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March 2 2015 3:13 PM

Report: Coach K Knew about Sexual Assault Allegations for Year Before Dismissing Player

Duke University officials, including legendary basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, were reportedly aware of multiple sexual assault allegations against guard Rasheed Sulaimon for nearly a year before dismissing him from the team in January, the Duke Chronicle reported Monday.

Two female students alleged at separate student-led diversity retreats during the 2013–14 school year that Sulaimon had assaulted them, but both students decided not to pursue criminal or disciplinary charges against Sulaimon, partly out of fear of a backlash by Duke fans, the Chronicle reports.

A former team affiliate told the newspaper that Duke’s team psychologist, two assistant coaches, associate head coach Jeff Capel, and Krzyzewski were informed of the allegations last March. The affiliate, who was granted anonymity by the Chronicle, said that athletic department officials and at least one dean were also made aware of the charges.

“Nothing happened after months and months of talking about [the sexual assault allegations]," the anonymous affiliate told the Chronicle. "The University administration knew. "

Even when students don’t file complaints, universities are required by Title IX to investigate allegations of sexual assault. The school said that it takes these steps when necessary, but declined to comment on the individual case of Sulaimon.

“Duke takes immediate action when a student reports allegations of sexual misconduct or other violations of the student conduct code,” the university said in a statement to the newspaper.

A week before Sulaimon was dismissed, a secretary in the Duke basketball office and university senior resigned from his job after informing an administrative assistant that he knew of the allegations. The former secretary told the Chronicle he was later informed that Krzyzewski and school vice president and director of athletics, Kevin White, were aware of the accusations.

On Jan. 29, Sulaimon became the first player in Krzyzewski’s 35-year Duke head coaching tenure to be dismissed from the team. He had a standout freshman season, scoring 11.6 points per game, but his statistics have regressed in the past two seasons.

“Rasheed has been unable to consistently live up to the standards required to be a member of our program,” Krzyzewski said in a press release at the time of Sulaimon’s dismissal. “It is a privilege to represent Duke University and with that privilege comes the responsibility to conduct oneself in a certain manner. After Rasheed repeatedly struggled to meet the necessary obligations, it became apparent that it was time to dismiss him from the program.”

The Chronicle had previously reported that the dismissal was not the result of a single incident, but rather because of a “buildup of issues.”

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March 2 2015 2:36 PM

It’s Been 80 Days Since the Last U.S. Military Combat Death. That’s Remarkable. 

The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe noted a pretty incredible milestone last week: Last Wednesday marked 75 days without a U.S. military combat death, the longest period since before 9/11. It hadn’t gone over 50 days since before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The last U.S. fatalities, Spc. Wyatt Martin and Sgt. 1st Class Ramon Morris, were killed by an improvised explosive device in Parwan province, Afghanistan, on Dec. 12.

American civilians have died in combat zones since then, including ISIS prisoners and contractors killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Congress’s passage of a new bill to prevent veteran suicide earlier this month is a good reminder that not all war deaths happen on the battlefield. But this is still a remarkable and long-overdue development.

It also comes at a time when the U.S. military is ramping up involvement in the ISIS conflict, maintaining a presence in Afghanistan that’s not technically a combat role but still involves a fair amount of combat, and waging an ongoing drone campaign in Yemen. Meanwhile, neither Congress nor the White House seems to be in much of a hurry to place limits on the use of the American military or even define the conflicts it’s fighting. 

Lamothe’s article was pegged to a panel discussion in Washington at which the father of a U.S. airman killed in Afghanistan questioned a self-described “hawkish” congressman, Rep. Adam Kinzinger*, on whether he was aware of how long it had been since a soldier was killed. (He was not.) “When you talk about being a hawk, maybe that is something that you’d really want to keep track of,” the father, Fred Boenig, told the congressman.

While it’s absolutely encouraging that American soldiers are dying less often after a draining and bloody decade, it would be a mistake for political leaders to take this to mean that war can be waged indefinitely without consequences.

Update: This post originally misspelled Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s last name.

March 2 2015 1:05 PM

Mysterious Tunnel Was Really Just a Harmless “Man Cave,” Say Police

Canada’s Great Tunnel Mystery is no longer a whodunit—but it appears destined to remain a head-scratcher nonetheless.

Toronto police announced Monday that they had found the two men who were responsible for digging the elaborate tunnel that briefly piqued the Internet’s interest last week. After speaking with them, however, officers decided that the men had gone through all that trouble for “personal reasons,” and that there was nothing more to worry about.

“It’s very strange. I’m not going to say it’s not,” Detective Scott Whittemore told the National Post on Monday. “The big question is ‘Why?’ You know, having worked in homicide for six years, a lot times the question ‘Why did this happen?’ is very rarely answered. You just try to deal with what you’ve got. But that’s the million-dollar question.” Whittemore described the two amateur excavators as “just blue collar guys” in their early 20s who were not professional tunnelers or engineers. “They were forthright and kind of — I don’t know what the word is — apologetic,” the detective told the paper.

The unidentified pair won’t face criminal charges for digging the 30-odd-foot tunnel that was found near York University and the Rexall Centre, which will host the 2015 Pan American Games this summer. The reason for that, as Deputy Chief Mark Saunders put it simply last week: “There is no criminal offense for digging a hole.” If the cops wanted to be sticklers, they could probably find a minor mischief-related charge or two, but they have no interest in that. “There’s no sense wasting the court's time,” Whittemore said Monday.

For those of who missed it last week (I don’t know, perhaps you were distracted elsewhere), police went public with the tunnel after discovering it last month when a conservation worker stumbled across it. Officials turned to the public to help them solve the mystery, and that’s ultimately what happened. Given its location near the Rexall Centre, there had been some speculation that the tunnel—which experts said likely took weeks to build—could have been terrorism-related, although police never seemed overly concerned on that front.

“It is simply two guys who just wanted to dig a cave,” Toronto police spokesman Victor Kwong told CBC News. “That really is what our investigation has led to ... they just wanted to dig a cave to hang out.” The two men, however, will need to find a new place to do just that—police have since filled in their tunnel.

March 2 2015 12:52 PM

What Does it Mean for the Leader of a Foreign Country to Be a Republican?

In his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected charges that he is injecting partisanship into the U.S.-Israel relationship. “The last thing anyone who cares about Israel, the last thing that I would want, is for Israel to become a partisan issue, and I regret that some people have misperceived my visit here this week as doing that,” he said. “Israel has always been a bipartisan issue. Israel should always remain a bipartisan issue.”

It’s a little late for that, Bibi. Tuesday, Netanyahu is giving what was billed from the moment it was announced as a rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Much of the controversy surrounding the visit has been over the perceived mutual snubbing and sniping between Netanyahu’s office and the White House and what it says about the relationship between the two leaders. (Nothing good.) But the bigger story is Netanyahu firmly aligning himself in the camp of one of America’s political parties to the exclusion of the other one—a strategy that could, in the long term, be extremely detrimental to Israel’s interests.

Given the “very real difference” between Obama and Netanyahu over Iran’s nuclear program, the Israeli leader’s decision to accept John Boehner’s invitation to address Congress made some tactical sense. Netanyahu believes Obama is on the verge of making a historically dangerous deal with Iran and doesn’t see any prospect for changing his mind. Given that his officials say he’s “written off” Obama and doesn’t see any chance of changing his mind, why not reach out to Congress, the “last brake” to stop the deal, diplomatic niceties be damned?

But even if he’s not particularly interested in what the White House thinks of him at this point, what’s harder to understand is the cold shoulder Netanyahu has given congressional Democrats, some of whom have been willing in the past to push back against the White House on the Iran issue. The most striking moment in this whole mess was not so much Netanyahu accepting Boehner’s invitation, though that could certainly have been handled more deftly. It was when Netanyahu declined a closed-door meeting with congressional Democrats. This would seem to have been a welcome opportunity for some fence-mending given that a number of prominent members of Congress, including the most senior senator, Patrick Leahy, and a number of members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are skipping his speech over the perceived insult to Obama. Instead, Netanyahu dug in deeper, making the long-standing joke about Netanyahu being the “Republican senator” from Israel seeming not really like a joke anymore.

It’s one of the necessary hypocrisies of diplomacy between democracies that governments have to pretend they don’t have a stake in each other’s domestic politics. Sometimes they don’t do a particularly good job of selling the fiction. Other European governments clearly hoped Greek voters would elect someone other than the left-wing Syriza party during last month’s election, for instance. Obama was, himself, the beneficiary of several de facto endorsements from European leaders in 2008. The U.S.-Israel relationship hasn’t been immune from this kind of gamesmanship either: George H.W. Bush fairly transparently attempted to tip the scales in favor of Yitzhak Rabin over Yitzhak Shamir in 1991, and Bill Clinton tried unsuccessfully to do the same for Shimon Peres over Netanyahu in 1996.

What is unprecedented is the extent to which Netanyahu has firmly allied himself with one American party over another—not just during an election but in the making of policy. At this point, U.S. domestic politics are probably a better lens for analyzing Netanyahu’s actions than foreign policy: He’s interacting with the White House less in the manner of François Hollande or David Cameron than in that of Mitch McConnell or John Boehner.

Pragmatism would seem to argue against this approach: Foreign leaders don’t have much influence over other countries’ voters, and they’re going to have to deal with whoever is in power. Angela Merkel clearly didn’t want François Hollande to be elected and backed his opponent, Nicolas Sarkozy, to an unusual extent in 2012. But while the two clearly aren’t overly fond of each other, they’ve found ways to work together. Narendra Modi wasn’t even allowed to enter the United States until a few months ago, but the U.S.-India relationship has actually improved since he came into office. Margaret Thatcher may have been ideologically simpatico with Ronald Reagan’s Republicans, but she got along decently with Jimmy Carter as well.

But Netanyahu, who appointed a former GOP pollster as his ambassador to Washington, is taking a different, and historically unusual, approach—essentially aligning Israel’s interests with the fortunes of one American political party. 

Even the right-leaning, pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC seems baffled by this approach, with one official telling the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg last week, “[Ambassador Ron] Dermer and Netanyahu don’t believe that Democrats are capable of being pro-Israel, which is crazy for a lot of reasons, but one of the main reasons is that most Jews are Democrats.”

Indeed, it is bizarre with for the leader of a country with a stake in U.S. political debates to write off one of America’s political parties, and even stranger for the leader of Israel to write off the party that 70 percent of American Jews support. With polls showing younger and more secular American Jews less attached to Israel than their parents, we’re quickly drifting toward a place where Orthodox Jews, who tend to lean further to the right, and the Christian right, replace the broader American Jewish community as Israel’s most enthusiastic U.S. supporters. That cannot be good for Israel.

March 2 2015 11:37 AM

You’ll Never Guess Who Cleveland Says Is to Blame for Police Killing 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice

The city of Cleveland has decided who to blame for the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was holding a toy gun when he was shot by police this past November: Tamir Rice.

March 2 2015 10:42 AM

How Obama Will Use the DOJ’s Civil Rights Probe to Reform the Ferguson PD

The Justice Department is reportedly putting the finishing touches on the parallel investigations it launched in the wake of 18-year-old Michael Brown’s shooting death in Ferguson, Missouri, this past summer. The results of the first of those investigations—into whether civil rights charges should be filed against Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Brown—is largely a formality at this point. That was always going to be a long shot, and law enforcement officials have already signaled that charges are unlikely.

The drama instead lies in the second investigation, which is a broader look into how the Ferguson Police Department does business. According to the New York Times, that report, which could come as soon as this week, will almost certainly be highly critical of the department. Here’s the Grey Lady with the details:

While the Justice Department’s exact findings are not yet known, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who is expected to leave office in the next few weeks, and other officials have said publicly that their investigation has focused on the use of excessive force and the treatment of prisoners in local jails as well as the traffic stops. …
Blacks accounted for 86 percent of traffic stops in 2013 but make up 63 percent of the population, according to the most recent data published by the Missouri attorney general. And once they were stopped, black drivers were twice as likely to be searched, even though searches of white drivers were more likely to turn up contraband.
For people in Ferguson who cannot afford to pay their tickets, routine traffic stops can become yearslong ordeals, with repeated imprisonments because of mounting fines. Such fines are the city’s second-largest source of revenue after sales tax. Federal investigators say that has provided a financial incentive to continue law enforcement policies that unfairly target African-Americans.

The release of the DOJ report is only a first step toward fixing the police department—but it’s nonetheless a crucial one. Assuming Holder does indeed conclude that there was a pattern of misconduct by the Ferguson PD, the report will give President Obama the ability to force widespread reforms within the department with the help of a law passed in the wake of the Rodney King beating.

As I explained this past summer, the law in question effectively leaves the city of Ferguson with two options: 1) Local officials can either enter into what is known as a “consent decree” with the feds that would mandate a specific set of reforms that would then be overseen by an independent court-appointed monitor, or 2) The city can refuse and instead face an almost certain federal civil rights lawsuit.

City officials haven’t said whether they’ll take the easy path or the more difficult one. But faced with the possibility of a costly court battle, most cities have historically taken the path of least resistance and signed on the decree’s dotted lines. Ferguson officials probably wouldn’t buck that trend. (There are exceptions to every rule, of course. The DOJ currently has four such lawsuits open, according to the Times, including one against Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona.)

To get an idea of what such a consent decree might look like, I spoke with Samuel Walker, the emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, this past summer. Each settlement is unique, but generally speaking they last a minimum of five years and ensure that the reform process is a public one. The agreed-upon reforms have historically covered three main areas, according to Walker: overhauling of the department’s use-of-force policies, including how such incidents are investigated internally; enacting an early-intervention system that relies on a variety of data, ranging from citizen complaints against an officer to the demographics of his or her traffic stops; and creating a clear, open process through which citizens can lodge complaints when they feel they’ve been mistreated.

In the past two decades, more than 20 cities have entered into such agreements with the federal government—both big cities like Los Angeles and New Orleans and smaller ones closer in size to Ferguson, like East Haven, Connecticut, and Steubenville, Ohio. While the results are mixed, there is precedent for significant reforms. The best-documented example of such an effort succeeding is, somewhat remarkably, in Los Angeles, where the beating of King by police helped prompt passage of the federal law in the first place.

For more on the upcoming report, check out the Times article. For more on consent decrees, check out my piece from this past summer.

March 1 2015 11:53 PM

L.A. Police Caught on Video Shooting Homeless Man to Death

Los Angeles police shot and killed a homeless man on Sunday during a disturbing confrontation that was caught on video. The video, which was posted on Facebook (and contains lots of cursing) shows a group of police officers get into a struggle with a man who is on a sidewalk next to tents. It begins with the man apparently swinging violently toward the officers. One of the officers drops his nightstick, which is picked up by a woman, who is then violently handcuffed. Then what looks like four officers continue to struggle with the man and at one point it sounds as if one of the officers yells, “Drop the gun! Drop the gun!” At that point, at least five gunshots are heard although from the recording it isn’t clear whether more than one officer opened fire.

The Los Angeles Times talks to witnesses who say the victim was a homeless man known as “Africa” but no one really has an explanation for what actually happened. One witness said Africa had been fighting with someone in his tent and then lunged at the officers when they tried to break up the fight. That is the same version that another witness recounts to CBS. “Next thing I know,” said the witness, “dude swung on a cop and the cop swung back. And they were hitting on him and then two other cop cars pulled up and they got out of the car and ran over there, and they had three tasers out.”  

Another witness tells the Los Angeles Times Africa tried to grab a weapon from a police officer while a resident in the area claims police already had Africa in their sights because they had asked him repeatedly to take down his tent. “This man got shot over a tent,” the witness said. Police have yet to confirm how many rounds were fired.

March 1 2015 5:53 PM

Scott Walker Flip-Flops on Immigration: “My View Has Changed”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he has changed his mind about immigration policy and no longer believes there is a way in which the 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally can embark on a path to citizenship. He has expressed that view in the past but now labels it as “amnesty,” which he is against.

“I don’t believe in amnesty,” Walker, who came in second in the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll, told Fox News. “'My view has changed. I’m flat out saying it. Candidates can say that.” Walker only acknowledged that his mind had changed after host Chris Wallace pressed him on a clip from 2013, in which he told a Wisconsin newspaper that “it makes sense” to allow undocumented citizens a path to citizenship.

“We need to secure the border,” Walker said. “We ultimately need to put in place a system that works—a legal immigration system that works.” Part of the reason why his mind has changed, according to Walker, is that “I’ve talked to governors on the border and others out there.”

March 1 2015 4:08 PM

Tens of Thousands March in Moscow to Remember Murdered Putin Critic

“I am not afraid,” “propaganda kills,” and “I am Boris Nemtsov” were just some of the banners that tens of thousands of people carried through the streets of downtown Moscow on Sunday to remember murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was gunned down Friday night near the Kremlin. Many in the crowd also carried the Russian flag and a picture of Nemtsov as they marched toward the spot where he was killed, in what was the highest-profile political murder in more than a decade. “The mood was more one of quiet dismay rather than explosive anger,” notes the Guardian.

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Russia's opposition supporters carry a banner bearing a portrait of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov and reading “heroes never die.”

Photo by Sergei Gapon/AFP/Getty Images

The memorial march took the place of the opposition rally that was originally scheduled for Sunday but was called off after Nemtsov’s murder. “Although the crowds were larger than recent opposition protests, few in attendance thought that it was the beginning of a new push against the Kremlin,” notes the Washington Post. “Instead, many said that the slaying was a frightening sign that those who disagree with Russia’s aggressive mainstream risk their lives for saying so publicly.”

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People march in memory of Russian opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov on March 1, 2015 in central Moscow.

Photo by Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images

Many in the crowd were angry that Putin’s recent policies have created a “fervently nationalist mood,” as the BBC puts it, that labels anyone who disagrees with the Kremlin as a traitor. “If we can stop the campaign of hate that's being directed at the opposition, then we have a chance to change Russia. If not, then we face the prospect of mass civil conflict,” an opposition leader told Reuters. There is no official figure on turnout and estimates range from 16,000 to 70,000.

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People lay flowers in memory of murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov in Vilnius on March 1, 2015.

Photo by Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty Images

Nemtsov’s murder was reportedly caught by surveillance cameras, and the images appear to reinforce the idea that it was carried out by professional assassins. The Telegraph explains:

The grainy video, recorded from the other side of the Moskva River and broadcast by the Moscow city government television station, contradicts earlier reports that Nemtsov was killed by assailants shooting from a passing vehicle.
Instead, the assassin apparently hid in a stairwell leading off down from bridge. As Nemtsov passed, the killer emerged and began shooting at Nemtsov’s back, killing him with four pistol rounds. He then hurriedly climbed into an arriving getaway car, and was driven away.
“You would have needed to coordinate very closely between Nemtsov and the car … It is clear that it was a very sophisticated and professional killing,” said Andrey Soldatov, a Russian security expert. Up to 15 people working in three teams could have been involved, he said.
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A young woman stands near Moskvoretskiy Bridge with a placard which says "Struggle" as people march in memory of Russian opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov on March 1, 2015 in central Moscow.

Photo by Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images

March 1 2015 1:22 PM

Vince Vaughn, Lady Gaga Take a Dip in Icy Lake Michigan for Polar Plunge

He didn’t do it in a suit, à la Jimmy Fallon last year, but actor Vince Vaughn was the celebrity guest of honor at the 15th annual Polar Plunge in Chicago. And Lady Gaga just showed up for kicks. The annual event raises money for the Special Olympics, and the organization used social media to recruit the actor with the hashtag #VinnyDippin, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Lady Gaga made the surprise appearance alongside her fiancé, Chicago Fire actor Taylor Kinney. Lady Gaga entered the water on Kinney’s shoulders, reports NBC, which points out the actor was scheduled to participate with two of his co-stars. More than 4,500 people took part in the plunge, according to the Associated Press.

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