Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM

Suspected Nazis Expelled from U.S. Collected Millions in Social Security from Abroad

An investigative report from the Associated Press reports that the U.S. government made the ultimate deal with the devil—suspected Nazis residing in the U.S. could keep collecting their Social Security benefits if they left the country quickly. The AP found dozens of cases of suspected Nazi war criminals that were still able to collect millions in Social Security payments.

The report features former Auschwitz guard Jakob Denzinger, now 90 years old, who emigrated to the U.S. decades ago and built a thriving plastics company in Akron, Ohio and all the trappings of the American dream. When Denzinger’s past caught up to him however, and the U.S. began taking steps to strip his American citizenship, he fled and settled in Croatia “where he lives comfortably, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers, according to the AP. “He collects a Social Security payment of about $1,500 each month, nearly twice the take-home pay of an average Croatian worker.”


Here’s more from the AP:

The payments flowed through a legal loophole that has given the U.S. Justice Department leverage to persuade Nazi suspects to leave. If they agreed to go, or simply fled before deportation, they could keep their Social Security, according to interviews and internal government records.
In response to AP's findings, a White House spokesman said Monday that Nazi suspects should not be getting the benefits…  The Justice Department has denied using Social Security payments as a tool for removing Nazi suspects. But records show the U.S. State Department and the Social Security Administration voiced grave concerns over the methods used by the Justice Department's Nazi-hunting unit, the Office of Special Investigations. State officials derogatorily called the practice "Nazi dumping" and claimed the OSI was bargaining with suspects so they would leave voluntarily. Since 1979, the AP analysis found, at least 38 of 66 suspects removed from the United States kept their Social Security benefits.
Legislation that would have closed the Social Security loophole failed 15 years ago, partly due to opposition from the OSI. Since then, according to the AP's analysis, at least 10 Nazi suspects kept their benefits after leaving. The Social Security Administration confirmed payments to seven who are deceased. One living suspect was confirmed through an AP interview. Two others met the conditions to keep their benefits.
Of the 66 suspects, at least four are alive, living in Europe on U.S. Social Security. In newly uncovered Social Security Administration records, the AP found that by March 1999, 28 suspected Nazi criminals had collected $1.5 million in Social Security payments after their removal from the U.S. Since then, the AP estimates the amount paid out has reached into the millions.
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Oct. 20 2014 6:57 PM

Another American Doctor Successfully Treated for Ebola, Released from Emory Hospital

An American doctor who had quietly returned to the U.S. after contracting Ebola working in Sierra Leone last month has been released from Emory University Hospital after receiving six weeks of treatment at the facility, the hospital announced Monday. The doctor, who had been working with the World Health Organization in Sierra Leone when he was infected with the virus, has asked for his identity to remain private for the time being, according the NBC News.

“In coordination with the CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health, the patient was determined to be free of virus and to pose no public health threat. The patient has asked to remain anonymous and left the hospital for an undisclosed location. He will make a statement at a later date,” Emory University Hospital said in a statement.


The doctor, who was released on Sunday, began treatment at Emory on Sept. 9 after arriving in Atlanta on an airplane. “The World Health Organization disclosed that a doctor who had been working in an Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone had been evacuated out of Africa when he tested positive for the disease,” the Associated Press reports. “His time at Emory — nearly six weeks — is the longest stay of an Ebola patient at a U.S. hospital. None of the seven others was admitted for more than 3 ½ weeks.”

The doctor is the fourth known individual to have been brought back to the U.S. for care after contracting the virus in West Africa. Dr. Kent Brantley and Nancy Writebol were both successfully treated at Emory after returning home from Liberia. NBC cameraman Ashoka Mukpo, returned to the U.S. earlier this month and is being treated at Nebraska Medical Center. Dallas nurse Amber Joy Vinson who contracted the virus while treating Thomas Eric Duncan is currently being treated at Emory's Serious Communicable Disease Unit.

Oct. 20 2014 6:56 PM

Will a Human Ever Run a Marathon in Less Than Two Hours?

Here's a very cool piece from Runner's World about the world record time in the marathon, which has been broken nine times since 1998, and is down to 2:02:57 after having previously stayed at 2:06:50 for a decade. The sudden surge has made the potential milestone achievement of a sub-two-hour marathon seem feasible, and Runner's World asks what kinds of athletes and conditions might be suited for such a breakthrough. Their answers are mostly driven by science and data—they suggest, for example, that elite runners might consider racing more in March and November because their bodies generate enough heat to perform well in conditions that might be too cold for "typical" marathoners. But they also consider softer factors, observing that the marathon was thought to be an older runner's game until fearless 2008 Olympic marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru won it at age 21 and inspired a number of other young distance racers to move (successfully) into the event. Click here to see the entire piece (and nifty accompanying data visualizations), and mark your calendar for the 2075 race in Saskatchewan that Runner's World pegs (with tongue in cheek) as the most likely occcasion for the big moment.

h/t Kev

Oct. 20 2014 2:03 PM

Unusual News Story Reports Positive Development in Middle East Geopolitics

A rare piece of good news via Reuters on the Middle Eastern diplomacy front:

Iran has taken further action to comply with terms of an extended interim nuclear agreement with six world powers, a monthly U.N. atomic agency update on the accord's implementation showed on Monday.
The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), seen by Reuters, made clear that Iran is meeting its commitments under the temporary deal, as it and the major powers are seeking to negotiate a final settlement of their nuclear dispute.
It said Iran had diluted more than 4,100 kg of uranium enriched to a fissile purity of up to 2 percent down to the level of natural uranium. This was one of the additional steps Iran agreed to undertake when the six-month accord in July was extended by four months.

Reuters credits the 2013 election of president Hassan Rouhani with improving Iran's relations with other countries. Rouhani wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post soon after his election that outlined a positive vision of Iranian engagement with the rest of the world; the Post then annotated his piece, calling it "another of many gestures of goodwill Rouhani has made toward the United States" and writing that he "clearly sees much of his agenda as hinged on detente with the West."

Oct. 20 2014 12:13 PM

Video: America’s Year of Police Violence

While the deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Missouri have made police treatment of black suspects an issue of national controversy, the increasing ubiquity of smartphones has made police-citizen interactions easier to record. The result, in recent months, has been a seemingly nonstop series of upsetting police-violence videos gone viral. Above, a compilation of recorded incidents of police violence against unarmed suspects—none of whom were armed or engaged in the commission of a violent crime—in the United States in 2014.

Correction, October 20, 2014: The video above originally referred to the St. Louis Sheriff's Department rather than the St. Louis County Sheriff's Department. The video has also been updated to say that John Crawford was carrying an air rifle when he was shot.

Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM

Hong Kong Leader Responds to Protester Demands With a Firm “No”

With pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong entering their fourth week, China-appointed city leader Leung Chun-Ying said today that authorities will not consider allowing open nominations in the 2017 election that will choose his successor. China announced earlier this year it will only allow candidates to be chosen by a (presumably Beijing-influenced) nomination committee, and activists' demand for a more democratic nomination process is one the central issues motivating the recent protests. Leung says an open process would unfairly favor the poor. From the New York Times:

Mr. Leung acknowledged that the protests that have shaken this autonomous Chinese territory for the past three weeks reflected not only broad demands for democracy but also economic grievances, notably the high cost of housing and limited social mobility for the young.
But Mr. Leung, whom the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership has repeatedly endorsed, argued that remedying these grievances should be left to policies like expanding the supply of housing...
“You have to take care of all the sectors in Hong Kong as much as you can,” he said, “and if it’s entirely a numbers game and numeric representation, then obviously you would be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than $1,800 a month.”

Leung also said that "challenging the Hong Kong government at these difficult times will do no one any service," but he didn't make any definitive statement about how long demonstrators' occupation of central public areas would be allowed to continue. Protests have become more tense and violent in recent days as police have begun taking down some protester-assembled barricades, and the premeditated beating of one activist was caught on video last week.

This Vox piece puts the issues of candidate nominations and police violence in historical context, writing that both issues are important to Hong Kong residents not only in and of themselves, but also as tests of Chinese authorities' willingness to crack down in a traditionally independent city where the Tiananmen Square massacres are still well-remembered.

Correction, Oct. 20, 2014: This post originally misspelled Tiananmen Square.

Oct. 20 2014 10:41 AM

Turkey Reverses Course, Will Let Kurds Cross Border to Fight ISIS

Turkey will allow Kurdish peshmerga fighters to cross its border into Syria to fight ISIS's attack on the city of Kobani, the country's foreign minister announced today. It's a change of course on an issue that had led to rioting and deaths in Turkey, whose Kurdish population has long been at odds with the central government. From the New York Times:

At a news conference in Ankara, the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said that his government was “helping the pesh merga cross over to Kobani,” an apparent shift from Turkey’s previous refusal to allow any military assistance to Kurdish fighters in the town.
The announcement, along with an American decision to use military aircraft to drop ammunition and small arms to resupply Kurdish fighters to Kobani, reflected escalating international pressure to push back Islamic State militants who have been attacking the Kurdish town for more than a month.

The United States had pushed Turkey to allow Kurds into Kobani, but until today's announcement the country had said it wouldn't join the international anti-ISIS coalition unless action was also taken against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. But no coalition attacks against Assad have been reported, and it's not clear what other inducements might have been offered to Turkey to persuade the country's leaders to change course.

Oct. 19 2014 2:58 PM

Racist Rancher Cliven Bundy Challenges Eric Holder in Bizarre Campaign Ad

In what will hopefully be the strangest ad of the 2014 midterm campaign, Cliven Bundy makes a comeback. Remember Bundy? He is that rancher in Nevada who got a bunch of libertarians and Tea Party activists to support his strange cause in which he insisted that his cows should be able to graze for free on federal land. Lots of people abandoned him though when he started to spew racist drivel and even suggested that African Americans were better off as slaves. But now it seems he still has at least one supporter who is eager for his endorsement.

Bundy stars in an ad to support third party candidate Kamau Bakari, who is black. The video begins with a clip of Attorney General Eric Holder’s famous “nation of cowards” speech. Then we see Bundy and Bakari dressed in over-the-top cowboy gear in front of a horse. “Did he just call me a coward?” Bundy asks. ”No he called all white folks cowards,” Bakari replies. Then they start discussing political correctness and the whole thing keeps getting worse the second before they “dare” Holder to go to Nevada to talk about race.


“Cliven, you know that political correctness—that’s bad for America,” Bakari notes. “That's exactly right,” Bundy replies. “I know that black folks have had a hard time with, uhhhh, slavery.” Bakari then calls Bundy a “brave white man,” adding that he feels “ashamed when I hear black folks whining about ‘white folks this,’ ‘white folks that,’ always begging.” And then Bundy with the kicker: “It’s almost like black folks think white folks owe them something.” The only good thing is that, according to the Washington Post, Bakari—of the Independent American Party—has no chance of unseating Rep. Dina Titus, who is a Democrat.

Oct. 19 2014 2:29 PM

Police Use Tear Gas to Break Up College Pumpkin Festival Turned Violent

Police put on riot gear and used pepper spray and tear gas to break up violent skirmishes that broke out near Keene State College in New Hampshire Saturday night and early Sunday as an annual pumpkin festival suddenly took a turn for the violent. At least 30 people were injured at parties near the school that are thrown every year to coincide with the annual Keene Pumpkin Festival. And people just started throwing “everything they could find—rocks skateboards, buckets, pumpkins,” one witness said. Why? “People just got too drunk.”

And it was fun, apparently. “It's just like a rush. You’re revolting from the cops,” 18-year-old Steven French told the Keene Sentinel. “It’s a blast to do things that you’re not supposed to do.”


These apparently drunk crowds then spread out across the town and for some reason decided to flip over parked cars. Not satisfied with petty vandalism, the crowds began to light fires, according to NECN. One witness told NECN that police even used rubber bullets. “They just started walking on the street, with, like, mace, tear gas and these rubber bullets,” said one witness. At least 14 people were arrested, according to the Associated Press.

Oct. 19 2014 1:20 PM

Texas Lab Worker on Cruise Tests Negative for Ebola as Dallas Hospital Apologizes

Well that was a cruise ruined for nothing. A Dallas hospital lab worker who had voluntarily isolated herself in a cabin during much of a week-long cruise has tested negative for Ebola. The Carnival Magic, the cruise ship that had become a microcosm of the Ebola hysteria that President Obama criticized on Saturday, docked in Texas after a week-long trip in which passengers were not allowed to descend in Belize and Mexico because the lab worker may have come into contact with test samples from an Ebola patient, reports Reuters.

More than 4,000 passengers on the ship had lived a mini week-long Ebola drama that began when they learned through the ship’s public address system that one of the passengers was being monitored for the virus. At one point, a Coast Guard helicopter even landed on the ship to get a blood sample. Some insist, though, that they tried to not let a little Ebola scare ruin their vacation. “We weren't worried,” a woman who was on her honeymoon during the cruise told the Associated Press. “We ended up just hanging out and enjoying the rest of the trip.”


There are soon likely to be dozens more relieved people as the 21 days of monitoring for fever and other symptoms that could signal an Ebola infection will end on Sunday or Monday for 48 people, reports CNN. Around 145 people with “contacts and possible contacts” are being monitored.

On Sunday, the Dallas hospital that has been at the center of the health scare took out a full-page ad apologizing for its mistakes. In an open letter published in the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas Health Resources CEO recognizes that “we made mistakes in handling this very difficult challenge.” In the letter, Duncan notes that while the hospital had started activities to train staff on how to handle an Ebola scare, “our training and education programs had not been fully deployed before the virus struck.”