Slatest PM: Nelson Mandela Dies
Nelson Mandela Dies at 95: BBC: “South Africa's first black president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has died, South Africa's president says. Mr Mandela, 95, led South Africa's transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s, after 27 years in prison. He had been receiving intense home-based medical care for a lung infection after three months in hospital. In a statement on South African national TV, Mr Zuma said Mr Mandela had "departed" and was at peace. "Our nation has lost its greatest son," Mr Zuma said.”
Why Mandela’s Flaws Made Him Great: Slate Obituary: “Be in no doubt that Nelson Mandela, the world’s most famous political prisoner, campaigner against racist rule, and magnanimous leader, was a great man. When spending time with him, one felt awed, weak at the knees. Madiba, the tribal name by which he was fondly known by many, had charm and warmth. He was also responsible, more than any other individual, for the remarkably peaceful transition in South Africa.”
Slate Photo Gallery: Nelson Mandela: A Life in Photographs.
Russian Diplomats Charged With Scamming Medicaid System
A federal criminal indictment unsealed on Thursday accuses nearly 50 Russian diplomats and their spouses of fraudulent use of $1.5 million worth of Medicaid benefits over the last decade. Prosecutors said that the diplomats scammed the system by underreporting their incomes in order to qualify for Medicaid benefits to cover the costs of pregnancy and childbirth procedures.
Medicaid provides affordable health care benefits to low-income Americans and, according to the indictment, is only available to American citizens and select immigrants. The Russian diplomats did not qualify for coverage under Medicaid, but ABC News reports, “proof of U.S. citizenship is not required for pregnant women completing an "Access NY Healthcare" application, according to the documents, because the unborn child is presumed to acquire citizenship when they are born in the country.”
The Russian defendants, the New York Times reports, did not appear in court because they have diplomatic immunity. The 18-month investigation found that there were 63 births to Russian diplomat families between 2004 and 2013 and 58 of those were paid for using Medicaid benefits. The indictment shows one couple, Andrey Artasov and Nataliya Artasova, applied for and received Medicaid benefits while racking up purchases of luxury items. Here’s more from ABC News:
[Andrey] Artasov is currently employed as a First Secretary at the Mission and they have State Department issued diplomatic visas. In November 2008, [Nataliya] Artasova applied for pregnancy Medicaid benefits and allegedly falsely stated that her husband earned only $2,900 a month, the indictment states. "Based on the misrepresentations in the initial application, Artasova received almost $1,200 from November 2008 to March 2009, in Medicaid benefits that she would not otherwise have been entitled to," the documents state. In a 2007 credit card application, Artasov said his income was $60,000 as a Second Secretary. The next year, the year they applied for Medicaid, the couple paid for over $48,000 in purchases on the credit card, including $4,500 at Swarovski and $3,500 at Apple, according to the indictment.
Star Florida State Quarterback Will Not Be Charged With Rape
Florida state attorney William Meggs announced on Thursday that Florida State football star Jameis Winston will not face sexual assault charges stemming from a sexual encounter with a former classmate. Meggs said there was not enough evidence to file charges in the case.
The announcement came from the state’s attorney who took over the investigation from Tallahassee police last month after accusations that the case was not being aggressively pursued because of the freshman quarterback’s star status. Winston’s play on the field this season has made him a Heisman contender on the undefeated Seminoles team that has national championship aspirations.
Winston has been under investigation for sexual battery that had allegedly taken place on Dec. 7, 2012. The woman, whose identity has not been made public, reported to police that night that she had been sexually assaulted, but did not identify Winston until a month later, according to ABC News. The allegations against Winston only became public last month.
Here’s a recap of the facts of the case from Sports Illustrated:
Police were called on the night of the incident. The accuser was interviewed, and evidence was collected. The accuser identified Winston as the suspect on Jan. 10. Police say the then accuser canceled an interview (the accuser says she was available to be questioned). On Jan. 15, evidence was sent to the Florida Department of Police for processing. On Jan. 23, Winston declined an interview. On Feb. 11, police left the case open but inactive. The police version of this story is fairly easy to follow. Winston wouldn't talk, the accuser wouldn't talk, and her attorney told them she did not want to press charges. There was nothing they could do.
But in multiple statements, the accuser and her attorney, Patricia Carroll, have told a very different story. In the accuser's version, Det. Steve Angulo warned the accuser's attorney that "Tallahassee was a big football town and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she will be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable." The accuser also says Angulo "specifically refused to collect Winston's DNA or interview Winston's roommate who witnessed the attack," because he was worried the story would blow up. The accuser also says Angulo lied about contacting Winston; he said he wouldn't, and he did. Yet the roommate was never interviewed.
American Chemistry Teacher Shot and Killed While Jogging in Benghazi Attack
An American teacher in Benghazi, Libya out for a jog was shot and killed on Thursday, according to Libyan security officials. Ronnie Smith had been teaching chemistry at an international school in the city for a year-and-a-half and was about to return to the US for the holidays, NBC News reports.
The 33-year-old was jogging in an upscale neighborhood when a witness says he was attacked by gunmen in a black jeep, the New York Times reports. Libyan security officials say the motive for the attack is still unknown, but that the attack is part of a series of assassinations that have taken place in the city. Three Libyan soldiers were also killed on Thursday, two were shot and killed and the third died in a car bomb explosion, according to Agence France Presse. The BBC reports that Smith was one of only a few foreign citizens living in Benghazi as the security situation in the city continues to deteriorate. In September 2012, US ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the US consulate in the city.
Stolen Radioactive Material Recovered in Mexico
Mexican officials said on Wednesday they have recovered radioactive material that went missing earlier this week. On Monday, a truck carrying the radioactive material cobalt-60 was stolen near Mexico City causing alarm because of the dangerous material’s potential to be used in constructing a “dirty bomb.”
The radioactive material, which is used in antiquated radiation therapy equipment in Mexico, was found in an empty lot a half-mile from the town of Hueypoxtla and mile-and-a-half from where it was stolen, but “posed no threat or a need for an evacuation,” Mexican officials told the Associated Press. The cobalt-60 was removed from its shipping container, officials told the AP, with one official predicting “anyone involved in opening the box would be dead within three days.” According to the BBC, the material “had been tampered with, but the material had not been removed from its protective casing.”
An official from Mexico’s National Nuclear Security Commission told local media the recovered radioactive material is not a health risk to the nearby population, the BBC reports.
Oldest Known Human DNA Found, Potentially Unlocking Origin and Evolution of Humans
Scientists reported a new discovery on Wednesday that could offer new insights into the origins of humans. In the scientific journal Nature, scientists reported they were able to extract human DNA from a thighbone found in Spain that is estimated to be 400,000 years old. That is the oldest known human DNA ever recorded, far surpassing the oldest DNA recovered previously, which dated back some 100,000 years. The fossil was found at the “Pit of Bones” archeological site in northern Spain and from its DNA researchers were able to replicate the entire genome of the early human.
Here’s more on what the discovery could mean for research on the evolution of humans via the Associated Press:
The genetic sequence surprised researchers, who thought it was likely that the sequence would reveal that remains were related to the Neanderthals. Instead, the genetic sequence revealed that this early human species is related to another genetic cousin of modern humans, the mysterious Denisovans. Little is known about the Denisovans, who are thought to have been common throughout the regions now known as Asia and Eastern Europe. This early human species was discovered after genetic sequencing was used to map DNA through the ancient pinkie bone of a girl in 2010. Anthropologists and genetic experts said the findings from the Pit of Bones could help shed light on how early human species evolved and spread across different continents.
“The mismatch between the anatomical and genetic evidence,” the New York Times reports, means “scientists are now rethinking human evolution over the past few hundred thousand years.”
Rescuers Race to Save Dozens of Whales Stranded Off Florida Coast
Wildlife workers are working to save dozens of pilot whales trapped in perilously shallow water in Florida’s Everglades National Park. Six of the beached whales have died already and four more had to be euthanized on Wednesday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The whales, which can grow as large as 16-to-20 feet and normally live in deep water, are stranded in water that is only 3 feet deep. Officials are keeping expectations low as they attempt to rescue the some 41 whales that remain stranded in the area.
Here’s more on the rescue effort from the Associated Press:
Park spokeswoman Linda Friar said rescuers were trying to surround the whales with boats about 75 feet from shore and nudge them out of the roughly 3-foot-deep salt water back to sea… Workers tried to nudge the whales out to sea a day earlier with no success. The whales are stranded in a remote area that takes more than an hour to reach by boat from the nearest boat ramp… Furthermore, the area is so shallow that it's difficult to get the mammals enough water to propel them back to sea. A team of biologists was still assessing the whales Wednesday.
The Rob Ford Circus Is Coming to America
The Rob Ford juggernaut continues. Toronto’s Mayor—who now needs no introduction—having been stripped of most of his actual legislative authority apparently has a bit more time on his hands these days. To fill the Rob Ford-less vacuum of political absurdity, the mayor is taking his A-game south to America joining the Washington, DC-based radio show the “Sports Junkies.” Ford’s slated to debut on Thursday morning on the show to talk NFL football.
Rob Ford being Rob Ford, Paul Farhi at the Washington Post points out, the station is taking a cautious approach to his first appearance, saying he is “tentatively scheduled” to phone in to the show. Ford is set to be a regular on the show as a weekly contributor, but the station is, again, taking baby steps on that front too. “For now, a weekly segment has not been approved. But if all goes well Thursday, an agreement on a recurring segment could be reached,” according to the station. The definition of “if all goes well” is obviously open to interpretation.
Slatest PM: The NSA Is Tracking Millions of Americans' Cellphones
Snowden's Latest: Washington Post: "The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable. The records feed a vast database that stores information about the locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices, according to the officials and the documents, which were provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. New projects created to analyze that data have provided the intelligence community with what amounts to a mass surveillance tool."
Incidental Americans: More: "The NSA does not target Americans’ location data by design, but the agency acquires a substantial amount of information on the whereabouts of domestic cellphones 'incidentally,' a legal term that connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result. One senior collection manager, speaking on condition of anonymity but with permission from the NSA, said “we are getting vast volumes” of location data from around the world by tapping into the cables that connect mobile networks globally and that serve U.S. cellphones as well as foreign ones. Additionally, data is often collected from the tens of millions of Americans who travel abroad with their cellphones every year."
MSNBC Host Resigns Following Excrement-Themed Comments About Sarah Palin
Martin Bashir resigned from MSNBC on Wednesday, a little more than two weeks after he made his now-infamous comments that more or less suggested that just maybe someone should "s-h-i-t" in Sarah Palin's mouth.
Bashir made his remarks during a segment taking issue with Palin's decision to repeatedly compare the national debt to slavery. "When Mrs. Palin invokes slavery, she doesn’t just prove her rank ignorance. She confirms if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, she would be the outstanding candidate," Bashir said after detailing the excrement-themed punishment said to have been something of favorite of the slave master in question. (For those of you who missed them the first time, you can relive that questionable moment in the clip above.)
Those comments prompted plenty of outrage, particularly among Palin fans, and a formal apology from the now-ex-MSNBC host a few days later. Here's the statement Bashir sent to Mediaite in an email announcing his resignation:
After making an on-air apology, I asked for permission to take some additional time out around the Thanksgiving holiday.
Upon further reflection, and after meeting with the President of MSNBC, I have tendered my resignation. It is my sincere hope that all of my colleagues, at this special network, will be allowed to focus on the issues that matter without the distraction of myself or my ill-judged comments.
I deeply regret what was said, will endeavor to work hard at making constructive contributions in the future and will always have a deep appreciation for our viewers – who are the smartest, most compassionate and discerning of all television audiences. I would also wish to express deepest gratitude to my immediate colleagues, and our contributors, all of whom have given so much of themselves to our broadcast.’
The news follows the cancellation of fellow MSNBCer Alec Baldwin's Up Late show after the actor allegedly lobbed a gay slur at a photog trying to snap a picture of him and his family on the street.