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  • Heart-Pounding Video Shows Terrifying Moment Tornado Approaches Trailer Park, Stands Still Next to Man Recording
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 12:22 pm by Oliver Darcy

    Comments (117)

    Stunning footage posted online appears to show the absolutely terrifying moments a tornado approached Waterford City, North Dakota — and then briefly stood still, spinning adjacent next to a man recording the drama unfold.

    “Dude, where do we go?” one of the individuals in the video can be heard saying as the tornado approaches. “We have nowhere to go.”

    “We have nowhere to go.”

    The video captures the duo desperately seeking shelter in a pickup truck, watching in awe and sheer horror as they watch the destructive storm inches closer.

    “Oh s***” one of them says.

    Footage then shows the tornado, which the National Weather Service said damaged over a dozen homes, spin through the trailer park, eventually standing stationary for a few brief moments next to the two.

    “Oh my gosh, dude. It’s just sitting there!” one of the individuals says.

    Another video posted late Monday night also appeared to capture a tornado rip through North Dakota.

    Watch the Video:

    (Content warning: video contains strong language)

    This post has been updated.

    Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter

  • Obamacare Causes Problems for United Farm Workers
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 12:04 pm by Fred Lucas

    Comments (0)

    Obamacare has now managed to cause angst with an insurance plan created by the efforts of farm labor activist Cesar Chavez and named for Robert F. Kennedy. Roughly 10,700 farm workers could be left uninsured or require California taxpayers to pay a subsidy.

    WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 17: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks about Obamacare and the ongoing tensions in Ukraine in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House April 17, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    The United Farm Workers (UFW) insurance plan – the Robert F. Kennedy Medical Plan – limits annual benefits to $70,000, in violation of the Affordable Care Act, which bars caps on benefits, the Los Angeles Times reports. The union was already given a waiver, but that expires in September.

    The UFW plan is funded by employers and the farm workers. Purchasing replacement insurance could increase the cost by 35 percent to 80 percent, the Times reported.

    Some Democratic legislators are backing a bill to provide a $3.2 million subsidy for the union.

    State Sen. Ellen Corbett, a Democrat, said the subsidy would be financed from cigarette taxes and would “support some of our hardest workers, who bring our food to the table.”

    Senate Majority Leader Darrell Steinberg’s spokesman Mark Hedlund said taxpayers will be on the hook for a larger even larger costs if the farmworkers wind up on Medi-Cal, Califonira’s Medicaid program.

    Republican state Sen. Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) said, “It seems like we are picking winners and losers,” Morrell said. “I don’t know why this particular group [would be] sent $3 million.”

    Even the UFW question the subsidy.

    “Creating a special set of rules for one plan, I don’t know if that’s appropriate,” she said. “Our plan absorbed the cost,” said Clare Einsmann, the trust’s executive vice president.

    In 2010, the UFW’s PAC gave more than $10,000 to Gov. Jerry Brown’s campaign and thousands more to legislative candidates, the Times says. Dolores Huerta, who helped create the union with Chavez, has helped promote Obamacare coverage to Latinos in California.

  • New Report Reveals Cars Thieves Target Most — Is Your Vehicle on the List?
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 11:45 am by Oliver Darcy

    Comments (62)

    A new report released this month by a vehicle security company revealed some of the most commonly stolen vehicles in the U.S.

    According to LoJack, the Honda Accord was the most stolen and recovered car equipped with their system for the fifth year in a row. The Honda Civic followed in second place, followed by the Toyota Camry, Corolla and Chevy Silverado.

    Image source: LoJack

    Image source: LoJack

    “The latest statistics from the FBI indicate that nearly half of vehicles stolen are not returned to the rightful owners, resulting in millions of dollars in assets lost by vehicle owners,” said Patrick Clancy, Vice President of Law Enforcement for LoJack Corporation.

    The report also found that California was the state with the highest amount of thefts and recoveries, followed by Texas and Florida.

    Image source: LoJack

    Image source: LoJack

    LoJack compiled the report using data provided by 27 states and drew upon the Intenrational Justice and Public Safety Network. The data was specific to vehicles equipped with a LoJack Stolen Vehicle Recovery System that were recovered between January and December 2013.

    Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter

    Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock

  • Ted Cruz Is Traveling to Israel and Ukraine
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 11:44 am by Fred Lucas

    Comments (101)

    In a move to boost his foreign policy bona fides ahead of a potential 2016 presidential bid, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) will be traveling this week to Israel and Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, to meet with leaders in those countries, his office said.


    Cruz’s trip to Israel will occur shortly after Pope Francis’ visit, and his swing through Eastern Europe will be a week before President Barack Obama visits Poland to mark 25 years since the fall of communism in the country. The visit also comes just after the weekend presidential election in Ukraine, which is still dealing with Russian hostilities.

    Cruz “will travel to Israel, Ukraine, Poland, and Estonia where he will meet with leaders and influencers to listen to their concerns, ideas, and expertise, learn more about the situation on the ground, and visit key cultural sites,” the senator’s office said in a statement.

    The travel will last from Tuesday through Friday

    While in Israel, Cruz will have meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Defense Minister Moshe “Bogi” Ya’alon, opposition leader Bogie Herzog, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz and Israeli Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser

    Cruz will also tour the Golan Heights and will have a roundtable meeting with Israeli students.

    In Ukraine, he’ll meet with protest leaders opposed to the Russian incursion and with the country’s Catholic and Jewish leaders.

  • Nurses Accused of Taking Outrageous Action to Keep Newborns Quiet
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 11:33 am by Zach Noble

    Comments (58)

    A hospital in the Philippines is under fire as multiple parents have come forward accusing nurses of gagging newborns with tape.

    The nurses’ alleged reason?

    To shut the babies up.

    (Image source: Facebook)

    Image via Rye Kido/Facebook

    The issue at the Cebu Puericulture and Maternity Center was initially brought to light by Rye Kido, who posted photos on Facebook of his newborn son Yohannes with tape on his mouth.

    In the post, from May 9, Kido accuses the hospital of mistreating his son.

    “(My partner) Jasmine immediately asked the attending nurse ‘why is there tape over his mouth?’ and the reply she got from the nurse was ‘your baby was TOO NOISY so i put that over his mouth….’ Kido wrote on Facebook.

    “They handle your children there like puppies out of a dog pound,” Kido wrote. “I personally have seen this with my own eyes and I am very surprised this is what people call ‘a respectable establishment.’”

    The photos led to an investigation and hearing, during which hospital administrators backed up nurses who said the tape was placed on Yohannes for medical reasons — not to shush him.

    But another parent came forward on social media Saturday, the Cebu Daily News reported, posting similar pictures — except this time the photos show both tape and a pacifier on a newborn.

    “My baby Blair was also taped during her stay at the Maternity,” the 22-year-old mother reportedly wrote. “She was only 2 days old when the photo was taken.”

    The mother, whose identity was not made public by the Cebu Daily News, said nurses offered her the same explanation they had offered Kido, and that she decided to come forward after learning of the hospital’s denial of the forcible baby-shushing practice.

    “They said their reason (for taping the pacifier to the newborn) is to keep my baby quiet because she was noisy and always crying,” she told the outlet.

    Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

  • Border Threats Prompt Congress to Reassess the War on Drugs
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 11:28 am by Pete Kasperowicz

    Comments (89)

    Members of the House this week will take the first step toward re-evaluating America’s war on drugs in Latin America, just days after disturbing new reports that Mexican drug cartels are making threats of violence against U.S. law enforcement personnel.

    Last week, a billboard in El Paso was vandalized to say “silver or lead,” an apparent warning to U.S. law enforcement that they need to accept bribes from the cartel or risk being killed.

    An El Paso, Texas police officer checks a makeshift mannequin Thursday, May 22, 2014, which was left hanging on a billboard along with the message, “silver or lead” in Spanish, a threat heard in Mexico signifying pay up or get shot. (AP Photo/El Paso Times, Victor Calzada)

    Later this week, a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee will meet to consider legislation that would force the government to assess progress in the drug war.  The bill would create a commission that would be tasked with reporting to Congress on better ways to reduce the supply of drugs, reduce drug trafficking, and reduce drug-related violence.

    The bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by Matt Salmon, who said earlier this month that he hopes the bill leads to recommendations that help reduce violence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

    “This violence along our border and near our shores poses a direct threat to our national security and destabilizes our region,” he said. “With billions of dollars spent on efforts to deter and dismantle narcotics trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean with mixed success, it is time to reevaluate our policies and programs.”

    The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), said the U.S. has spent almost $16 billion on counter-narcotics programs in Latin American and the Caribbean since 1980. He said Congress needs a fresh look at what’s working, and what’s not.

    “We need to make sure we’re getting the best bang for our buck,” he said.

    The bill would create a Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission, which would have a year to make recommendations to Congress on new strategies needed to fight drug trafficking.

    Unlike many other commissions created by Congress, this one would not be allowed to have members of Congress, or federal, state and local officials fill any of the 10 commissioner slots. Commissioners would, however, be chosen by House and Senate leaders and President Barack Obama.

    The bill finds that in 2012, there were an estimated 23.9 million users of illegal drugs in the United States. It finds that most of the cocaine used by the roughly 1.6 million cocaine users in the United States comes from South America, and that most of the heroin comes from Colombia and Mexico.

  • Obama Plans to Keep Nearly 10,000 Troops Stationed in Afghanistan After Year’s End
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 11:20 am by Fred Lucas

    Comments (72)

    President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced his intention to keep 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the end of 2014.

    “America will always keep its unwavering commitment to denying Al Qaeda the safe haven it had before 9/11,” Obbama said, speaking in the White House Rose Garden.

    President Barack Obama speaks about Afghanistan, Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. The president will seek to keep 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the war formally ends later this year and then will withdraw most of those forces by the end of 2016. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    The 9,800 troops will remain for counterterrorism, security and training, as the Afghan government still faces challenges in establishing an enduring democratic government when U.S. combat operations conclude at the end of the year.

    “This year, we bring America’s longest war to a responsible end,” Obama stated, asserting this was not a war of America’s choosing, but a response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

    Obama said that the Afghan military will be responsible for defending itself, but the U.S. and NATO allies will continue in an advisory role.

    “Our allies have been with us every step of the way in Afghanistan and I expect they will be with us going forward,” Obama said.

    A  senior White House official told reporters Tuesday that the troop number will likely be reduced by half at the end of 2015, depending on conditions in the country.

    A continued troop presence in Afghanistan is contingent on a Bilateral Security Agreement, needed to provide legal protection to U.S. military members. Outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai hasn’t signed the agreement, though both candidates vying to replace him have pledged to do so.

    “The two final candidates in the runoff have indicated they will sign it promptly after taking office, so I hope this is something we can get done,” Obama said in the Rose Garden.

    The pledge from the candidates gave Obama the confidence to make the pledge, a senior White House official said.

    Asked in a press call if there is not an agreement, the White House official said, “If there’s not a Bilateral Security Agreement signed, we would not keep security forces in the country after 2014.”

    The news comes just days after the president told troops on a surprise trip to Afghanistan that he would bring America’s longest war to a “responsible end,” pledging to bring most of them home by the end of the year.

    “For many of you, this will be your last tour in Afghanistan,” Obama said Sunday at an airplane hanger in Afghanistan. “America’s war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end.”

    At the time, Obama promised a decision soon on keeping a small contingent of troops to help secure the gains made over a decade of combat.

    Obama will deliver a foreign policy address at the military academy in West Point Wednesday. ​

    This post has been updated.

    Oliver Darcy contributed to this report.

  • A Construction Crew Demolishing a Home Was Forced to Stop After a Very Mysterious Discovery
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 11:02 am by Liz Klimas

    Comments (137)

    A crew in Middletown, Pennsylvania, discovered a hidden room and tunnel after knocking out a wall during a home’s demolition on Saturday, bringing the demo to a halt due to the possibility of the room’s historical significance.

    A hidden room was revealed by a demolition crew over the weekend and became an attraction for residents in the town. (Image source: WHTM-TV)

    A hidden room was revealed by a demolition crew over the weekend and became an attraction for residents in the town. (Image source: WHTM-TV)

    Given the age of the building, the local historical society visited the site and gave its theories as to what the room could be.

    James Thornton, who was on the demolition crew when the discovery was made, told WHTM-TV that the society said it could have been part of the Underground Railroad and might have served as a speakeasy during Prohibition.

    “It is an amazing feeling to know that slaves made their way through Middletown,” Thornton told the news station. “I knew Middletown was the oldest community in the county, but I never imagined, it had this kind of history.”

    Historians think it might have been part of the underground railroad and later used as a speak easy, finding bottles inside. (Image source: WHTM-TV)

    Historians think it might have been part of the Underground Railroad and later used as a speakeasy, finding bottles inside. (Image source: WHTM-TV)

    The township was settled by Native Americans in 1500 and later by English colonists in 1690, being officially founded in 1755.

    For now, demolition of the home is on hold while the crew waits for a verdict going forward from borough officials.

    “I think it’s just exciting, and the history and just to know what happened here when I wasn’t here,” Judy Bragunier, a local resident, told WHTM.

    Watch the news station’s report about the discovery:

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  • A Strange Ingredient Was Just Found in Some Cadbury Chocolate That’s a Real Problem for Muslims
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 10:45 am by Billy Hallowell

    Comments (84)

    Cadbury Malaysia recalled two of its chocolate products Monday after they tested positive for pork DNA, according to Reuters.

    The government of Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country, periodically tests food products to ensure that they are halal, or in compliance with Islamic dietary restrictions.

    In this case, the Ministry of Health found that samples from Cadbury Dairy Milk Hazelnut and Cadbury Dairy Milk Roast Almond products included pork, which Muslims are forbidden from consuming.

    Image source: Twitter/@CadburyMY

    Image via Twitter @CadburyMY

    A statement on the company’s Facebook page confirmed that the Ministry of Health did find “traces of porcine DNA” in samples of its chocolate.

    “We are undertaking a full review of the supply chain to ensure all quality standards continue to be met,” the company said Friday. “We would like to reassure our consumers that all Cadbury chocolates manufactured in Malaysia are halal-certified by JAKIM, which includes the locations and raw materials used in the production of these products.”

    In a separate post Saturday, the company said that it understands customer disappointment over the matter and that Cadbury values comments and feedback.

    The chocolate manufacturer said that it is working with officials “to investigate the issue with the highest urgency.”

    (H/T: Huffington Post)

    Featured image via Shutterstock

  • Iran Summons Mark Zuckerberg to Court Over Privacy
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 10:18 am by Elizabeth Kreft

    Comments (52)

    An Iranian judge ordered Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to court over concerns that his company’s applications are violating users’ privacy.

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the opening keynote at the Facebook f8 conference on April 30, 2014 in San Francisco. The 30-year-old billionaire was summoned to an Iranian court this week over complaints that Facebook-owned apps Instagram and WhatsApp violate user privacy. (Getty Images/Justin Sullivan).

    The ruling orders the 30-year-old billionaire to answer complaints filed in the southern province of Fars citing breaches of privacy from Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp, the Iranian student-run news agency ISNA reported Tuesday.

    An official with the paramilitary Basij force said the judge also ordered the two social media services be blocked.

    “According to the court’s ruling, the Zionist director of the company of Facebook, or his official attorney, must appear in court to defend himself and pay for possible losses,” said Ruhollah Momen-Nasab, an Iranian Internet official, referring to Zuckerberg’s Jewish background, according to the Economic Times.

    Zuckerberg was raised as Jewish by his family in New York, but identifies as an atheist.

    Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion and earlier this year snagged WhatsApp — the largest messaging service in the world — for $19 billion. A separate Iranian court ordered last week that Instagram be blocked over privacy concerns, but users in the capital city of Tehran could still access both applications on Tuesday, Sky News reported.

    The Zuckerberg summons is the most recent example of the escalating struggle between self-proclaimed moderate Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s push for to increased Internet freedoms and demands by conservative judges for tighter controls.

    Young Iranians turn to these type of Internet apps in order to bypass an official ban on Western cultural products, and Tehran occasionally filters popular websites such as Twitter and Facebook, but tech-savvy users employ proxy servers and other workarounds to get past the controls.

    It is unlikely Zuckerberg will appear in the Iranian court since the United States and Iran do not have an extradition treaty, and similar rulings for U.S. citizens to answer to foreign courts have been ignored.

    Rouhani, in remarks that challenge hardliners who have stepped up measures to censor the Web, said earlier this month that Iran should embrace the Internet rather than see it as a threat, and use “smart filtering” to weed out immoral content, according to the Economic Times.

    (H/T: Sky News)

    Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter

  • Santa Barbara Shooting Sparks Talk of New Bill Linking Gun Crimes and the Mentally Ill
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 9:46 am by Pete Kasperowicz

    Comments (168)

    Senators from both parties indicated over the weekend that they may try to push for new gun legislation that focuses on preventing mentally ill people from owning guns. That new focus emerged just hours after a 22-year old killed six people and wounded several others in California.

    Elliot Rodger stabbed three of his roommates and used a semi-automatic pistol to kill three others. Rodger, the son of “Hunger Games” assistant director Peter Rodger, bought the guns legally in California, even though local officials said after the shooting that Rodger was “severely mentally disturbed.”

    Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. (right), and other senators indicated a new bill may be in the works linking gun crimes to mental health. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)

    On Sunday, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) indicated that some agreement might be reached on a bill dealing with the mental health aspects of gun crimes. On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Blumenthal said he may try to “reconfigure” gun legislation that failed in the Senate last year to focus on mental health.

    Blumenthal said Congress must act to “keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people who are severely troubled or deranged like this young man was, and provide resources.”

    Thune said on the same program that there may be room for agreement in this area. He said Congress should “ensure that we have policies in place that allow people with mental health issues like these to be diagnosed and to be treated.”

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a long-time gun control advocate, released a separate that said Congress should work on the link between gun crimes and mental health.

    “We must ask ourselves if an individual whose family called police with concerns about mental health, who is receiving therapy and who has had several run-ins with police should be allowed to own multiple firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition,” she said. “When anyone, no matter their mental health or history, can so easily obtain any gun they want and as many as they want — we must recognize there is a problem.”

    But it’s not immediately clear that the two parties can find a way forward on exactly how to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. Democrats have broadly favored expanded background checks to reach this result.

    Over the weekend, Feinstein blamed the National Rifle Association for opposing background checks every time a gun is purchased. “Unfortunately the NRA continues to have a stranglehold on Congress, preventing even commonsense measures like universal background checks that have overwhelming support,” she said.

    Republicans have been more open to legislation that provides new federal resources to treat the mentally ill. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) proposed legislation in late 2013 aimed at ensuring people who need mental health treatment can get it, an idea he said was meant to help curb gun violence.

    That bill has stalled in the House, but ideas like those in Murphy’s proposal are favored by many Republicans who want to avoid legislation that erodes people’s Second Amendment rights.

    In recent years, the National Rifle Association has indicated a similar preference. In 2013, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said federal resources are needed to ensure the mentally can be institutionalized, and therefore given no chance to buy a weapon.

    If this debate over more treatment versus more background checks proves intractable, it could lead to a repeat of Senate efforts last year, when a gun control bill had to be pulled from consideration.

    In 2013, Senate Democrats tried to advance a gun control bill that they hoped would be an answer to the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. But that bill stalled, in part because the parties failed to agree on how far to broaden background checks.

    Many Republicans also feared that bill was a first step toward creating a national gun registry.

    Even before the Santa Barbara shooting, Democrats indicated an interest in treating gun violence like a public health issue.

    On Thursday, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) proposed legislation to give the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention $10 million a year for six years to study the causes of gun violence and how to stop it. That bill could become a piece of any new legislation senators develop.

    But splits appear likely to continue on this issue as well. The NRA was instrumental in limiting CDC research on gun violence, and claimed most of that research was aimed at creating new justifications for banning guns.

  • This Family Thought Obamacare Was ‘the Answer’… Until They Found Out Their Plan ‘Doesn’t Even Work’
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 9:33 am by Liz Klimas

    Comments (216)

    Nick and Rachel Robinson were excited about the possibilities that Obamacare offered them when they found out they were expecting a third child.

    Photo credit: Shutterstock

    Photo credit: Shutterstock

    “It’s one of those times where you hear the news and there’s this immediate sense of joy and excitement like, ‘Yay, a new kid. That’s awesome!’” Nick Robinson told NPR. But the happy news also came with a new set of worries. “What are we going to do? How are we going to pay for this? This is intense.”

    When the option of the Affordable Care Act became available, the Robinsons believed it was the answer to what they were looking for. Nick’s company didn’t offer health benefits and neither did Rachel’s position as a wedding photographer.

    “I was like, ‘Oh, here’s the answer! This is simple!’” he told NPR. “‘It’s a cheaper insurance plan, there’s no pre-existing condition stuff.’”

    But the Robinsons soon learned the HMO Blue Cross Blue Shield plan they pay about $375 each month for wasn’t quite what they expected.

    For example, when it came to finding an obstetrician in Texas for their upcoming baby earlier this year, Rachel said she called all 28 practices listed as acceptable options for their plan, but could find none to take her as a patient.

    “Some would just come right out and say, ‘We don’t take Obamacare,’” she said. ”Or the best one was, ‘The doctor takes it here at the actual practice, but whatever hospital you use … does not take that insurance.’”

    NPR noted that there were practices that accepted HMO plans, but the doctors rotated and Rachel wanted a relationship with only one physician.

    “It was mind-numbing, because I was just sitting there thinking, ‘I’m paying close to $400 a month just for me to have insurance that doesn’t even work. So what am I paying for?’” she told NPR.

    The Robinson family is not the only one to have reported problems finding doctors who will accept their plans, even though they’re listed on the insurance websites. A former Marine in California recently shared a similar frustration.

    The Robinsons were told by Blue Cross that the doctors listed should accept the plan they purchased.

    Given their frustrations with finding a doctor who would accept Obamacare insurance, the Robinsons dropped their plan and decided to pay $4,000 for a midwife and a home delivery instead, an option they previously rejected. NPR reported that the Robinsons paid for the birth of their child in April out of pocket, but filed for reimbursement afterward through a Christian-based cost-sharing plan.

    “We’re so happy with where we are now, but this is not OK. And I’m extremely confident that, that’s not what the architects of this plan had in mind,” Nick told NPR.

    Rachel gave birth to a healthy baby boy on April 28.

    Listen to the Robinson’s experience with the Affordable Care Act in NPR’s report online.

    Front page image via txking/Shutterstock.

  • ‘Take Me to F***ing Court’: Mayor Clashes With Atheist Over Constitutionality of Memorial Day Event
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 8:58 am by Billy Hallowell

    Comments (181)

    Some Nebraska atheists are accusing their mayor of offering a colorful and “disturbing” response to a complaint over a Memorial Day event that they believe violated the separation of church and state.

    Robert Fuller, a board member and treasurer for Omaha Atheists, a local activist group, claims to have approached La Vista Mayor Douglas Kindig to express his concern that “Faith and Freedom Day,” an event held Sunday to commemorate Memorial Day, might have crossed legal bounds.

    A press release claims that Fuller approached the mayor and calmly expressed his disagreement after the event, which included a religious service, concluded, handing Kindig his business card and requesting a time to speak further about the issue.

    But Kindig purportedly responded with what the atheist group dubbed “disturbing comments.”

    “Take me to f****** court, because I don’t care,” the mayor is quoted as saying. The organization claims he later added, “Minorities are not going to run my city.”

    Image source: La

    Image source: City of La Vista

    Fuller said in the press release that he was “baffled” by Kindig’s purported response and that he simply wanted the politician to hear his concerns.

    But, while the mayor’s office did indicate the clash was spirited, an official statement on the matter indicated that Kindig was “confronted” by Fuller. The politician’s explanation apparently didn’t get into the specifics, according to WOWT-TV.

    “I am truly sorry that my response to this representative caused backlash against the City,” Kindig said in a statement. “I was coming out of a very emotional event at which local veterans who were killed in action were recognized, and my reaction was certainly emotional in nature.”

    He added, “It is my hope all sides can move forward together.”

    “Faith and Freedom Day” was an event held on Sunday to “celebrate and thank” veterans and those serving in the military.

    In addition to a pancake breakfast, there was a “service” that was held in their honor, according to an ad on the city’s website. The religious event was apparently sponsored by local churches.

    It is unclear whether the two parties will meet to discuss the matter.

    (H/T: Friendly Atheist)

  • Reporter on White House’s CIA Leak: ‘I Drew It to Their Attention Before They Had Noticed’
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 8:30 am by Madeleine Morgenstern

    Comments (113)

    The reporter who was given the name of the CIA’s top agent in Afghanistan by the White House said he realized the significance of the leak even before the press office did.

    “I drew it to their attention before they had noticed what had happened,” Washington Post White House bureau chief Scott Wilson told the Guardian Monday.

    President Barack Obama attends a military briefing with General Joseph Dunfore, commander of ISAF and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014, during a surprise trip to visit troops prior to the Memorial Day holiday. (AFP/Getty Images/Saul Loeb)

    Wilson was given a list of individuals meeting with President Barack Obama during his surprise weekend visit to Afghanistan, including a person listed as “chief of station” — the highest-ranking CIA officer. The list was provided by U.S. military officials to the White House press office, and then sent out as part of Wilson’s pool report summary of Obama’s travels to more than 6,000 recipients.

    “I asked the press official that was with us on the trip if they knew that the station chief had been identified in the list. That person said that they did not know that, but that because the list was provided by military, they assumed it was OK. By this time the list was out,” Wilson said.

    He added, “Soon after, I think that they talked to their bosses, and realized that it was not OK. And they tried to figure out what to do about this, if there was a way to kind of un-ring the bell.”

    Wilson said he thinks the highly pressurized situation combined with “very junior people” led to the error.

    “My impression is these were very junior people trying to follow an order, that they don’t fully understand or get the ramifications of,” he told the Guardian. “There were a number of misunderstandings and mistakes, including my own failure to review the list before including it in my email, in my pool report. I wish I had, I regret it.”

  • Evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins Just Starred in an Unexpected Show
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 8:18 am by Billy Hallowell

    Comments (202)

    Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins’ latest gig might surprise you: he recently played a disembodied voice in a new opera based on an unfinished Mark Twain novel.

    The show, titled, “Mysterious 44” and based on the book “The Mysterious Stranger,” lasted 90 minutes and featured four live singers, a singing computer, surround-sound electronic score and video animation.

    Eight characters were played by the four singers and Dawkins, who offered his voice to portray the character of August, described in a University of Manchester press release as “a renaissance man coming out of the dark ages.”

    Dawkins wasn’t on stage in costume, though, as it was only his voice that was used to entertain the masses.

    British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins speaks during Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) in Jaipur on January 24, 2012. (PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)

    The book, which was purportedly inspired by Charles Darwin’s writings, is set in 1490, according to the university.

    “It’s a story of religious murder, deception, corruption, superstition, genocide, and a mysterious stranger who leads a lad away from it all to start a life of secular compassion,” said Dr. Kevin Malone, who wrote the opera and who lectures at the University of Manchester.

    Malone said the show isn’t meant to be anti-religious, though he noted that Dawkins’ atheism makes him a perfect fit (listen to a clip from Dawkins’ performance here).

    “Although it is not meant as an anti-religious opera, it does argue for an approach to understanding the world which is based on science and reason, over superstition,” the professor added. “That is why I’m so delighted that Richard Dawkins, one of the country’s most influential atheists, is taking part.”

    Headliner Richard Dawkins, founder of The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, speaks during the National Atheist Organization’s ‘Reason Rally’ March 24, 2012 in Washington, D.C. (Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

    The atheist’s organization, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, even offered a grant to film the show in an effort to get it shown in schools and placed on YouTube, so it’s clear Dawkins — a staunch anti-theist — believes its message is valuable.

    The show premiered in the U.K. on May 24 and had a repeat performance the following day at an arts festival.

  • The Pope and Netanyahu Debate the Language Jesus Spoke
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 8:03 am by Sharona Schwartz

    Comments (157)

    Toward the end of his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority this weekend, Pope Francis and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the language Jesus spoke.

    “Jesus was here, in this land. He spoke Hebrew,” Netanyahu told Francis according to quotes reported by Reuters.

    “He was speaking Aramaic,” the pope replied with a smile, according to the Associated Press.

    “He spoke Aramaic, and he also knew Hebrew,” Netanyahu corrected.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks to Pope Francis in Jerusalem on Monday, May 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Kolomoisky, Pool)

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks to Pope Francis in Jerusalem on Monday, May 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Kolomoisky, Pool)

    Israeli linguistics professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann told Reuters that both Netanyahu and the pope had a point.

    “Jesus was a native Aramaic speaker,” Zuckermann said. “But he would have also known Hebrew because there were extant religious writings in Hebrew.”

    Zuckermann added that Hebrew during the time of Jesus was spoken by the lower classes, “the kind of people he ministered to.”

    The Encyclopedia Britannica states that “Jesus and the Apostles are believed to have spoken Aramaic,” a language that is closely related to Hebrew, Syriac and Phoenician.

    The entry on Aramaic in the Eerdmans Bible Dictionary by William B. Eerdmans and edited by Allen C. Myers (and cited by Wikipedia) reads in part: “It is generally agreed that Aramaic was the common language of Palestine in the first century A.D. Jesus and his disciples spoke the Galilean dialect, which was distinguished from that of Jerusalem.”

    Palestinian officials often assert that Jesus was a Palestinian, and in advance of the pope’s visit, the Palestinian Authority commissioned artwork portraying Jesus as Palestinian.

    The Palestinian reworking of a famous painting (Image source: Palestinian Media Watch)

    The Palestinian reworking of a famous painting (Image source: Palestinian Media Watch)

    Palestinian Media Watch, a Jerusalem-based research organization that tracks incitement in the Palestinian media reported that one of the works is a remake of Raphael’s The Deposition, (1507), “which shows the dead Jesus being carried to his tomb. In the Palestinian version, Jesus’ legs have been replaced by a photo of the wounded legs of a Palestinian, being carried away by a man as an Israeli soldier looks on.”

  • Major Jewish Group Slams MSNBC Host Toure for Suggesting Holocaust Survivors Benefitted from ‘the Power of Whiteness’
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 7:30 am by Sharona Schwartz

    Comments (443)

    A major Jewish organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism and pursuing Nazi war criminals is criticizing MSNBC host Toure for suggesting that Jewish Holocaust survivors benefitted from being white.

    MSNBC host Toure tweeted that Holocaust survivors benefitted from

    Writer and MSNBC host Toure (Image source: MSNBC via YouTube)

    Responding on Twitter over the weekend to another user who said their family survived a Nazi concentration camp during World War II and immigrated to the United States with “nothing,” yet still “made it work,” Toure wrote: “The power of whiteness.”

    “It’s obviously absurd and smacks of intense and disgusting anti-Semitism. It’s reverse-racism basically,” Efraim Zuroff, Israel office director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told TheBlaze on Tuesday.

    “There is no question that part of the anti-Semitism that we see has its roots in the form of jealousy. This is a perfect example: ‘Jews made it because they’re white and Jews,’” added Zuroff, who is considered a leading investigator of Nazi war criminals who perpetrated the murder of 6 million European Jews in the name of racial purity.

    Toure’s comment drew a slew of scathing reactions on Twitter. Twitchy found these:

    Tom Rogan in a column for National Review Online wrote of Toure’s tweet, “In four words he trivialized mass murder,” and suggested the host make a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

    Earlier this month, the Twitter account for Ed Schultz’s MSNBC show tweeted then quickly deleted the comment, “Gay people were really the ones being persecuted in Hitler’s Germany.”

  • One Veteran’s Endless Battles with the VA Just to Get a Specialist Brings Him to Tears on Camera
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 12:09 am by Dave Urbanski

    Comments (68)

    Skip Morrison sustained a back injury during the two years he served in the Army. Now the 55-year-old is classified as 100-percent disabled.

    But that doesn’t begin to describe the obstacles that the Poulsbo, Washington veteran faces.

    Morrison said he battles for months and months to get referrals from the local VA for specialists — but at least he has his counter-full of pills he said the VA doctors prescribe him for his pain.

    Image source: KIRO-TV

    Image source: KIRO-TV

    “You know it’s sad the way the way we’re treated,” he tearfully told KIRO-TV in Seattle. “We fight for our country and we gotta fight for everything we’re entitled to. It’s not right.”

    A reporter from KIRO sat down with Morrison to discuss the problems he said he’s been having with the Puget Sound-area Veterans Affairs medical system. Check out the interview below:

  • ‘Oh My Jesus — We’ve Got Nowhere to Go’: Tornado Hits Trailers That House North Dakota’s Oil Patch Workers
    Posted May 26, 2014 at 11:50 pm by Dave Urbanski

    Comments (48)

    Story by the Associated Press; curated by Dave Urbanski

    WATFORD CITY, N.D. (AP) — A tornado severely damaged about 15 trailers housing workers in North Dakota’s oil patch on Monday, the National Weather Service said.

    It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone was injured when the twister struck the camp about five miles south of Watford City, in the western part of the state about 30 miles southeast of the oil boom hub city of Williston.

    In one video posted to YouTube, a woman is heard praying as the tornado approaches: “Oh Jesus, Father God in Heaven. Oh my Jesus. We’ve got nowhere to go.”

    Another YouTube clip recorded from what appears to be yard shows the twister from a distance, an American flag blowing in the gathering wind:

    People who answered the phone at the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office and McKenzie County Hospital in Watford City declined to discuss the matter.

    Check out heart-pounding video of tornado as it approaches trailers.

    The oil boom has led to a population explosion in western North Dakota, bringing in tens of thousands of people looking for work. Many reside in hastily-assembled trailer parks or man camps that contain prefabricated structures that can resemble military barracks. Some companies rent blocks of hotel rooms for employees to live in, and some workers sleep in their cars or even tents.

    In this Dec. 5, 2013 file photo, Russell Girsh motions to his driller to turn the equipment on at an oil rig near Watford City, N.D. (Image source: AP/Williston Herald, Jerry Burnes, File)

    Housing developments are constantly popping up in big areas of town that didn’t exist on maps a couple of years ago. But they still aren’t able to keep pace with demand — and oil money has pushed rents to among the highest in the nation: renting a simple one-bedroom apartment in Williston can easily cost $2,000 a month. Even a spot to park a trailer can cost more than $800 per month.

    This story has been updated.

  • Montel Williams Delivers Emotional Speech to Military Heroes — What Happens at the Two-Minute Mark Reveals His Character
    Posted May 26, 2014 at 10:14 pm by Mike Opelka

    Comments (174)

    Television personality Montel Williams was overcome with emotion and became visibly choked up while delivering a speech addressing the ongoing Veterans Affairs scandal at a Memorial Day picnic in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

    Discussing the backlog of treatment for wounded warriors, Williams — a 22-year veteran of the military — briefly mentioned that he makes frequent visits to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

    “I have done over 30 visits to Walter Reed, sitting bedside, for almost a three-year period of time, almost every single month, trying to see every single soldier, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines,” he said during the Saturday event.

    Soldiers started applauding to Williams’ dismay.

    “Please, no!” he said, fighting back tears. “That’s expected of me!”

    Image: YouTube

    Image: YouTube

    Williams told TheBlaze that he had been the Grand Marshall at the Myrtle Beach Veteran’s Day parade. He received a “quilt of valor” and afterward was attending a picnic with some of the local veterans.

    In what appeared to be an impromptu address, the former Marine and Navy Lt. Commander spoke from his heart about the VA problem.

    Image: YouTUbe

    Image: YouTube

    Williams shared his observations about what he viewed as a declining interest from “celebrities” who he claims are no longer showing up at VA hospitals and supporting the wounded soldiers as they had in the past.

    “We’re at war,” Williams said, “Guys are still dying. How dare this nation treat us this way.”

    In his speech, the television personality went on to propose that the administration push for a “surge” in medical care like the military surge that the president pushed for in Afghanistan five years ago.

    The video, posted on YouTube by the local paper, has obvious jump cuts and an unedited version is not yet available. However, it does show an impassioned plea from Montel Williams to the president and Congress.

    “Whether you agree with me politically or not, I know you agree with me on this, ” he said. “We can argue about whether we like football or basketball as soldiers or sailors, airmen, marine or coast guardsmen … when it comes time, we never leave a soldier on the battlefield.”

    Williams also penned an Op-Ed piece about the crisis. Over the course of more than 1,000 words, Williams further defines his thoughts on how the administration should proceed with his proposed “surge” in medical care for the troops:

    “Consider this thought – what if the President were to order the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, whomever it be, in collaboration with the Secretaries of Defense and HHS,  to within thirty days report back with plans to execute a 90 day ‘surge’ using the existing healthcare resources of the various Departments and such civilian support as may be necessary to entirely clear the backlog and establish a baseline such that we can accurately judge the resources needed to provide timely care to every veteran and honor the commitment that seems sadly to have been broken.”

    According to Williams, the cost of the added care could be more than paid for by eliminating wasteful spending on “airplanes that the military doesn’t want and funneling taxpayer dollars into any number of other ridiculously inflated and unnecessary programs.”

    Click here to read Williams’ entire Op-Ed here.

    Follow Mike Opelka (@Stuntbrain) on Twitter

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  • Shooting Reported at Resort and Spa in Clearwater Beach, Florida (UPDATE: 2 Shot, 2 Arrested, 1 Suspect at Large)
    Posted May 26, 2014 at 8:56 pm by Dave Urbanski

    Comments (90)

    UPDATE, 9:24 p.m.: Two suspects are in custody and police are searching for a third after three separate shootings on Clearwater Beach, according to the Tampa Tribune.

    Police responded just before 7 p.m. to the first call at the Hyatt.

    UPDATE, 9:05 p.m.: Two suspects are in custody in connection with shootings at Clearwater Beach, according to WFLA-TV in Tampa.

    Two people were shot over “disagreements between different subjects,” police told WFLA.

    One of those shot fled the scene, police said; the other person shot was taken to a hospital. Two suspects are in custody, police said, adding that the incident doesn’t appear to be random.

    Image source: WTSP-TV

    Image source: WTSP-TV

    Original story below

    Crowds of people ran from the scene Sunday during a reported shooting at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa on Clearwater Beach, the Tampa Bay Times reported, citing a police spokeswoman.

    Police put the hotel in lockdown during the shooting, the Times reported, adding that several streets were blocked off.

    Police took one man into custody on Gulf Boulevard on Belleair Beach about 8 p.m., the Times reported.

    Several raw clips at the scene from WTSP-TV in Tampa (Content warning: Some rough language):

    This is breaking news; updates will be added.

  • Pope Francis to Meet Sex Abuse Victims at Vatican, Declares ‘Zero Tolerance’ for ‘Ugly’ Crimes Against Children
    Posted May 26, 2014 at 8:32 pm by Dave Urbanski

    Comments (70)

    Story by the Associated Press; curated by Dave Urbanski

    ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis announced Monday he would meet soon with a group of sex abuse victims at the Vatican and declared “zero tolerance” for any member of the clergy who would violate a child.

    “On this issue we must go forward, forward. Zero tolerance,” Francis said, calling abuse of children an “ugly” crime that betrays God.

    Pope Francis talks to journalists during a press conference he held aboard the papal flight on his way back to Rome at the end of a three-day trip to the Middle East, Monday, May 26, 2014 (Image source: AP/Andrew Medichini, Pool)

    Francis also revealed that three bishops are currently under investigation by the Vatican for abuse-related reasons, though it wasn’t clear if they were accused of committing abuse itself or of having covered it up.

    “There are no privileges,” he told reporters en route back to Rome from Jerusalem.

    “There are no privileges.”

    The meeting with a half-dozen victims will mark the first such encounter for the pope, who has been criticized by victims for not expressing personal solidarity with them when he has reached out to other people who suffer.

    Francis said the meeting and a Mass at the Vatican hotel where he lives would take place early next month. But a statement from the office of Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who is organizing the encounter, said the date and details hadn’t been finalized and that the meeting was expected to take place “in the coming months.”

    Francis spoke to reporters for nearly an hour after his grueling, three-day trip to Jordan, the West Bank and Israel — even suggesting that he might follow in emeritus Pope Benedict XVI’s footsteps and retire if he no longer had the strength to do the job.

    “We need to look at him as an institution: he opened a door, the door of emeritus popes,” Francis said. “Only God knows if there will be others, but the door is open.”

    If and when the time comes, he said, “I will do what the Lord tells me to do, pray and try to find God’s will. But I think that Benedict XVI wasn’t a unique case.”

    Francis sought to lower expectations about his planned encounter in the Vatican next month with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents, which he announced during the trip. He stressed that they were coming to pray together, not enter into peace mediation.

    “We are coming just to pray, then everyone goes home,” he said. “But I think prayer is important, praying together.”

    He said he had originally hoped to arrange the encounter in Jerusalem itself, but that the idea was scrapped because of the enormous logistical problems that would have been involved. Preparations are already under way, he said, noting that a rabbi and Islamic cleric would join him in leading the prayers.

    One of the more poignant moments of Francis’ pilgrimage came Monday when he visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and kissed the hands of survivors in a show of humility and respect. Francis said his gesture came spontaneously.

    “The gestures that are the most authentic you don’t think about,” ahead of time, he said.

    Pope Francis talks to journalists during a press conference he held aboard the papal flight on his way back to Rome at the end of a three-day trip to the Middle East, Monday, May 26, 2014 (Image source: AP/Andrew Medichini, Pool)

    Given his respect for Holocaust survivors, Francis was asked what he intended to do about the pending beatification case for Pope Pius XII, the World War II-era pope accused by some Jews of not speaking out enough against the Holocaust. Jewish groups have asked that the case be shelved pending the opening of the archives of his pontificate, or at least until the generation of Holocaust survivors has passed.

    Francis has bent the Vatican’s saint-making rules for a half-dozen people so far in his pontificate, waiving the usual second miracle requirement for example to canonize Pope John XXIII last month. Francis, however, offered no such wiggle room for Pius.

    “There’s still no miracle,” he said. “If there are no miracles, it can’t go forward. It’s blocked there.”

    Becky Ianni of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and a victim of an abusive priest during her childhood had this to say in March about what she hopes Pope Francis will do about the issue:

  • They Are About to Jump Out of a Plane Flying Over New York. Just Wait Until You See How Manhattan Looks From Above at 118 MPH.
    Posted May 26, 2014 at 7:33 pm by Oliver Darcy

    Comments (37)

    A team of five Red Bull wingsuit flyers recently realized their dream of skydiving over the Manhattan skyline — and multiple cameras captured their entire experience.

    “Using new wingsuit technology, these flyers traveled two miles in just two minutes,” the energy drink company said in a statement. “Watch this POV clip and see what it looks like to soar at a speed of 118mph over New York City!”

    The video has since received over 100,000 views on YouTube and been met with rave reviews by individuals online.

    “What a fantastic view,” one person commented.

    “This is ultra cool,” echoed another.

    Another video posted online by Redbull details how difficult it was to even make the jump happen. The clip, just over four minutes, reveals some of the challenges the flyers had to conquer to successfully execute the stunt.

    (H/T: Gothamist)

    Follow Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) on Twitter

  • Police: Unborn Baby Dies After Pregnant Teenager Shot Multiple Times While Opening Home Door
    Posted May 26, 2014 at 6:55 pm by Oliver Darcy

    Comments (81)

    Story by the Associated Press; curated by Oliver Darcy.

    DUQUESNE, Pa. (AP) — Authorities in western Pennsylvania say a pregnant teenager lost her baby after she was shot four times at the front door of her Pittsburgh-area home.

    Police in Allegheny County said the 15-year-old girl was shot when she opened the door of the Duquesne residence early Monday.

    Relatives said the victim was recovering at a local hospital, but they and police said the seven-month-old unborn child did not survive.

    Family members said they do not know anyone who would try to hurt the teenager.

    Allegheny County investigators are asking anyone with information about the case to call them.

  • Joe Biden Has Some Advice About Microphones
    Posted May 26, 2014 at 6:35 pm by Madeleine Morgenstern

    Comments (71)

    Vice President Joe Biden has a word of advice about microphones: Always assume they’re on.

    Biden, who famously was caught telling President Barack Obama that passing health care reform was a “big f***ing deal,” shared his wisdom with the crowd at the kickoff for the Ride 2 Recovery Memorial Challenge on Monday.


    “Piece of advice about that BFD stuff: Assume every microphone is on,” Biden said, according to CNN.

    The man who introduced Biden at the event had referred to the vice president’s enthusiastic 2010 declaration, which even spawned a line of Obama campaign T-shirts.

    “I just want you to know, I didn’t intentionally say that,” Biden said Monday. “I actually turned and I said, ‘Mr. President,’ and I whispered in his ear. Unfortunately, I was looking in the direction of one guy who could actually read lips — not a joke. Because no one picked it up at the time and one of the reporters read lips. Thank God my mother was gone or I’d have been one dead vice president.”

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