Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

Aug. 29 2014 1:00 PM

Iowa Politician Pleads Guilty to Illegally Taking Payments From Ron Paul Campaign

A former Iowa state senator has pleaded guilty to two criminal charges and admitted taking $73,000 in illegally routed payments from Ron Paul's presidential campaign in exchange for a 2012 Iowa caucus endorsement. The senator, Kent Sorenson, had previously endorsed Michele Bachmann. From the Des Moines Register:

According to a statement of facts accompanying Sorenson's plea agreement, he secretly negotiated with the Paul campaign over a period of months to join the campaign and received $73,000.
The payments included several monthly payments, ranging in size from $8,000 to $33,000, routed through a film production company and a second company before being received by Sorenson. Those circuitous routes circumvented reporting requirements of the Federal Election Commission, ensuring the payments were kept hidden from the public.
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It's been reported that Sorenson also took possibly illegal payments from the Bachmann campaign.

Prosecutions of figures involved in the Ron Paul campaign could be forthcoming, the Washington Post reports. The chairman of Ron Paul's 2012 campaign, Jesse Benton, was the campaign manager for Rand Paul's 2010 Senate campaign and is currently the campaign manager for Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell. Benton has not been accused of any crime, but—as mentioned in this detailed look at the connections between Ron Paul, Rand Paul, and the Kent Sorenson case by Slate's David Weigel—he appears to have contiunued to work through at least 2013 with a company associated with the deputy Ron Paul campaign manager who is reported to have written Kent Sorenson a $25,000 check as part of the endorsement scheme.

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Aug. 29 2014 10:45 AM

Ousted New England Supermarket President Arthur T. Demoulas Makes Triumphant Return

Last month a regional grocery chain in New England—Market Basket—was struck by employee strikes, work slowdowns, and customer protests after popular President Arthur T. Demoulas was fired in a power struggle with his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas. Arthur T. is well-liked by employees because of his considerate personality and history of generosity with wages and benefits, but has been involved in a long-running family dispute over control of the business in which he's been connected to some shady dealings. For now, though, things seem to have gone Arthur T.'s way again—he's signed a deal to buy Market Basket from his cousin, regaining control of the company. From the Boston Globe:

Market Basket’s shareholders announced the deal at 11:15 p.m. after several days of suspenseful negotiations. Arthur T. Demoulas and his sisters will buy the shares of their cousin Arthur S. Demoulas and other relatives on his side of the family, who collectively own 50.5 percent of the company.
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The degree to which workers love Arthur T. is really quite astounding given our present age of income inequality and, like, the history of capitalism:

“I’m elated. I’m elated. That is awesome,” said Andy Lien, a director of the chain’s perishable warehouse in Andover who led workers who walked off the job in July.
“It’s just fantastic,” said Ann Rogers, 55, a protesting employee who worked in the company’s accounts payable department. “I’ve been working with this company for 28 years, and this has been hanging over the company’s head the whole time. This fight was absolutely worth it.”

Arthur T. and the rest of Market Basket now begin the process of restoring the chain's operations, which have been significantly interrupted by the weeks of labor strife and uncertainty.

Aug. 29 2014 9:42 AM

“I'm Not Your Brother,” Says Officer Tasering Black Minnesota Man in Front of His Children

A video and audio recording taken in January that's surfaced in recent days appears to capture an unarmed, unaggressive St. Paul, Minnesota, man being immobilized with a stun gun in front of his children.

The man, Christopher Lollie, was reported to police because he was allegedly sitting in a restricted area of a building that also includes a public space. Lollie is shown walking away from the area in question while telling a police officer that he hadn't seen a sign marking it as nonpublic; he says he is heading to pick up his children from school and refuses to give the officer identification. A second officer approaches and quickly escalates the situation. From the Twin Cities Daily Planet:

“I’ve got to go get my kids,” the man tells the second officer, pulling his arm away. “Please don’t touch me.”
“You’re going to go to jail then,” the second officer says.
“I’m not doing anything wrong,” the man replies.
At this point, both officers grab the man.
“Come on brother,” the man says, “This is assault.”
“I’m not your brother,” the second officer replies. “Put your hands behind your back otherwise it’s going to get ugly.”
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The video cuts out as the officers use a Taser on Lollie; what seems to be children crying can be heard in the background. According to Minnesota's Fox 9, Lollie was charged with "trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstruction of the legal process," but charges were dropped. A statement from St. Paul police Chief Tom Smith says officers became violent with Lollie because they "believed he might either run or fight with them."

Aug. 28 2014 8:48 PM

WHO Warns Ebola Infections Could Reach 20,000

The World Health Organization issued a dire warning on the potential toll of the Ebola outbreak on Thursday, saying the virus could infect as many as 20,000 people in the next nine months. The bleak forecast comes as the organization continues to try to mobilize the global community to combat the outbreak in West Africa. The WHO released documents on Thursday indicating the spread of the virus continues to accelerate—with more than 40 percent of the reported cases occurring in the last three weeks—and that “the actual number of cases may be two to four times higher than that currently reported,” the New York Times reports. “According to the latest figures released by the health organization on Thursday, the total cases had risen to 3,069, with 1,552 deaths, in four West African countries: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria,”

Here’s more from the WHO report via the Wall Street Journal:

The Geneva-based WHO said in its report, which it dubbed a road map for responding to Ebola, strengthening laboratory facilities and adding staff with more expertise in the disease were necessary to containing the outbreak. Public health infrastructure needed to be improved to cope with future threat… The WHO said getting health experts to regions affected by the Ebola virus outbreak was an urgent priority. That has been made difficult because international airlines, including Air France, British Airways and Emirates Airline, have suspended flights to some of the four affected countries. Air traffic into the affected areas was likely to be addressed in the next two weeks, the WHO said. By the end of September, a United Nations-led plan will be launched to improve air access to the area, it added. The WHO program will likely cost around $490 million and require contributions from national governments, some U.N. and non-governmental agencies, as well as humanitarian organizations, it said.

Aug. 28 2014 7:36 PM

Canada Trolls Russian Geography on Twitter, Russia Snarks Back

Amidst a serious potential escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, with evidence emerging that Russian troops are engaged in combat in the country, the good folks at the Canadian NATO delegation decided to go on the snark offensive, firing off the above tweet. While amusing, one might reasonably wonder if there are not better ways to spend a country’s strategic resources than photoshopping a map to tweak an adversary. One might also have thought that Russia, involved in a pretty serious conflict on its border, might have either: a) been too busy to notice, or b) taken the high road. But, alas, even the high road has Wi-Fi these days.

The Russian NATO delegation, while not disputing Canada’s founding of the state of “Not Russia,” did take issue with its depiction of Crimea as still a part of “Not Russia.” In response, apparently relying on the international norm of “annexers keepers,” the Russians fired back.

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There were zero reports of the two delegations resorting to wedgies to settle the dispute.

Aug. 28 2014 6:04 PM

SWAT Team Arrest of Online Gamer Caught Live on Webcam After Hoax 9-1-1 Call

Jordan Mathewson was playing the video game Counter-Strike online Wednesday when he noticed something wasn’t quite right. “Uh oh, this isn’t good,” Mathewson said on the live online broadcast of his gaming session. “They’re clearing rooms, what in the world? I think we’re getting swatted.” Mathewson, sitting in a video game company in Littleton, Colorado was, in fact, being “swatted.”

Within moments, a heavily armed SWAT team charged in the room and arrested the gamer after a call to police said there was an active shooter in the building. "The caller claimed to have shot two co-workers, held others hostage, and threatened to shoot them. He stated that if the officers entered he would shoot them as well," the Littleton Police Department said in a statement. "There were no victims or any evidence that a shooting had taken place.” The 9-1-1 call appears to be hoax. But the danger to Mathewson was real as police in Littleton, understandably, take active shooter situations seriously after nearby shooting tragedies at Columbine and Aurora.

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The practice of swatting, as Slate’s Justin Peters wrote last year, is when “you contact the police, falsely report a horrible crime or a hostage standoff, and convince them to send a SWAT team to your unsuspecting victim’s door.” The high stakes prank, which also happens to be illegal, first blipped on the pop culture radar with celebrities getting swatted. Now, the BBC reports, some in the gaming community have adopted it as a way to sabotage opponents.

Aug. 28 2014 5:05 PM

Five Authors of Ebola Paper Published Today Have Died of Ebola

Five doctors, nurses, and hospital staffers who are co-credited as authors of a paper about Ebola published today in Science have already died of the disease, the publication says. All five worked at Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone, and all were "experienced members of the hospital's Lassa fever team." (Lassa fever is "a hemorrhagic illness with many symptoms similar to Ebola.")

One of the victims was Sheik Umar Khan, the doctor supervising Sierra Leone's Ebola response, whose death last month was widely reported.

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Three of the victims were infected while caring for another colleague of theirs who contracted the virus while pregnant, Science says. One of those victims, Mbalu Fonnie, was the nursing supervisor of the hospital's Lassa fever ward and had survived a Lassa fever infection. The article does not say whether the colleague that Fonnie and others were caring for survived.

Aug. 28 2014 4:31 PM

NFL Announces Strict Penalties for Domestic Violence Infractions

The NFL faced heavy criticism last month for suspending Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice—who was videotaped dragging his wife out of an Atlantic City elevator after allegedly knocking her unconscious—only two games, a penalty smaller than some of the suspensions the league gives to players who smoke marijuana. At the time Rice was suspended, the league's rules did not specificy a set penalty for domestic violence incidents, and he was disciplined under the broader "personal conduct" policy. Today, league commissioner Roger Goodell has instituted rules that mandate a six-game suspension for domestic violence offenses, with second-time offenders banned from the league (with the possibility of reinstatement after one year). ESPN has posted a letter Goodell sent team owners:

At times...we fall short of our goals. We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence. We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place. My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.
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NFL players can be punished by the league for off-field incidents even if their behavior does not lead to a criminal conviction.

Aug. 28 2014 3:36 PM

Painkiller Overdoses Up Considerably in New York City Since 2000

Overdose deaths involving painkillers are up more than 250% in New York City since the beginning of the century, the city's health department reported in data released today, though the number of drug overdose deaths overall has stayed relatively stable.

In the year 2000, only 59 overdose deaths in the city involved "opiod analgesics," i.e. painkillers like Percocet and Vicodin. In 2013, that number was 215. (The word "involved" is used rather than "caused" because many victims of drug OD's have multiple substances in their system.) Wealthy neighborhoods had the highest rates of painkiller-involved OD's, the report said.

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The number of total drug overdose deaths has generally stayed in the 600-800 range in the city since 2000—which is perhaps unusual given that drug overdose rates in the cocuntry as a whole have been steadily rising for decades.

Aug. 28 2014 1:37 PM

Retired Marine, in Uniform, Becomes Unofficial  Elementary School Crossing Guard

It's been a rough summer, but here's something nice about retired Marine Cpl. Lewis Alston of Lancaster, Pennsylvania:

...when the school year started on Monday, Alston, who is a chaplain for the Lancaster County Marine Corps League, headed to the school and saw that they didn’t have a crossing guard at one busy intersection. Because he had been at a funeral service that day, Alston was still wearing his marine uniform.
“I had my uniform on, and I thought, ‘Wouldn't it be a golden opportunity for the students to see a marine help them cross the street?’” the former truck driver said.
Every day since then, Alston has gone to the school in his uniform in the mornings and afternoons when he can to walk the children safely across the street.
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The chief of police tells ABC News he supports Alston's efforts. A school representative says another group of community volunteers helps guide students through a local park.

Here's video of Alston in action.

Go out and do something nice for someone today!

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