Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

Sept. 19 2014 3:05 AM

Scotland Votes to Remain in U.K. by 55 Percent to 45 Percent Margin

Scotland will remain part of the United Kingdom, with final results from Thursday's referendum expected to show that "no" votes to stay in the U.K. defeated "yes" votes to leave by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent. British Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to begin following through as soon as today on promises to "devolve" some powers from the United Kingdom to Scotland; promises of increased autonomy within the British system were made explicit by Cameron and other U.K. leaders in their effort to persuade Scotland's citizens to vote against secession. From the Guardian:

Cameron spoke this morning, saying he was delighted Scots had voted to keep the union and suggesting the issue of Scottish independence had been settled for a generation - even for “a lifetime”.

Pro-secession leader Alex Salmond did not use language that was quite as definitive:

In an early-morning concession speech, Salmond said he accepted the verdict of the people but noted that Scotland had not chosen independence “at this stage”, suggesting he may return to the idea of independence.
“We have touched sections of the community who have never before been touched by politics,” he said.

Turnout was estimated at 85 percent.

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Sept. 18 2014 8:02 PM

Sierra Leone to Shut Down the Entire Country to Try to Slow Ebola Outbreak 

The Ebola crisis continues to ravage West Africa as the outbreak shows signs of accelerating. So far, more than 2,600 people have died from the worst outbreak of the virus in history. “The upward epidemic trend continues in the three countries that have widespread and intense transmission—Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone,” the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

Unable to find, contain, and treat those infected, increasingly desperate Sierra Leone came up with a dramatic solution: Shut down the entire country. The government ordered the country’s population of 6 million people to remain in their homes starting Thursday at midnight through the weekend. “During the lockdown … volunteers will try to identify sick people reluctant or unable to seek treatment,” the Associated Press reports. “Authorities have said they expect to discover hundreds of new cases during the shutdown. Many of those infected have not sought treatment out of fear that hospitals are merely places people go to die. Others have been turned away by centers overwhelmed with patients.”

The international aid group Doctors Without Borders says the nationwide lockdown is counterproductive. “Large-scale coercive measures like forced quarantines and lockdowns are driving people underground and jeopardizing the trust between people and health providers,” Doctors Without Borders said in a statement to ABC News. “This is leading to the concealment of cases and is pushing the sick away from health systems.”

Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM

After 260 Years, St. Andrews Golf Club to Allow Women Members for First Time

Much has changed in the world since 1754, the year when the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland, became known as the “home of golf.” One thing that has not changed during those 260 years however is the golf club that is often considered the sport’s spiritual home has continued to bar women from becoming members. Until Thursday, that is.

The iconic Scottish club, much like Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, was facing increasing pressure to allow female members after hundreds of years as an old boys club. In 2012, Augusta admitted two female members, one of which was former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. On Thursday, in a mail-in ballot among its 2,400 male members, the St. Andrews club leapfrogged a century or two and voted to follow suit with 85 percent supporting the admission of female members.

“Before Thursday's vote, women could play on the course, on Scotland’s east coast, but they were not allowed in the clubhouse and had no significant part in the sport’s rulemaking,” the BBC reports. “The policy will take effect immediately, and the club said some women would be put on a fast track for membership to avoid having to spend time on the long waiting list,” according to the New York Times.

Sept. 18 2014 6:10 PM

Texas' Meat-Loving Agriculture Chief Calls it Quits

Texas' meat-loving agriculture commissioner has abandoned his beloved steak, pork, and mutton for oil and gas.

Commissioner Todd Staples, who earlier this month wrote a blistering—if largely fact-free—jeremiad against the "Meatless Monday" movement, announced Thursday that he will quit his statewide-elected office early to take a job as the president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association, a powerful trade group in the Lone Star State.

Staples has been atop the state's Department of Agriculture since 2007. Earlier this year he came up short in his bid for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, and then found himself back in the headlines earlier this month after penning his pro-meat op-ed. (Sample line: "Restricting children’s meal choice to not include meat is irresponsible and has no place in our schools.") For more on Staples' push to paint Meatless Monday as an evil vegetarian plot, you can check out my story from last week.

According to Vote Smart, the oil and gas industry funded Staples' 2010 campaign for re-election to the tune of $80,700—a lot of cash for a state office but less than the $105,100 the livestock industry gave him in the same cycle.

Staples' current term was set to expire early next year. In between when he steps down and when a new commissioner is appointed in January, the state agriculture department will be run by Staples' chief of staff, Shannon Rusing, and the agency's deputy commissioner, Drew DeBerry. While it's unlikely the agency will do an about-face under their watch, it's also hard to believe that either will be as pro-meat as a man who once called the U.S. Agriculture Department's short-lived suggestion that its own employees eat less meat "treasonous."

Sept. 18 2014 4:37 PM

LeBron James’ Hairline is Un-Receding

LeBron James introduced his latest shoe, which features a lot of pastels among its available color combinations and will reportedly cost $200, on Tuesday. What was most notable about his press appearance wasn't the shoes, though, but the sudden advancement of his hairline (see above). LeBron is on TV all the time, so his male-pattern baldness had been widely noted, partly because of the comic contrast between his middle-aged-looking head and the peak perfection of the rest of his body. That contrast might be a thing of the past. No word yet on what means James might've used to attain the sharpened-up look.

Sept. 18 2014 3:42 PM

Scotland's Secession Ballot is Outstandingly Simple

The only problem is there's no option for "Lizard People."

h/t lizard people

Sept. 18 2014 3:22 PM

Suspect in Bali Suitcase Murder Has a Lawyer for Her Fetus

Heather Mack, the Chicago teen being detained on the Indonesian island of Bali along with her boyfriend on suspicion of killing her mother, is retaining a lawyer for her fetus. From Reuters

"I'm here to represent Heather's unborn child," lawyer Vanessa Favia told reporters late on Wednesday outside the police station where Mack is being detained in Bali's provincial capital of Denpasar.

Favia said Mack was three months pregnant.

"I'm here to make sure that she's getting proper nutrition and ... all the medical attention she needs, so that she can have a healthy baby in the future," Favia said.

The two suspects have not been formally charged with a crime. Under Indonesian law, charges would follow an investigation that could take weeks.

Mack's mother's corpse was found stuffed into a suitcase that had been seen in the possession of Heather Mack and her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer. If found guilty of premeditated murder, the pair will be sentenced to life in prison or receive the death sentence, says USA Today. If deemed guilty of an unplanned crime, they'll receive a 15-year sentence. Executions in Indonesia are carried out by firing squad; five took place last year, according to Amnesty International.

A spokesman for the Bali police previously told Reuters Mack's unborn child could be raised in prison.

Sept. 18 2014 11:09 AM

Typo on 1999-Era Résumé Explains Why Tom Brady's Life Stalled Out After College

Remember Tom Brady? In 1999, he was a “big man on campus,” the handsome quarterback of the University of Michigan football team, probably dating the head cheerleader or what have you. But we've barely heard from him since. His life just never seemed to “take off.” What happened? A clue may have been made available today, as he posted his old résumé on Facebook. You can see it above. Here's the most important section:

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Via Facebook

“Superintendentent”? Poor attention to detail—and a likely explanation for why T. Brady never did find a job in the hospitality or financial services sectors. This is how a promising young person once “Elected Team Captain of 1999 University of Michigan Football Team” ends up with a job selling weird boot-shoes in Australia.

Sept. 18 2014 10:27 AM

Child Poverty in U.S. Declines for First Time Since 2000

The Census Bureau reports that child poverty rates have fallen for the first time since 2000, and overall poverty rates have fallen for the first time since 2006. From the Christian Science Monitor:

The poverty rate for children fell nearly 2 full percentage points last year, from 21.8 percent to 19.9 percent, according to the US Census Bureau. The poverty rate for all Americans also declined, to 14.5 percent from 15 percent a year before.

The overall poverty rate is still higher than it was in 2007, and 45 million Americans are under the poverty line. You can find guidelines for determining the rate here; for a married couple with two children under 18, for example, the “poverty threshold” for annual income is $23,624.

Sept. 17 2014 11:24 PM

NFL Under Siege As Two More Players Punished for Domestic Violence Charges

As the NFL grappled with the fallout from allegations of child abuse levied against Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson on Wednesday—just days after the suspension of Ray Rice for domestic violence—one might reasonably wonder: How could things get worse for the league?

Here’s how: Greg Hardy and Jonathan Dwyer.

Carolina Panthers defensive star Greg Hardy, like Peterson, was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list Wednesday, making him, in effect, no longer part of the team—other than he still gets paid—until the legal system runs its course. “Hardy has a Nov. 17 date set to hear his appeal of a July 15 guilty verdict for assaulting and threatening ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder,” ESPN reports. “Hardy's arrest warrant and testimony at his preliminary trial paint a pretty horrible picture,” Deadspin notes, as “Hardy is accused of hitting, throwing, and strangling girlfriend Nicole Holder, slamming her into the floor and into an empty bathtub.”

And then there’s Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer, who was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of aggravated assault. Here’s more from the Arizona Republic:

Police said Dwyer was arrested Wednesday at the team's training facility in Tempe on allegations stemming from two incidents that occurred on two days in late July at a southeast Phoenix home involving a 27-year-old woman and an 18-month-old boy. The woman did not report the incidents until Sept. 11, said [Phoenix police spokesman Trent] Crump.
Dwyer was booked into the Fourth Avenue Jail on suspicion of aggravated assault against the woman for fracturing a bone and aggravated assault against the child for throwing the shoe toward the toddler, Crump said. The Cardinals back also faced allegations for preventing the use of a phone and criminal damage for property that was damaged or destroyed during the July incidents, he said.
The Cardinals immediately deactivated Dwyer from all team activities and released a statement Wednesday evening: "We became aware of these allegations this afternoon when notified by Phoenix police and are cooperating fully.

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