the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, recently told TheBlaze that while Gaylor and her group argue the Bibles posed a constitutional violation, this isn’t necessarily the case.
“Assuming the university wasn’t rejecting including other offered religious texts in the nightstands, there’s no constitutional problem,” French said. “The ‘problem’ here is the classic problem of the offended atheist who is dissatisfied with the choice of not looking at the Bible and takes steps to make sure that no one will look at it.”
French charged that incidents like this will continue to unfold against religious expression in the public sphere, as long as a “quirk” in the law provides “special privileges to offended citizens.”
Featured image via Shutterstock.com
Here’s How Russia Made Fun of Itself in the Olympics Closing CeremoniesPosted February 24, 2014 at 8:20 am by Liz Klimas
In the closing ceremonies for the Sochi Olympics Sunday, Russia gave itself a little poke, making fun of an embarrassing lighting glitch that occurred during the opening ceremonies a couple weeks earlier.
Russian event organizers showed they could laugh at themselves when they orchestrated dancers in silver costumes form four rings while one group remained a closed clump. The dancers in the clump waited a few seconds and then formed a ring of their own, making the Olympics’ five-ring logo and drawing laughs from the crowd.
“I thought it was great. It was good to see Russians laugh at themselves. It was very funny,” an Olympic spectator told the Associated Press.
During the opening ceremonies for the 22nd Winter Games on Feb. 7, a snowflake configuration that was supposed to open into the five rings of the Olympic logo failed to work properly. One of the illuminated snowflakes didn’t expand.
After the gaffe, Russian television didn’t air the live version but footage from a previous dress rehearsal that showed all five rings forming perfectly and erupting into fireworks.
Watch the AP’s recap of the closing ceremonies:
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach declared the games an “extraordinary success.” The Sochi Olympics cost $51 billion, topping even Beijing’s estimated $40 billion layout for the 2008 Summer Games.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power Facing Criticism Over This TweetPosted February 24, 2014 at 7:45 am by Sharona Schwartz
Update: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power on Monday issued a “correction” tweet saying that she meant the Daniel Pearl Foundation, not Daniel Pearl’s killing, was a “reminder that individual accountability + reconciliation are required to break cycles of violence.”
Answering critics who accused her of suggesting Pearl may have had some responsibility for his kidnapping and murder, she also tweeted this message:
The Daniel Pearl Foundation is named after the slain reporter and defines its mission as promoting “mutual respect and understanding among diverse cultures through journalism, music and dialogue.”
Original story below:
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power received a torrent of negative responses after posting a tweet Sunday evening that some interpreted as suggesting Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s killing could have been prevented by “individual accountability & reconciliation.”
Here’s what she wrote:
And here are some of the responses:
Five hours after she posted the message, not one direct response to her tweet was of a positive nature.
On Sunday evening, Power delivered the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at the University of California, Los Angeles, around which she posted messages on Twitter including the one above and another one urging dialogue:
The negative reactions to Power’s “cycles of violence” message were not limited to Twitter. Several bloggers shared their consternation with Power’s analysis.
The Jewish Press wrote: “OMG. She actually said that. She proposed an equation in which two sides, the jihadists and Daniel Pearl were each engaged in violence against each other, and look what happened.”
“What cycle of violence was he a part of? Being an innocent guy who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered?” Weasel Zippers asked.
The blog Israel Matzav wrote, “Remind me now… to which ‘cycle of violence’ did Daniel Pearl belong when he had his throat split by a Pakistani Muslim? When was the last time Israel attacked Pakistan?”
Pearl was on assignment for the Wall Street Journal in 2002 when he was kidnapped in Pakistan and then beheaded by Al Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Right before his throat was slit, he was forced to make a confessional-style video in which he stated that he was Jewish and had made many visits to Israel.
Egypt’s Interim Government Resigns Amid Continuing UpheavalPosted February 24, 2014 at 7:00 am by Erica Ritz
Story by the Associated Press/curated by Erica Ritz
CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s interim prime minister announced Monday the resignation of his Cabinet, a surprise move that could be designed in part to pave the way for the nation’s military chief to leave his defense minister’s post to run for president.
Hazem el-Beblawi’s military-backed government was sworn in on July 16, less than two weeks after Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the defense minister, ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi after a year in office. Its ministers will remain in their posts in a caretaker capacity until the president picks a prime minister to form a new Cabinet.
The government’s resignation, announced by el-Beblawi in a live TV broadcast, came amid a host of strikes, including one by public transport workers and garbage collectors. An acute shortage of cooking gas has also been making front page news the past few days.
Egypt’s political system gives most powers to the president. The prime minister usually handles day-to-day economic management, but does not set key policies. Under deposed President Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years until his 2011 ouster, the prime minister was perceived as a scapegoat for government failings.
It was not immediately clear whether el-Beblawi will stay at the helm of a new government or will step aside for a new prime minister. Local media has repeatedly reported that he planned to reshuffle his government but not resign.
He said the Cabinet’s decision to resign was made during Monday’s weekly government meeting, but he gave no details.
El-Beblawi has often been derided in the media for his perceived indecisiveness and inability to introduce effective remedies for the country’s economic woes. He has also been criticized for the security forces’ inability to prevent high-profile terror attacks blamed on militants sympathetic with Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.
The outgoing prime minister acknowledged the difficult conditions in which his Cabinet functioned, but suggested that Egypt was in a better place now that it was when he first took office. He also pointed out that while members of his Cabinet may not have represented the nation’s top talents, they were experts in their fields who accepted Cabinet posts at a very difficult time.
“The Cabinet has, in the last six or seven months, responsibly and dutifully shouldered a very difficult and delicate burden and I believe that, in most cases, we have achieved good results,” he said.
“But like any endeavor, it cannot all be success but rather within the boundaries of what is humanly possible,” el-Beblawi said. The goal, he added, was to take Egypt out of a “narrow tunnel” brought about by security, political and economic pressures.
Commenting on the flurry of strikes, the outgoing prime minister cautioned Egyptians that this was not the time for making demands. “We must sacrifice our personal and narrow interests for the benefit of the nation.”
A presidential bid by the popular el-Sissi has been widely anticipated and leaving him out of the next Cabinet will most likely be accompanied or soon followed by an announcement by the 59-year-old soldier that he is running.
El-Sissi has already secured the support of Egypt’s top military body, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, to launch a presidential bid.
Already, the career infantry officer trained in Britain and the United States has been acting in a somewhat presidential manner. He paid a highly publicized visit to Russia earlier this month, when he secured the Kremlin’s goodwill, its blessing for his likely presidential bid and negotiated a large arms deal.
Last week, his wife made her first public appearance since Morsi’s ouster, seated next to him in a military ceremony.
The resignation followed the adoption last month of a new constitution drafted by a mostly liberal and secular panel and two months ahead of a presidential election, now expected to be held in April. The charter gives the military the exclusive right to pick the defense minister for the next two, four-year presidential terms.
In Egypt, the defense minister is routinely the armed forces’ commander in chief, so if el-Sissi is left out of the next Cabinet, then he would be left in a vacuum unless he announces his presidential candidacy simultaneously as or just before the new government is sworn in. Newspapers and broadcasters with ties to the military have tipped Chief of Staff Gen. Sedki Subhi to be the next defense minister.
More from the Chicago Tribune:
Uganda’s President to Sign Anti-Gay Bill Monday — First-Time Offenders Get 14 Years in JailPosted February 24, 2014 at 12:40 am by Dave Urbanski
Story by the Associated Press; curated by Dave Urbanski
KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Uganda’s president is expected to sign a controversial anti-gay bill that allows harsh penalties for homosexual offenses.
The Uganda Media Center said Monday that President Yoweri Museveni will sign the bill at 11 a.m. local time at his official residence.
The bill is popular in Uganda, but rights groups have condemned it as draconian in a country where homosexuality is already illegal.
The law punishes first-time offenders with 14 years in jail. It also sets life imprisonment as the penalty for acts of “aggravated homosexuality.” The bill originally proposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts, but that was later removed amid international criticism.
U.S. President Barack Obama has urged Museveni not to sign the bill, saying doing so would “complicate” the east African country’s relationship with Washington.
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