Posted Saturday, May 25, 2013, at 5:02 PM
A police investigator works at the site where a man armed with a box cutter attacked a French soldier patrolling a subway station
Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images
A French soldier was stabbed by a robed assailant while he was on an antiterrorism patrol in a busy commercial district on the western outskirts of Paris. The 23-year-old soldier lost a lot of blood but he was quickly taken to the hospital and his wounds are not life-threatening. Still, the attack “sent a shudder through the French capital” considering it comes mere days after the brutal killing of a soldier in London, points out the Washington Post.
The attacker in France was wearing a Muslim prayer cap and a robe called a jellabah common in North Africa. Security cameras reveal the attacker shed his robe after the attack and disappeared into a crowd. The soldier was patrolling in uniform with two other men and was stabbed either with a knife or a box-cutter, notes Reuters. "We still don't know the exact circumstances of the attack or the identity of the attacker, but we are exploring all options," President Francois Hollande told journalists.
Posted Saturday, May 25, 2013, at 4:56 PM
Photo by Ramin Talaie/Getty Images
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel didn’t shy away from one of the most important and controversial issues facing the military when he spoke to future military leaders Saturday. Addressing graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Memorial Day weekend, Hagel said it was the responsibility of the young members of the armed forces to help stamp out sexual assault within their ranks, reports the New York Times. "Sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a profound betrayal—a profound betrayal—of sacred oaths and sacred trusts," Hagel said. "This scourge must be stamped out."
His words come a day after President Obama delivered a similar message to graduates at the U.S. Naval Academy and comes amid a series of allegations that have engulfed a wide cross-section of the armed services in recent months, points out the Associated Press. The issue is particularly fresh in West Pont, where an Army sergeant was recently charged with secretly videotaping women in the showers. A study released earlier this month by the Defense Department estimated that reports of unwanted sexual contact in the military soared 35 percent in 2012 from 2010, reports CNN.
Posted Saturday, May 25, 2013, at 3:57 PM
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford waves the pan american flag during the Closing Ceremony of the XVI Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico
Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford may want to find a new spokesman. As the mayor has been engulfed by allegations that he was filmed smoking crack cocaine, his brother Doug Ford has largely acted as his spokesman. But it turns out he has links to drug dealing. For several years, Doug Ford “was a go-to dealer of hash” and had a small group of dealers who sold his product, according to the Globe and Mail that publishes an extensive investigation into links between the Ford family and drug-dealing today. Doug Ford allegedly worked as a supplier for around seven years, until 1986. Doug Ford is now a member of Toronto’s city council but his past isn’t entirely in the past. Recently, Rob Ford has hired someone who used to sell hash with Doug Ford, according to the Globe and Mail.
Doug Ford wasn’t alone. Several sources also identified Randy Ford as a former drug dealer, who kept separate operations —and was much less savvy—than Doug Ford. He was once charged in a drug-related kidnapping. For her part, Kathy Ford, the eldest sibling, has been linked to a number of “bizarre, violent and sensational incidents” and her long-time boyfriend is a convicted cocaine and hash dealer. Her ex-husband is a drug addict and, as if those weren't enough controversial links, she is friends with a founding member of “the short-lived Canadian chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.” Several people say she has links to known white supremacists.
Globe and Mail editor-in-chief John Stackhouse writes a letter to readers explaining that the piece is the result of an 18-month investigation. Insisting the information is of public interest, Stackhouse writes that citizens “deserve to understand the moral record of their leaders. In most matters, public or private, character matters.” The final decision to publish the story came after Rob Ford spoke to the media Friday saying he doesn’t use crack cocaine. A group of the paper’s senior editors “concluded again that it is in the public interest to publish,” writes Stackhouse. “Indeed, we felt it would be irresponsible not to share this information with the public at this time.”
Posted Saturday, May 25, 2013, at 11:42 AM
Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images
In the days following the murder of a British soldier in London, there has been a huge spike in anti-Muslim incidents, according to an interfaith charity. Faith Matters, an organization that works to reduce extremism, says it has received 162 calls on its helpline since Wednesday’s attack, a sharp increase from the six calls it receives on an average day. The incidents range from name calling and abuse on social media, to the painting of graffiti, attacks against mosques, and pulling off women’s headscarves in the street. The director of the group told the BBC that what is most concerning is “the spread of these incidents” that are “coming in from right across the country.” Some of these attacks “are quite aggressive, very focused, very aggressive attacks,” Fiyaz Mughal said.
Police have arrested several people since Wednesday, including three men who were detained for allegedly making offensive comments on Twitter and two men who will be charged with threatening behavior at a fast food restaurant, details the Guardian.
Meanwhile, British police arrested a man who described himself as a friend of one of the suspects after he gave an interview to the BBC Friday night. Abu Nusaybah told the BBC that one of the two men arrested after the murder Wednesday had been approached by Britain’s domestic intelligence service. According to Nusaybah, Britain’s MI5 approached Michael Adebolajo about six months ago and asked him whether he wanted to work for them. He rejected the offer. The BBC was not able to confirm the offer that allegedly happened after Adebolajo returned from a trip to Kenya. The police entered the BBC offices and waited for the interview to conclude before arresting Nusaybah, a BBC staffer tells CNN. Scotland Yard claims the arrest is not directly related to the Woolwich murder investigation, only noting that the 31-year-old man was wanted on terrorism charges.
Posted Saturday, May 25, 2013, at 11:30 AM
Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio attends the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 29, 2012
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio certainly knows how to get attention. He has required prisoners to wear pink underwear and sleep in tents. He has removed salt and pepper from prisons in what he described as a bid to save money for taxpayers. Yet nothing has gotten Arpaio more attention than his trademark immigration patrols that he launched in 2006 that a judge has now ruled are illegal. A federal judge ruled that Arpaio’s office violated the constitutional rights of Latino drivers as part of his crackdown of immigration violations in the state that is the busiest entryway for illegal immigrants. It was the first time a court has ruled Arpaio’s agency is guilty of racial profiling, reports the Associated Press.
Coming at a time when many in Arizona were demanding action on illegal immigration, Arpaio quickly became a political lightning rod. And Arpaio has insisted the federal government will not stop him from doing what he thinks is right. But now he will be forced to comply with the ruling as the judge said Arpaio’s office “has no authority to detain people based only on reasonable suspicion, or probable cause, without more, that such persons are in this country without authorization.” In their eagerness to enforce immigration laws, Arpaio and his officers ended up violating the constitutional rights of both U.S. citizens and legal immigrants, reports Reuters. Eight months after a non-jury trial, the judge said Arpaio’s office can’t detain Latino drivers and passengers only on the suspicion that they’re illegal immigrants or use race or ancestry as grounds to stop anyone. Arpaio long denied the allegations and will appeal the ruling.
The ruling was an unexpected “gift” for the organizers of a drive to recall Arpaio that had lost momentum in recent weeks as the sheriff maintained a low profile, reports the Arizona Republic. “It’s a gift that reminded us that Sheriff Arpaio has to go,’’ the organizer of the campaign tells the paper.
Posted Friday, May 24, 2013, at 5:43 PM
Viewers fell in love with Barbara Garcia after watching her find her missing dog during a TV interview
Screenshot from CBS News
Barbara and Bowser: CBS News: "Barbara Garcia lost everything in this week's devastating tornado. But amid the rubble, Barbara ... found and rescued her beloved dog Bowser. The story of their reunion touched many of our viewers who wanted to help. So how are Garcia and Bowser doing now? Garcia has some bruises, her home and possessions are gone, but she has the thing she wanted most [her dog]. ... 'All of the other things ... you know, one by one they can be replaced. A lot of it wasn't even important, but I couldn't replace him.' ... After Garcia and Bowser's story aired on CBS News, it went viral. The CBS News clip been viewed more than 3 million times. ... Erin DeRuggiero set up an account to raise money on a site called GoFundMe.com. DeRuggiero said, 'I was just so moved by Barbara. I was really just compelled, personally, to do something.' In 24 hours, she says, the site gathered more than $1,500 in donations. For Garcia, who had no homeowner's insurance, it's all almost too much. Garcia said, 'I didn't know I was that important. I really and truly didn't. I just thank everybody.'" Slatest Flashback: Tornado Survivor Finds Her Missing Dog in the Rubble of Her Home During a TV Interview
Furlough Friday: Associated Press: "No one answered the tax-help hotline at the IRS on Friday. And you could forget about getting advice on avoiding foreclosures at the 80 Housing and Urban Development field offices nationwide. It was 'furlough Friday.' Roughly 5 percent of the federal workforce - 115,000 people at six major agencies - were told not to show up as the government dealt with the continuing effects of the sequester spending cuts. The good news for many federal workers: a four-day Memorial Day weekend. The bad news: no pay for the day."
China Talks Tough to North Korea: New York Times: "The Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, bluntly told a North Korean envoy Friday that his country should return to diplomatic talks designed to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons, according to a state-run Chinese news agency. ... Vice Marshal Choe, who has been in Beijing for three days on a mission to repair the prickly relationship between North Korea and China, handed Mr. Xi a letter from Mr. Kim. The contents were not disclosed. In telling the North it should return to the negotiating table, Mr. Xi appeared to strike a stern tone, saying, 'The Chinese position is very clear: no matter how the situation changes, relevant parties should all adhere to the goal of denuclearization of the peninsula, persist in safeguarding its peace and stability, and stick to solving problems through dialogue and consultation.'"
Obama Warns Cadets About Sexual Assault: Washington Post: "President Obama on Friday used the issue of sexual assault in the military to illustrate to U.S. Naval Academy graduates the importance of trust and honor, at a time when the public has grown weary of missteps by public servants. 'It only takes the misconduct of a few to further erode people’s trust in their government,' Obama told the graduates at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. ... A Pentagon survey this month estimated that 26,000 military service members experienced “unwanted sexual contact” last year, but only a small fraction filed sexual-assault reports."
Two Arrested on International Flight: Reuters: "British fighter jets escorted a Pakistan International Airlines passenger plane to Stansted Airport near London on Friday, where police went on board and arrested two men on suspicion of endangering an aircraft. Passengers were leaving the plane and no one was hurt in the incident, a spokesman for the airport said. Flight PK709 from Lahore in Pakistan had been due to land at Manchester in northern England with 297 passengers on board, but was diverted shortly before arrival."
Trayvon's Texts: Associated Press: "Data released Thursday by the defense from slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin's cellphone includes texts with a friend about fighting, smoking pot and being forced to move out of his mother's house because of trouble at school, as well as photos of a gun and what looks to be a potted marijuana plant. A hearing next week will decide if the information can be used at the trial for George Zimmerman, who is charged with fatally shooting the unarmed 17-year-old last year during a confrontation at a gated community in Sanford. Prosecutors want the negative evidence omitted, but Zimmerman's defense attorney said if they try to portray his client as the antagonist and Martin as the victim, he wants to show the jury that Martin has talked about fighting before."
A Few More Quick Hits From Slate's blogs—
- TNC: Someone Just Paid $1.5 Million to Go to Space With Leonardo DiCaprio (VIDEO)
- XX Factor: Julianne Moore Bashes Celebrity Profiles About Aging, Motherhood, and Men
- Future Tense: This 23-Ton Star Wars X-Wing Is the Largest LEGO Model Ever Built
- Moneybox: Why Lobbyists Write Bills and Why You Shouldn't Worry Too Much About It
- Weigel: The Secret History of Max Baucus' "Train Wreck" Quote
See you back here Tuesday after the long weekend. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe, or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.
Posted Friday, May 24, 2013, at 3:57 PM
Photo by Brett Gundlock / Reuters
Breaking a week of silence about allegations that he was filmed smoking crack in the presence of Somali drug dealers, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford called a Friday afternoon press conference to adamantly deny the reports. "There has been a serious accusation from the Toronto Star that I use crack cocaine," he said. "I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I crack cocaine addict."
Ford semi-denied the allegations last week, telling reporters as he left his home the morning after the story broke that the reports were "just ridiculous." He added: "It's another Toronto Star ..." before trailing off, referring to Canada's largest daily newspaper and an outlet that has previously written about allegations that the mayor has a substance abuse problem. He then declined to address the matter any further until this afternoon. The reason for his silence, he said, was because he was "advised not to say a word" by his attorney.
The timing of the press conference comes one day after Gawker—which is trying to raise the $200,000 it says it needs to buy the video—announced that it has been unable to contact the owner of the video in recent days, something that increases the chances that the video in question may never become public. Ford, who never mentioned the U.S. website by name, said: "As for a video, I cannot comment on a video that I have not seen, or does not exist."
Last week, his attorney told Canadian radio: "I don't know whether or not such a video exists, but I think it would be fair for the public to see such a video and make their own conclusions."
Ford left without taking any questions from reporters. His spokesman, however, stuck around for a few minutes, during which he sparred with reporters while refusing to concede that anyone but the Star had made the allegations. "Let me tell you about Gawker," he said eventually after repeated questioning. "I think it's disgusting ... that an organization like Gawker would deal with a bunch of extortionists."
Posted Friday, May 24, 2013, at 3:04 PM
Photo by Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images
Here's a story you don't see every day about the leader of a major global power, via the AFP:
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet on Friday formally denied months-long rumours that the premier had not moved into his official residence over fears the mansion is haunted. The conservative leader took office in December but has yet to move into the 11-room brick home in central Tokyo, the longest holdout among any of his predecessors, according to local media. ... Abe’s cabinet issued a terse written statement on Friday, saying: “We do not assent to what was asked.”
The prime minister's official declaration wasn't completely unprompted, but that doesn't necessarily make the whole thing any less bizarre. The statement came in response to a letter sent to Abe's Cabinet from opposition lawmaker Ken Kagaya, who asked: "There are rumors that the official residence is haunted by ghosts. Is it true? Does Prime Minister Abe refuse to move to the official residence because of the rumors?"
According to the Global Post, Abe currently lives in his home in Tokyo and commutes daily via motorcade to his official office, located conveniently only a few minutes' walk from the official residence that he's so far opted against moving into. Kagaya and co. used that fact as the public rationale for their request—their thought being that the roughly 15-minute commute would slow Abe's response time in the event of a late-night national emergency—although I'm sure they're more than OK with the implication that somehow the leader of their opposition is afraid of things that go bump in the night.
The ghost stories have been bouncing around for decades, and likely stem from a pair of major coup d’etat attempts back in the 1930s that took place in the compound and resulted in more than a few assassinations of government officials, including then-Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai in 1932. The Wall Street Journal wrote about the paranormal speculation last year, explaining that one former prime minister "is said to have heard footsteps of what sounded like men in boots approaching his bedroom in the middle of the night, only to open the door and find an empty hallway," while others "have said they’ve see spirits of men in uniform roaming about the compounds."
While acknowledging that he's heard the paranormal rumors like everyone else, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that his boss' decision is simply an issue of comfort. "The prime ministership is an extremely busy post with pressing work," Suga said. "So I think (Abe) should be allowed to work in what he considers the best environment."
Posted Friday, May 24, 2013, at 11:19 AM
Photo by Brett Gundlock / Reuters
As you no doubt remember, an editor from Gawker and two reporters from the Toronto Star went public last week with the news that they'd seen cellphone footage of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking what appears by all accounts to be crack cocaine. Publications around the Internet have been following the story in our own particular ways. The Star has stayed on the case, trying to get comment from Ford and keeping tabs on the comings and goings in his office. Slate has argued that Ford, while a buffoon and possibly a crack user, is actually a pretty good mayor (#slatepitch!). Gawker, meanwhile, is trying to raise the $200,000 it says it will take to buy the tape from the drug dealers who have it.Read More »
Posted Friday, May 24, 2013, at 10:01 AM
Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
So this happened last night, via the Associated Press:
A truck carrying an oversize load struck a bridge on the major thoroughfare between Seattle and Canada, sending a section of the span and two vehicles into the Skagit River below, though all three occupants suffered only minor injuries. It happened about 7 p.m. Thursday on the four-lane Interstate 5 bridge near Mount Vernon, about 60 miles north of Seattle, and disrupted travel in both directions.
The truck managed to make it off the bridge before the collapse—and the driver remained on the scene—but two other vehicles weren't so lucky, making the roughly five-story plunge into the water below. In the immediate aftermath of the collapse there were some fears that the bridge had given way on its own, but Washington state police now say it happened when a tractor-trailer carrying an extra-tall load hit an upper part of the span. That will ease some fears about the state of the nation's bridges, but is still likely to draw increased attention to the normally not-so-sexy topic of infrastructure. Here's the AP with more on the state of this particular bridge:
The bridge was not classified as structurally deficient, but a Federal Highway Administration database listed it as being “functionally obsolete” — a category meaning that the design is outdated, such as having narrow shoulders and low clearance underneath. The bridge was built in in 1955 and had a sufficiency rating of 47 out of 100 at its November 2012 inspection, Transportation Department spokesman Noel Brady said Friday. Washington state was given a C in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 infrastructure report card and a C- when it came to the state’s bridges. The group said more than a quarter of Washington’s 7,840 bridges are considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
According to state transportation officials, the bridge was inspected twice last year and at least some repairs were made. "It's an older bridge that needs a lot of work just like a good number of bridges around the state," Lynn Peterson, the state transportation secretary, said last night. The federal National Transportation Safety Board is sending an investigative team to help figure out exactly what went wrong.