Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

Nov. 25 2014 6:16 PM

Pair of Young Female Suicide Bombers Kill at Least 20 in Nigeria

Two female teenage sucide bombers have killed more 20 people at a bazaar in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, officials say. An official with Nigeria's Civilian Joint Task Force told the Guardian one of the girls detonated her bomb first, killing about three women; then, when a crowd gathered, the second girl detonated hers, killing more. Officials from the National Emergency Management Agency said 21 bodies had been removed from the marketplace thus far, according to Reuters.

While internationally Boko Haram is known for kidnapping hundreds of schoolgirls, women have also been instrumental actors in many of the group's attacks. The prominence of female fighters in extremist groups like Boko Haram might seem surprising given such groups' general attitude towards women, but that's part of the element of surprise that makes women so effective as bombers. (The explosive device can also be disguised as a baby bump.) In a single week last summer, four suicide bombings were carried out by Boko Haram-affiliated women in Kano, Nigeria. Explosive vests have been found on Nigerian girls as young as ten years old.


Elsewhere, attacks by women have been carried out everywhere from Moscow to Mosul. The strategy can be traced back to Lebanon in the mid 1980s, where it was pioneered by the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party. While leftist and secular organizations were initially the only ones to employ women as bombers, the Washington Post wrote earlier this year, that's changed as Islamist radicals have evolved to identify a female obligation to participate in jihad—and in fact, female attackers have become so accepted among religious extremist groups that even some male members of Somalia's Al-Shabaab sometimes now disguise themselves as women before setting off bombs.

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Nov. 25 2014 5:43 PM

Updates From Ferguson: A Curated Twitter Stream of Live News

As protests, a police crackdown, and ultimately rioting enveloped Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of a grand jury decision not to indict the police officer who killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown, the cable networks were as disappointing as ever on Monday. CNN, particularly, provided far more in the way of raw images and self-referential coverage than actual context. For the best reporting on what was really happening on the ground, Twitter was probably the best place to look. With Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon calling in 2,200 National Guard troops ahead of Tuesday night’s expected protests, we’ve created this list of the best Ferguson reporting on Twitter.

Nov. 25 2014 4:35 PM

Jian Ghomeshi Drops Lawsuit Against CBC, Will Pay Its Legal Fees

Canadian media personality and host Jian Ghomeshi—who was fired by the CBC over allegations of sexual misconduct and violence uncovered by the Toronto Star—has withdrawn a $55 million lawsuit against the network and agreed to pay $18,000 in legal fees it incurred as a result of the suit. From the Star:

Shortly after he was fired, Ghomeshi said in a Facebook post that he was being fired after the CBC became aware of his interest in what he described as “adventurous forms of sex.”
Since then, he has made only one public statement, in which he said he would “meet these allegations directly.”

Slate's Carl Wilson, who knew Ghomeshi and had appeared on his show, wrote on Nov. 3 that Ghomeshi's stature in Canadian culture may have helped him avoid the consequences of his behavior for years; he's now being investigated by Toronto police.

Nov. 25 2014 2:12 PM

“Like a Demon”: Read Darren Wilson’s Description of Shooting Michael Brown

After announcing that a grand jury had declined to indict officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch took the unusual step of publicly releasing the evidence that jurors reviewed. The transcripts include Wilson's own lengthy testimony about the fatal incident, key points of which are excerpted below.

Throughout, Wilson dwells on how he was frightened by Brown's size—the 18-year-old was 6-foot-4 and nearly 300 pounds—and aggression. At one point, Wilson says that Brown's facial expression made him look "like a demon." At another, he explains that he felt like "a 5-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan" as he struggled with Brown through the window of his police vehicle. Wilson himself is also about 6-foot-4.

Nov. 25 2014 1:22 PM

Death of Unarmed Brooklyn Man Shot by Police Ruled Homicide

The death of Akai Gurley, the 28-year-old man who was killed by a New York City police officer in a public housing stairwell on Thursday, has been officially ruled a homicide and is being investigated by the Brooklyn district attorney, reports say. New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has said the shooting, committed by 27-year-old officer Peter Liang, was an accident. From the New York Post:

“His death resulted in whole from actions of another person, not from natural causes like disease,” the Medical Examiner’s office said in a statement.
“The classification does not imply any statement about intent or culpability, and as with all classifications made by OCME, the evaluation of legal implications of this classification is a function of the District Attorney and the criminal justice system.”

From the New York Times' piece on the incident:

What is known, police officials said, is that Officer Liang took out his service weapon before entering the unlit stairwell, a not-uncommon practice by officers patrolling inside the city’s housing projects. He held a flashlight. He opened the eighth-floor door, followed by his partner, also a relatively new officer and whose name has not been released. The gun went off as Mr. Gurley entered the landing one floor below, trailing his girlfriend.

Liang—a "probationary officer" who had been on the job for less than 18 months—lives with his parents in Bensonhurst, a neighborhood in Brooklyn approximately 7 miles from where the shooting took place. He is reportedly "upset and distraught"; a neighbor said he has rarely left his bedroom since the incident and has "barely" eaten. Gurley is survived by a 2-year-old daughter, Akaila.

Nov. 25 2014 1:03 PM

Why the Urgent Anger of Michael Brown’s Mother Matters

Someone captured raw, emotional video of Leslie McSpadden, Michael Brown’s mother, during St. Louis prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s announcement on Monday night that officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for killing her son. Standing outside with a rally of supporters and protesters near the place where her son was shot, McSpadden voiced her anger to the crowd, occasionally pausing in emotional stillness, as the voice of McCulloch’s 20 minute-long statement droned on in the background. “They still don’t care!” she fumed, at one point. Eventually, McSpadden broke down crying, as some rushed to comfort her and others began to move to protest.

The nearly five-minute video, taken by Facebook user Writer’s Block Survival, at first feels voyeuristic and exploitative. The unrelenting persistence of the camera upon a woman grieving desperately for her dead son, along with the mob of photographers and cameramen also trying to capture the moment, is jarring. There’s a disconnect between the intensity of the moment and the apparent ugliness of turning one woman’s pain at the loss of her son into such a spectacle.


But upon closer consideration, this unfiltered visual is incredibly powerful, and in an odd way, refreshing. Throughout much of the coverage of the fallout from Brown’s death in August, the people of Ferguson, Mo.—overwhelmingly black, in direct contrast with their law enforcement—have been warned to “protest peacefully” and voice their anger “constructively,” oftentimes from concern trolls invoking, ironically, the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. As Ta-Nehisi Coates has aptly made clear, such invocations only serve to ignore how terribly the government treated King himself, without consequence. President Obama has also made these sorts of warnings time and time again, most notably last night in a speech that felt cold and surreally disconnected from what was actually taking place.

But with this video, this moment, we see something that we haven’t been able to see from other families that have suffered similar recent injustices. Trayvon Martin’s family, for example, publically displayed its grief, but never showed this sort of utter anguish and anger at a system that treats the lives of young black men as disposable. Brown’s family has advocated for nonviolent protests as well, to be sure, but they also haven’t felt the need to conceal their personal sadness and anger, either. “Everybody wants me to be calm,” McSpadden cries in the video. “Do they know how them bullets hit my son? What they did to his body as they entered his body?”

This is not the first time his family has expressed such brutally visceral emotions in the public eye. The same day that Brown was killed, a shocked McSpadden told a reporter, “You know how many black men graduate? Not many! Because you bring them down to this type of level, where they feel like, shit, I don’t got nothing to live for anyway.” Even more painfully vivid, a photo of Michael Brown, Sr. crying in anguish at his son’s funeral went viral—echoing an image of Mamie Till mourning beside the casket of her son, Emmett Till.

It’s ironic that Mamie Till was able to openly express anger and defiance when her son was murdered by white supremacists precisely because state-sponsored white supremacy was the defining aspect of American life in much of the country in 1955. But now, in a post-racial society, when instances like the killing of Michael Brown occur, the families of the victims and the people in the communities being repressed are supposed to remain “calm.” They are not allowed to voice their anger, even peacefully, lest they be considered a threat to the rest of America, which is how the first Ferguson protests erupted into a militarized craze on the part of law enforcement.

Perhaps Brown’s death was the tipping point after so many years of déjà vu, and that’s why the protests have become a source for the voicing of discontentment the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades. Or perhaps McSpadden and Brown, Sr., who rightfully feel no need to pretend to be “calm and collected” at every public appearance and are unabashed in their raw emotionality, are finally forcing us to face the fact that things won’t change unless voices like theirs finally start to be heard.

Nov. 25 2014 10:37 AM

Ferguson Burns Overnight

A Ferguson firefighter.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

"About a dozen" buildings burned in Ferguson overnight after protests and rioting followed the announcement that police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for killing Michael Brown.

A car dealership in Dellwood, Mo., which is adjacent to Ferguson.

Scott Olson/Getty

Sixty-one people were arrested.


At one point a CNN correspondent was hit with a rock.

Two police cars were burned as well, the Washington Post reports. "Liquor and convenience stores" were looted.

Michael Brown's family will be speaking at an event at noon ET today.

Nov. 25 2014 2:02 AM

CNN Reporters in Ferguson Provide Wall-to-Wall Coverage of CNN Reporters in Ferguson

Shortly after St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s announced that the grand jury had decided against indicting Darren Wilson, CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin provided what would prove to be the best insight from the network all night.* “Let’s see what the evidence says,” Toobin said, a reference to CNN’s promise to dive into the massive trove of testimony and other evidence that McCulloch was making public.

It would take roughly two hours before CNN would talk about that evidence in any detail—and then they did so only in passing. In the meantime, the network would provide wall-to-wall coverage of the reactions on the ground in Ferguson. (During President Obama’s late-night statement to the nation, CNN even ran a split-screen with images of the unrest.) In the process, their cameras captured the first clashes between sometimes-violent protesters and a police force that appeared quick to use tear gas to crack down on many peaceful demonstrators.


The images were powerful and important. Unfortunately, though, they were not all that informative, because the live shots were accompanied with on-air reporting from the ground that was occasionally contradictory, often confusing, and, whenever possible, self-referential. It’s true that, as has been the case since the protests over Michael Brown’s killing started, reporters did become part of the story at certain points. Early on Tuesday, CNN reporter Sara Sidner appeared to be hit with a rock live on the air. But aside from that one incident, there was little that justified CNN’s egocentric coverage.

On-camera interviews with protesters or community leaders were scarce at best, as was confirmation of many of the rumors that were mentioned on air, ranging from anecdotes about gunshots to one about a protester reportedly having a heart attack.

In their stead were a half-dozen CNN reporters wandering the streets, recounting what was personally happening to them and their colleagues. Among the many exchanges between the CNN contributors was Van Jones and Don Lemon talking about the latter’s gas mask not being on tight enough, and reporters warning other reporters to stay safe. Jake Tapper, clad in a CNN jacket, narrated as he walked toward a flaming trashcan to confirm that it was, in fact, a flaming trashcan. Earlier in the night, Lemon delivered this gem to the audience at home: "Obviously there is the smell of marijuana in the air as well."

Wolf Blitzer set the tone even before the grand jury's announcement was official. The CNN anchor went to great lengths Monday evening to point out that his network had reported that a decision had been reached before officials had alerted Michael Brown's family. The reason for Blitzer's boasting? He was interviewing the family's lawyer.

The network would show more than an hour’s worth of on-the-ground coverage from their team before Anderson Cooper would finally alert viewers that it was not all of Ferguson that was burning, but only a small section of it. “I do think it’s important to put this into some context,” Cooper told viewers who had gone without it until then. “What we’re talking about—what you’re seeing, the images—are from a relatively isolated and limited location. We’re talking about a several block area.”

“Elsewhere things are calm, people are at their homes,” Cooper would go on to conclude. “Many people are just watching this on television.” Given that's the case both in Ferguson and outside of it, let's hope CNN has better luck in the coming days finding a way to talk about what's happening on the ground without talking about themselves.

*Correction, Nov. 25, 2014: This post originally misspelled the name of St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch.

Nov. 25 2014 1:20 AM

Here’s What Darren Wilson Looked Like After Shooting Michael Brown

Darren Wilson

REUTERS/St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office/Handout

Darren Wilson

REUTERS/St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office/Handout

Darren Wilson

REUTERS/St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office/Handout

Darren Wilson

REUTERS/St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office/Handout

Darren Wilson

REUTERS/St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office/Handout

Nov. 24 2014 11:46 PM

Read Darren Wilson’s Testimony to the Ferguson Grand Jury

St. Louis Public Radio is posting the evidence presented to the grand jury in the Michael Brown shooting.

In this transcript of the St. Louis County grand jury proceedings, Darren Wilson’s testimony begins on Page 195.

Here are Wilson's medical records from his examination following the shooting: