Slatest PM: The Heavenly Bodies Edition

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 15 2013 4:36 PM

Slatest PM: The Heavenly Bodies Edition

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A man in Moscow looks at a computer screen displaying a picture reportedly taken in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk on February 15, 2013, showing the trail of a meteorite above a residential area of the city

Photo by Yuri Kadobnov

***We've revamped our afternoon Slatest newsletter to deliver a text-heavy recap of the day's top stories to our subscribers' inboxes. The most recent edition is below. Sign up here to receive The Slatest PM in your inbox daily.***

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

The Meteor: Washington Post: "A meteor streaked across the sky and broke up Friday morning over the Ural Mountain city of Chelyabinsk, unleashing a tremendous shock wave that smashed windows, collapsed roofs and injured at least 1,200 people. The intense flash of light was recorded on video as far away as Nizhny Tagil, nearly 300 miles to the north. The trail of the meteor was also visible in Kazakhstan, more than 80 miles to the south. The Russian Interior Ministry said late in the day that at least 1,200 people were hurt. The Health Ministry said 48 were hospitalized. The Russian Academy of Sciences estimated that the meteor weighed around 10 tons and was traveling at 10 to 12 miles per second (roughly 30,000 to 45,000 mph) when it disintegrated."

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The Asteroid: Associated Press: "A 150-foot asteroid hurtled through Earth's backyard Friday, coming within an incredible 17,150 miles and making the closest known flyby for a rock of its size. In a chilling coincidence, a meteor exploded above Russia's Ural Mountains just hours before the asteroid zoomed past the planet. Scientists the world over, along with NASA, insisted the meteor had nothing to do with the asteroid since they appeared to be traveling in opposite directions. The asteroid is a much more immense object and delighted astronomers in Australia and elsewhere who watched it zip harmlessly through a clear night sky. Asteroid 2012 DA14, as it's called, came closer to Earth than many communication and weather satellites orbiting 22,300 miles up. Scientists insisted these, too, would be spared, and they were right."

More From Slate: Explainer: Why Do Russians Film Their Car Accidents?; Technology: Why Didn’t We Know the Russian Meteor Was Coming?; The Vault: Eyewitness Accounts of the Last Time A Heavenly Body Exploded Over Russia. For everything else you could possibly want to know about the meteor and the asteroid head on over to Bad Astronomy, where Slate's Phil Plait has you covered and then some.

Hooray, It's Friday! You made it; we all did. Welcome to the Slatest PM, follow your afternoon host on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @slatest. Programming Note: President's Day is a PM holiday, but we'll be back in your inbox on Tuesday after the three-day weekend.

Insult to Injury: CBS News: "Thousands of passengers erupted into cheers Thursday night as the crippled Triumph finally pulled up to the dock. As they stepped onto dry land, and into the arms of their loved ones some couldn't contain their excitement. Carnival then chartered a caravan of buses to transport folks out of Mobile, Ala. To add insult to injury, at least one of those buses became stranded on the way to New Orleans."

What Took So Long: Reuters: "A passenger from the stricken Triumph cruise ship sued Carnival Corp on Friday over 'horrifying' conditions, including being forced to wade through human feces from overflowing toilets after power was knocked out by a fire. The lawsuit by Cassie Terry of Brazoria County, Texas, alleged Carnival failed to provide a seaworthy vessel and sanitary conditions, according to court documents. Terry suffered physical and emotional harm, including anxiety, nervousness and the loss of the enjoyment of life, according to the complaint filed in federal court in Miami."

Feds Charge Jesse Jackson Jr.: Chicago Tribune: "Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was charged today with violating federal law by misusing campaign funds. Jackson, 47, a Democrat from Chicago, faces felony charges, including conspiracy, in a criminal information filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Typically, federal prosecutors use an information to charge defendants when a plea deal has been negotiated. His wife, Sandi Jackson, was charged in an information with one count of filing false tax returns. ... Federal authorities allege that Jesse Jackson used campaign funds to purchase a $43,350 men’s gold-plated Rolex watch, $5,150 worth of fur capes and parkas, and $9,588 in children’s furniture. The purchases were made between 2007 and 2009, according to the criminal information, which authorities noted is not evidence of guilt. Jackson stepped down from the House of Representatives on Nov. 21, citing both his poor health and an ongoing federal probe of his activities."

Good News, Hemp Heads: NBC News: "The federal government currently puts hemp in the same category of illegal drug as heroin, LSD and ecstasy -- but the Senate's top Republican wants to change that. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R - Ky., joined forces Thursday with a pair of West Coast Democrats -- Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley -- to cosponsor a bill that would allow American farmers to grow hemp without fear of punishment. Also on board is libertarian Rand Paul, McConnell's fellow Republican Bluegrass State senator. ... Hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa, the plant species that also produces marijuana. McConnell wants to legalize so-called industrial hemp, which contains a much smaller amount of THC, the chemical that produces marijuana's high."

Not the Ending Anyone Was Expecting: NBC News: "Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., tells NBC News that the 24-year-old woman he tweeted at during the State of the Union address was not a romantic interest, but in fact his daughter. After The Hill reported that Cohen -- who is not married -- deleted tweets saying 'ilu,' short for 'I love you,' to Victoria Brink, Cohen claimed that nothing was inappropriate and that the woman was a daughter of an old family friend. That old family friend turned out to be an old girlfriend of Cohen’s and Victoria Brink's mother. Cohen claimed the reason for tweeting Brink, who had not admitted publicly to Cohen being her dad, was genuine excitement. ... The congressman would not elaborate on how he only found out three years ago that he had a daughter. He said circumstances led him to search on Google for the mother of his child."

Less Surprising D.C. News: The Hill: "The House and Senate each voted Friday to recess for the Presidents Day week, which means lawmakers will have just four days — once they return — to deal with the $85 billion sequester due to take effect March 1. House Republicans have said they will not act on any bill to avoid the sequester until the Senate does first. Senate Democrats have proposed a bill to replace the sequester with a plan that shifts and reduces the planned cuts, and includes new tax increases. But with the Senate out, the first chance for a vote on that bill, and a Republican alternative, will be Feb. 25."

Police Tell Their Side of the Story: Los Angeles Times: "Repeated calls over a loudspeaker for him to surrender went ignored. Attempts to flush him out with tear gas led nowhere. Wanting to end the standoff before nightfall, members of the sheriff's SWAT unit enacted a plan they had devised for a final assault on the cabin, according to law enforcement sources. An officer drove a demolition vehicle up to the building and methodically tore down most of its walls, the sources said. ... Multiple sources ... said the decision to use the incendiary gas canisters came amid mounting concern that time and options were running out. ... Dorner, they said, had not communicated with police at any point during the siege and had continued to fire off rounds at them with high-caliber weapons. ... Bringing large floodlights into the area was deemed too dangerous and police worried Dorner might have night-vision goggles that would soon give him an advantage. When they eventually moved in with the demolition vehicle and began to get glimpses into the cabin as the walls were torn down, Dorner's whereabouts and condition were unknown. On the radio transmission, one officer describes seeing blood splattered inside the cabin and then another reports hearing a single gunshot being fired, raising the possibility that Dorner may have killed himself before the fire engulfed the cabin."

A Few More Quick Hits From Slate

See you back here Tuesday. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe, or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.

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