Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

April 19 2014 5:50 PM

Ohio Couple Married for 70 Years Die 15 Hours Apart

When Helen Felumlee of Nashport died on April 12 at 92, her 91-year-old husband, Kenneth Felumlee, quickly followed, passing away a mere 15-and-a-half hours after the woman he had married 70 years earlier. This was of little surprise to their eight children, who described their parents as almost inseparable. "We knew when one went, the other was going to go," daughter Linda Cody said, according to the Associated Press. The Zanesville Times Recorder was the first to write about the love story that noted how Helen had become Kenneth’s caretaker after he had his leg amputated two-and-a-half years ago because of circulation problems.

Around 2 hours after Helen died, Kennth looked up at his children who were gathered at his bedside and said, “Mom’s dead.” And then he “quickly began to fade,” according to the AP. "He was ready," Cody said. "He just didn't want to leave her here by herself." The two first met when they were 18 and 19 and quickly fell in love. They ended up eloping and gettting married in Kentucky two days before Kenneth celebrated his 21st birthday.  

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April 19 2014 5:26 PM

Four French Journalists Freed After 10 Months of Captivity in Syria

Four French journalists who were captured in Syria 10 months ago were released on the Turkish border and are on their way home. The men are reportedly in good health but it’s unclear how the release came about and if anybody paid a ransom, reports the Associated Press. French President Francois Hollande said in a statement that he felt "immense relief" at the release despite the "very trying conditions" of their abduction. “We thank the Turkish authorities because they helped us a great deal,” one of the freed journalists, Didier François, a senior reporter for Europe 1, told Turkish television in a brief interview, according to the New York Times. He was held alongside his Europe 1 colleague Edouard Elias, Nicolas Hénin, a freelance writer who regularly contributed to French weekly Le Point, and Pierre Torres, a freelance photographer. The four men had been captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) in two incidents in June, notes the Telegraph.

Hénin talked to France 24 and said that their release “was a real surprise” but they apparently knew something was up when their captors gave them better food than usual the night before they were set free. “Usually we were not very well fed. [On Friday evening] our jailers brought us a better meal. And then they asked us if we wanted some more, which had never happened before! That’s when we thought ‘something is happening.’” Reporters Without Borders has described Syria as “the world’s most dangerous country for journalists.” The Committee to Protect Journalists says 61 journalists were kidnapped in Syria last year.


All four of the men had bears when they were released, which they quickly shaved off as can be seen in this picture posted on Twitter by France24 Istanbul correspondent Fatma Kizilboga:

April 19 2014 3:38 PM

South Korea Ferry Captain Arrested as Rescuers Say There’s “Almost Zero” Chance of Survivors

The captain of the South Korean ferry that sank on Wednesday was arrested Saturday along with two crew members, including the 25-year-old third mate who was actually at the helm when the ship capsized. The number of confirmed dead rose to 33 after four bodies were found, reports the Associated Press. That number will almost certainly rise. The head of a nongovernmental group working with officials on the rescue efforts said that “the changes are almost zero that we can still find a survivor in there,” reports the Wall Street Journal. According to the official count, 269 people are still missing.

"I am sorry to the people of South Korea for causing a disturbance and I bow my head in apology to the families of the victims," 68-year-old Lee Joon-seok, the ferry captain, told reporters after his arrest. He also went on to defend his decision not to call for an immediate evacuation.  “At the time, the current was very strong, the temperature of the ocean water was cold, and I thought that if people left the ferry without (proper) judgment, if they were not wearing a life jacket, and even if they were, they would drift away and face many other difficulties,” Lee said, according to the AP.


Prosecutors said on Saturday that Park Han-gyeol, the 25-year-old third mate (some say she is 26) who was steering the ferry when it sank. It was her first time navigating the treacherous Maenggol Waterway, which “has a reputation for having one of the most rapid and unpredictable currents around the peninsula,” according to the New York Times. Although having the third mate steer the ferry was not a violation of protocol, the Wall Street Journal points out that another crew member said she was in charge during the most dangerous part of the route that is difficult “even for the most experienced officer.” Meanwhile, records show that the ferry operator—Chonghaejin Marine Co.—“has been in marine accidents involving engine trouble and collisions every two to three years in the recent past,” reports the Korea Times.  

The South Korean ferry accident marked the second time in a little more than two years that a captain has fled a sinking ship, putting a dent on the popular idea that a captain always goes down with the ship, notes the New York Times. Experts say the attitude is shocking and violates all accepted norms and regulations.  “That guy’s an embarrassment to anybody who’s ever had command at sea,” said John B. Padgett III, a retired United States Navy rear admiral and former submarine captain.

April 19 2014 10:23 AM

Watch How a TV Anchor in Mexico Keeps Calm as Earthquake Shakes Studio

Eduardo “Lalo” Salazar of Mexican television network Televisa quickly became an Internet celebrity when he remained calm and composed as a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit the capital Friday morning.  With the earthquake-siren blaring, Salazar kept his cool as he slowly and meticulously described what he was feeling and seeing. The video above begins with Salazar describing how the earthquake-alarm has been blaring but he can't feel anything yet. Then, at the 30-second mark: “Now we’re starting to feel it.” Salazar goes on to describe how the lights in the studio are shaking. “It’s a strong quake,” he says at the one-minute mark. “We have to stay calm. Many people start to…” Then the shaking really gets going, and Salazar grabs on to the table: “It’s stronger now … It’s stronger now.” And the shaking in the studio becomes evident: “We have to go out. It’s very strong. Everything is shaking now.” While the studio is shaking, Salazar doesn't quit, going on to explain a live feed that is coming from the street before finally throwing in the towel at the 1.35-minute mark: “I’m getting out, I’m getting out.” The earthquake itself caused little damage and there were no reports of casualties, notes the Wall Street Journal.

This is hardly the first time a news anchor gains Internet notoriety because of an earthquake. Just last month, KTLA anchors Megan Henderson and Chris Schauble were on the air when a 4.4-magnitude earthquake struck. They chose the old duck-and-cover routine, getting underneath their desk for a few seconds until the threat had passed:

April 18 2014 4:28 PM

Prosecutors Want to Arrest South Korean Ferry Captain for Abandoning Ship

Prosecutors have asked to arrest Lee Jun-seok, the captain of the sunken Sewol ferry, who is reported to have been one of the first to leave the ship during the disaster. They are also looking to arrest his third mate, who was steering the ship when it began to sink. From the Times:

On Friday, investigators said Mr. Lee, the ship’s captain, who has been criticized for being among the first to leave the sinking ship, was not at the steering house when the ferry, the Sewol, tilted and began sinking on Wednesday morning.
“He temporarily left the steering command to his third shipmate,” said Park Jae-uk, a senior investigator. “We are investigating where exactly he was at the time.”

Lee is apparently already in custody, but has not been "formally arrested."

April 18 2014 3:34 PM

Guardian Interviews Eccentric Co-Architect of CIA's Harsh Interrogation Program

James Elmer Mitchell, one of the co-creators of the CIA’s post-9/11 “harsh interrogation” program,  spoke at length to the Guardian from his home in Land O’ Lakes, Fla. in what is described as the longest interview he’s ever done. This is Mitchell:



He co-designed the United States’ massively controversial “harsh interrogation” program for al-Qaida despite having no experience interrogating criminal suspects or working in intelligence, after which an internal CIA report concluded that he “probably misrepresented” his credentials in order to get the job. Mitchell's interview with the Guardian is something of an attempt to clear his name from "fat guys in the basement" (bloggers) and other critics. He says he never advocated violations of the Geneva Conventions and is a supporter of Amnesty International. He also points out that he definitively did spend time working at the Air Force’s survival school helping teach techniques for withstanding interrogation, which is at least a somewhat plausible qualification for doing the job he did for the CIA.


However, Mitchell also:

—tells the paper that global warming is a myth

—says that working as a bomb defusal technician was good training for his CIA work because bomb technicians learn about the motivations of people who plant bombs in bomb defusal school

—uses the phrase “threat matrix” twice

—calls Obamacare a “shit sandwich”

Whether you believe him or not, Mitchell is certainly an appropriately surreal character to have been involved in the strange and chaotic world of the United States military-industrial complex post-9/11.

April 18 2014 11:58 AM

Criminal Cab Driver Mastermind (Allegedly) Evaded 3,000 Tolls

This is just impressive work by taxi driver Rodolfo Sanchez of Queens, who's been arrested for evading tolls on the Robert F. Kennedy (formerly Triborough) Bridge.

Prosecutors say Sanchez crossed the bridge more than 3,000 times between 2012 and 2014 by tailgating vehicles as they went through the tolls, thus allowing both vehicles to pass through before the barrier came down.

On one hand, stealing from people is wrong (Sanchez presumably added the amount of the tolls he wasn't actually paying to his passengers' fares) and we as a society need things like tolls so we can maintain our infrastructure, which is crucial to our Competitiveness in a Global Economy. On the other hand, tailgating through a toll booth 3,000 times without once hitting the gate sounds like some nifty drivin'.

April 18 2014 10:01 AM

Avalanche Kills 12 Climbing Guides in Deadliest Day Ever on Mt. Everest

12 Sherpa climbing guides were killed by an avalanche on Mt. Everest Friday morning, the worst single-day loss of life in the mountain's history. From the New York Times:

The Sherpas were at an altitude of 5,800 meters, or 19,000 feet, when the avalanche hit, according to Madhu Sudan Burlakoti, joint secretary for the Tourism Ministry. He said that four people were also missing and that six had been injured. Some of the deceased were fixing ropes for climbers.

Everest is 29,000 feet tall, and the disaster occurred below Camp 2—the second of four camps between base camp (which is at around 18,000 feet) and the peak. Per the AP, climbers and guides currently on the mountain are still in a preparatory stage, as weather conditions won't allow them to actually summit the mountain until next month.   

In 1996, eight people died in what had previously been the deadliest incident in Everest history, which was documented in Jon Krakauer's book Into Thin Air.

April 17 2014 9:44 PM

Here's How Long That Teen Would Have to Pee in the Portland Reservoir to Make It Unsafe to Drink

Oh, Portland. A teenager urinated into one of the city’s drinking water reservoirs the other day. That’s gross, sure, and aggravating—what a brat! But in one of the most spectacularly stupid decisions in years, the city is going to drain the reservoir. The most spectacularly stupid decision in about three years, anyway—if this sounds familiar, that’s because Portland did the same thing in 2011.

The decision seems to be based on some combination of chemophobia, homeopathy, and pee shame. The dose makes the poison, and clearly this dose is negligible. But is it possible to calculate precisely how illogical Portland’s decision is? Let’s try to put some numbers on it.


Several smart people on Twitter quickly did the math and figured that a typical urination of about 1/8 gallon in a reservoir of 38 million gallons amounts to a concentration of 3 parts per billion. That’s billion with a b. For comparison, the Environmental Protection Agency’s limit for arsenic in drinking water—arsenic!—is 10 ppb.

The EPA doesn’t appear to have a limit for urine in drinking water, but it does limit nitrates in drinking water to 10,000 ppb, and urine does contain a lot of nitrogen, so let’s use that as a proxy.

How many times would that teenager have to pee in a Portland reservoir to produce a urine concentration approaching the EPA’s limit for nitrates in drinking water? About 3,333 times.

But of course urine is 95 percent water. (If you’re ever trapped in rubble after a natural disaster, go ahead and drink it.) Only about 2 percent of urine is nitrogen-rich urea. That means he’d have to urinate 166,666 times for the concentration of urea to approach that of the EPA’s limit for nitrates in drinking water.

Since most animals, including idiot teenaged show-offs, take about 21 seconds to urinate, that means he’d have to urinate constantly for 3,500,000 seconds, or about 40 days. Hopefully, he’d have friends constantly supplying him with tasty Portland microbrews.

Needless to say, this doesn’t take into account the fact that the resulting 1.3 million gallons of urine, which again is 95 percent water, would raise the volume of the reservoir. So add another day or two of peeing to really make the water unsafe to drink.

Draining the reservoir is paranoid, illogical, and expensive. But the most frustrating thing to me about the whole episode is that there is actually something Portland could do to its water supply that would have an immediate, positive, and repeatedly scientifically validated impact on public health: Add fluoride. Paranoia is not healthy.

April 17 2014 8:50 PM

X-Men Director Accused of Sexual Abuse of Minor, Victim’s Lawyer Vows to Expose Hollywood “Pedophile Rings”

Bryan Singer, the director-producer behind the X-Men movie franchise has been accused of sexually abusing an aspiring male teenage actor 15 years ago. The allegations came in the form of a federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday by Michael F. Egan III, who claims in the filing that Singer offered him a role in an X-Men film “if he gave in to his sexual demands, while threatening to destroy his career if he didn't,” CNN reports.

Egan, now in his thirties, said on Thursday that he reported the abuse to authorities at the time it occurred, but that it was never pursued by law enforcement. Los Angeles police officials said they were investigating whether a report had been filed. According to the Associated Press, Egan “described abuse he said began when he was 15 years old at the hands of Singer and others. He described being plied with drugs and promises of Hollywood fame while also enduring threats and sexual abuse in Hawaii and Los Angeles over several years.”


Here’s more on the civil suit via the AP:

Egan sued Singer on Wednesday and is seeking more than $75,000 on each of four accusations: intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery, assault and invasion of privacy…The lawsuit was filed in Hawaii, and is possible because of a state law that temporarily suspends the statute of limitations in sex abuse cases. Egan’s lawyer Jeff Herman said Thursday that he planned to file additional lawsuits in Hawaii against other Hollywood figures he said were responsible for abusing underage teens. The attorney would not say who else he planned to sue.

During a press conference on Thursday, Egan’s lawyer, Jeff Herman, said there was a pattern of sexual abuse in Hollywood. “There are these pedophile rings that exist in Hollywood. What I intend to do is draw back a cloak and shine a light on this darkness,” Herman said, according to BuzzFeed. Singer’s lawyer, Marty Singer (no relation), denied the allegations. “It is obvious that this case was filed in an attempt to get publicity at the time when Bryan’s new movie is about to open in a few weeks,” Marty Singer told the AP. Bryan Singer’s latest film, X-Men: Days of Future Past, is scheduled to open in theatres next month.