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April 17 2015 1:09 PM

CBC Report Depicts Jian Ghomeshi as Creepy Egomaniac Enabled by Management

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has released an internal investigation into the behavior of celebrity radio host Jian Ghomeshi, who was fired in October 2014 and faces eight sexual assault-related criminal charges. At least one of those charges involves a CBC employee, and the October 2014 Toronto Star story about Ghomeshi that seems to have initiated the police investigation of him included an allegation of physical sexual harassment in the workplace. The CBC's new report, conducted by a Toronto employment lawyer, says that Ghomeshi's workplace behavior was frequently inappropriate. Among the findings:

  • He made "comments about the personal appearance of some employees" that were "demeaning."
  • He "gave a number of colleagues back and shoulder rubs" that several people described as "sexual" and others as "creepy."
  • He "solicited women in the workplace for dates."
  • He "shared details about his own sex life" that "witnesses found too personal, too graphic and generally unsavoury."

The report, compiled from voluntary interviews with CBC employees, also documents disrespectful and abusive behavior by Ghomeshi that was not sexual in nature. Much of the report addresses management's complicity in Ghomeshi's actions, asserting that a widespread company belief that "people who occupy the role of an on air host inevitably have big personalities, big egos, and big demands" created an atmosphere in which Ghomeshi's transgressions went unchallenged. Shortly before the report's release, the CBC said it has "severed ties" with its executive director of radio and audio and its executive director of human resources and industrial relations.

Slate's Carl Wilson wrote about observers' complicity in Ghomeshi's alleged crimes in November 2014, stating from personal experience that the host had an unsavory reputation in Toronto well before his alleged misconduct became headline news. "You used to work as an editor at a Toronto newspaper," Wilson wrote, chastising himself. "You could have urged someone to look into it. It just didn’t seem clear enough. So you took it too lightly."

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April 17 2015 1:05 PM

Why Is the U.S. Backing a War That’s Helping al-Qaida?

The U.S. was already involved in one conflict in the Middle East—the fights against ISIS, al-Qaida, and the Assad regime in Syria and Iraq—in which it’s actively conducting or backing campaigns against multiple actors who are also fighting against each other. Now, the Obama administration seems to be getting pulled into a just as intractable situation in Yemen.

The U.S. has reluctantly been supporting the Saudi bombing campaign there, “vetting military targets and searching vessels for Yemen-bound Iranian arms” according to the Wall Street Journal. But there has been concern that the Houthi takeover of that country and the Saudi airstrikes are providing just the sort of chaotic, sectarian environment in which al-Qaida thrives. These fears were realized on Thursday when al-Qaida seized control of an airport, seaport, and oil terminal in Southern Yemen.

In a press briefing, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter was asked whether the air campaign might be helping al-Qaida gain ground. He conceded that the group has taken advantage of the “opportunity in the environment created by the turmoil in Yemen.”

The U.S. has, for years, been conducting a covert war—mostly with drones—against al-Qaida’s Yemeni affiliate, considered among the most dangerous (they recently took credit for the Charlie Hebdo attacks). The drone campaign was conducted with the tacit support of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, then the enthusiastic support of Abd Rabbu Mansur Hadi, who replaced him after the country’s 2011 uprising. As recently as September, President Obama was citing Yemen as a promising model for light footprint counterterrorism operations.

At the beginning of this year, Hadi was forced out of power by the Houthis, a Shiite insurgent group from the country’s north, and is now in exile in Saudi Arabia. The Houthis official slogan may be “God is great, death to America, death to Israel, damn the Jews, victory for Islam,” but they, like the U.S., are fighting against al-Qaida and other Sunni militant groups. A rough analogy can be made to the Iranian-backed Shiite militias battling ISIS along with the U.S. in Iraq.

The Houthis are believed to be receiving support from Iran, though the degree to which they’re under Tehran’s direct control is disputed. Saudi Arabia views them as a dangerous Iranian proxy and last month led a Gulf coalition campaign of airstrikes against the Houthis in an attempt to drive them from power and reinstall Hadi’s government.

In the meantime, even without a cooperative government, the U.S. is continuing its own campaign of drone strikes against al-Qaida leaders—a campaign which is a major cause of Sunni resentment and may itself have contributed to the country’s’ instability. There are also wider regional implications to Yemen’s instability. Iraq’s prime minister has criticized the Saudi intervention, suggesting that events in Yemen could have in impact on the already delicate coalition battling ISIS.

Of course, the Obama administration would love to have Hadi’s cooperative government back, but U.S. officials say they are “skeptical the airstrikes will reverse the Houthi gains.”

So why is the administration supporting a campaign that it believes in the short-term is benefiting al-Qaida and in the long term is unlikely to accomplish its goals?

Partly, perhaps, because there aren’t an abundance of better options on the table. The administration may also feel that this is a moment where it can’t afford to risk losing Saudi support: The kingdom has been surprisingly encouraging of the recently announced nuclear deal with Iran.

But in Yemen, the situation is getting more complex and crowded by the day. In addition to the Saudi-led coalition, al-Qaida, the Houthis, and the remnants of Hadi’s state, the conflict also includes military units supporting ousted president Saleh, a movement of separatists who want South Yemen to secede, and ISIS. Yemen’s civilians are being squeezed in the middle with the risk of a humanitarian catastrophe becoming acute.  

As Carter put it on Thursday in a massive understatement, “It's obvious that it's easier to do our counter-terrorism operations against AQAP when there's a settled government in Yemen. There is not that now.”

April 17 2015 11:55 AM

On-Duty Air Marshal Leaves Gun on Airport Toilet Paper Dispenser as Agency Faces Investigation

A federal air marshal left his loaded gun on a toilet paper dispenser in a bathroom at Newark Liberty International Airport before boarding a plane that he was meant to protect, NJ Advance Media reports.

An airport janitor discovered the gun in a men’s room in Newark’s Terminal C, according to an anonymous Transportation Security Administration supervisor and a law enforcement source who spoke with NJ.com.

From the site:

Officers took possession of the weapon, which upon inspection was found to be loaded, and then traced its serial number to the marshal, the sources said.
The sources did not know the precise date of the incident, which they said occurred in the last afternoon or early evening.
A TSA spokesman for the marshal service, Michael D. Pascarella, declined to comment.
"TSA will not discuss the mission activities of Federal Air Marshals," Pascarella said in an email.

As NJ Advance Media noted, this was not the first embarrassing incident to befall the Air Marshal Service, which in 2012 had eight New York-based marshals fired by the TSA for drinking on duty at a restaurant (one of the marshals in the party asked the restaurant for a discount).

Last month, the Center for Investigative Reporting reported that the TSA would give breathalyzer tests to some on-duty air marshals before they boarded assigned planes. CIR’s Reveal News has reported extensively on what one former agent described as a “spring break” culture within the agency that CIR reported was “rife with adultery, prostitution and other misconduct.”

A February CIR report alleged that some air marshals had their flight schedules rearranged to accommodate “sexual trysts” and routes to cities they liked better. CIR’s reporting has helped spark a probe by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, while the Air Marshal Service is also reportedly facing an internal inquiry and criminal investigation by the Justice Department.

In 2006, an air marshal dropped a clip of bullets on the floor of a Southwest Airlines flight just before it was supposed to take off, while there have been multiple reports in recent years of drunken abuses by air marshals. A 2008 ProPublica investigation found that more than three-dozen federal air marshals had been charged with crimes—including one case of child sexual abuse charges and another of an agent attempting to hire a hit man to kill a spouse—while hundreds of others have been accused of misconduct.

The Air Marshal Service, whose agents pose as ordinary passengers in order to try to protect flights from potential threats, has a reported annual budget of around $800 million.

April 17 2015 11:39 AM

Letter From Prominent Doctors Implies Columbia Should Fire Dr. Oz for Being a Quack

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Dr. Oz at a 2010 charity walk in New York with, from left, Elizabeth Banks, Tracy Chapman, Mary J. Blige, Oprah, and Jennifer Hudson.

Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

A group of doctors from institutions including Stanford and the University of North Carolina have written a letter to Columbia University asserting that heart surgeon and TV personality Mehmet Oz's appointment on the Columbia medical faculty is "unacceptable." The letter (citing a Slate article co-written by one of the co-authors) asserts that Oz "has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain."

Responded a Columbia spokesman: "As I am sure you understand and appreciate, Columbia is committed to the principle of academic freedom and to upholding faculty members' freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussion."

Oz, who has a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, was a frequent guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, appearing first in 2004. He's had his own syndicated show since 2009. You can read much more on his dubious medical recommendations here on Slate and in this New Yorker article, which sums up his approach thusly:

Oz is an experienced surgeon, yet almost daily he employs words that serious scientists shun, like “startling,” “breakthrough,” “radical,” “revolutionary,” and “miracle.” There are miracle drinks and miracle meal plans and miracles to stop aging and miracles to fight fat.

Oz defends himself, sort of, in the New Yorker piece, telling its author that he sees his job as one of listening to layperson patients and presenting them with all possible options, even though those options often aren't supported by data. "I would take us all back a thousand years," he says, "when our ancestors lived in small villages and there was always a healer in that village—and his job wasn’t to give you heart surgery or medication but to help find a safe place for conversation."

For even further reading, see this blog post by an Oz-skeptic doctor who's also critical of some of the institutions that the doctors who wrote the letter to Columbia are associated with.

The full letter, via Vox:

Lee Goldman, M.D.
Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine
Columbia University

Dear Dr. Goldman:

I am writing to you on behalf of myself and the undersigned colleagues below, all of whom are distinguished physicians.

We are surprised and dismayed that Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons would permit Dr. Mehmet Oz to occupy a faculty appointment, let alone a senior administrative position in the Department of Surgery.

As described here and here, as well as in other publications, Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine, as well as baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops.  Worst of all, he has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.

Thus, Dr. Oz is guilty of either outrageous conflicts of interest or flawed judgements about what constitutes appropriate medical treatments, or both.  Whatever the nature of his pathology, members of the public are being misled and endangered, which makes Dr. Oz's presence on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution unacceptable.

Sincerely yours,
Henry I. Miller, M.D.
Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy & Public Policy
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
Stanford, CA

Scott W. Atlas, M.D.
David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
Stanford, CA

Jack Fisher, M.D.
Professor of Surgery (emeritus)
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA

Shelley Fleet, M.D.
Anesthesiologist
Longwood, FL

Gordon N. Gill, M.D.
Dean (emeritus) of Translational Medicine
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA

Michael H. Mellon, M.D.
Pediatric Allergist
San Diego, CA

Gilbert Ross, M.D.
President (Acting) and Executive Director
American Council on Science and Health
New York, NY

Samuel Schneider, M.D.
Psychiatrist
Princeton, NJ
Glenn Swogger Jr. M.D.
Director of the Will Menninger Center for Applied Behavioral Sciences (retired)
The Menninger Foundation
Topeka, KS
Joel E. Tepper, M.D.
Hector MacLean Distinguished Professor of Cancer Research
Dept of Radiation Oncology
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Chapel Hill, NC

April 17 2015 10:11 AM

Semi Truck Crash Spills Spectacular Number of Bees Across Highway

A semi truck accident in Washington state has spilled a truly spectacular number of bee containers across Interstate 5, and bees are on the loose. (The driver of the truck was not hurt.)

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Screen shot/KIRO 7

Each box holds about 5,000 bees, the KIRO 7 station says.

This is ominous:

Many boxes of bees remained on the road after sunrise, and the bees begain to swarm and become more active.

The latest image, in daylight:

"Members of the KIRO 7 News crew" have been "stung numerous times."

April 16 2015 10:33 PM

ESPN Reporter Britt McHenry Doesn’t Like Getting Towed Way More Than You Don’t Like It

Look, no one likes getting towed. It’s maddening, the fine feels extortionate, it’s an ordeal that does not call upon most people’s better angels. That said: ESPN reporter Britt McHenry doesn’t like getting towed more than you don’t like getting towed.

How much does McHenry not like it? Here’s security cam footage from her interaction with an employee while trying to get her towed car out of the impound lot.

Things got a tad personal for McHenry there. Here’s a quick recap of McHenry’s shock and awe verbal assault via HuffPo:

“I’m in the news, sweetheart.”
“I will fucking sue this place.”
“That’s why I have a degree and you don’t.”
“I wouldn’t work in a scumbag place like this.”
“Makes my skin crawl even being here.”
“Yep, that’s all you care about is just taking people’s money. With no education, no skill set, just wanted to clarify that.”                                                                                   “Do you feel good about your job?
“So I can be a college dropout and do the same thing?”
“Why? Because I have a brain? And you don’t?”
“Maybe if I was missing some teeth they would hire me, huh?”
“‘Cause they [the employee’s teeth] look so stunning … ‘Cause I’m on television and you’re in a fucking trailer, honey.”
“Lose some weight, baby girl.”

After the video went public, McHenry will still be apparently be on television, but not this week.

Oh, and she’s sorry.

April 16 2015 9:17 PM

Muslim Passengers Throw Christians Overboard on Mediterranean Migrant Ship

What has already been a particularly lethal week for migrants trying to make their way across the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe took an even more grisly turn on Thursday, when a religious dispute broke out on a boat traveling from Libya to Italy and ended with a group of Muslim passengers throwing 12 Christian migrants overboard to their deaths.

Italian police said that after the navy intercepted the inflatable craft, officers arrested 15 of the passengers on the boat of 105 people. The alleged assailants, reportedly from Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali, and Guinea, have been charged with “multiple aggravated murder motivated by religious hate,” the BBC reports. “Eyewitnesses told police … that some of the survivors had formed human chains to avoid a similar fate.”

April 16 2015 8:20 PM

This Leaked Campaign Launch Ad Could Be Bigger Than Hillary at Chipotle

Unnamed campaign sources have leaked the launch campaign ad for a possible upcoming 2016 candidate exclusively to Slate.

April 16 2015 6:11 PM

Last Known Male Northern White Rhino Requires 24-Hour Protection

A northern white rhinoceros named Sudan is now being accompanied around-the-clock by armed guards as he roams the Ol Pejeta wildlife refuge in Kenya, because he’s the last known male of a threatened subspecies. Poachers in search of rhino horns are believed to have killed all but five of the animals.

CNN reports that biologists are concerned that Sudan, at what the network described as an elderly age of 42, will grow too old for mating. They are working on artificial insemination and other advanced treatments that could improve the chances of impregnating Fatu and Najin, the females living with him at the refuge.

[Sudan] has a low sperm count, which complicates natural and scientific efforts, experts say.
Najin could conceive, but her hind legs are so weak, she may be unable to support a mounted male.
"There has been recorded mating between different pairs over the last few years, but not conceptions," [biologist George] Paul says. "Based on a recent health examination conducted, both animals have a regular estrus cycle, but no conception has been recorded."

The men guarding the three rhinos carry heavy weaponry and sometimes visit nearby towns "incognito" to gather intelligence on poaching activities, according to CNN. The refuge has started a GoFundMe campaign to support and equip the guards, who put their lives at risk defending the animals. The rhinos at Ol Pejeta have had their horns removed to make them less attractive to poachers.

Even with a very small number remaining, there is still hope that the northern white rhino could survive. A closely related subspecies, the southern white rhino, is considered near-endangered, but its population has been rekindled from an estimated 100 in the 1800s to around 20,000 today, according to the World Wildlife Fund, thanks in part to aggressive conservation and breeding efforts. It's possible Sudan's keepers could take a cue from a British zoo, where two southern white rhinos were recently given "animal Viagra" to boost their chances of conception.

April 16 2015 5:48 PM

Jameis Winston Sexual Assault Accuser Files Civil Lawsuit

The Tampa Bay Times reports that former Florida State student Erica Kinsman, who says top NFL prospect Jameis Winston raped her in December 2012, has filed a civil suit against him. The suit, filed in Florida’s Ninth Circuit Court district, accuses Winston of sexual battery, assault, false imprisonment, and “intentional infliction of emotional distress arising out of forcible rape.” It also seeks financial damages.

Winston is expected to be picked first overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL Draft on April 30.

Kinsman reported to Tallahassee, Florida police that she was raped early on the morning of Dec. 7, 2012, and identified Winston as her attacker soon after. Prosecutors ultimately decided not to press charges against him but have said they were hampered by an inadequate, slow police investigation.

Kinsman publicly identified herself in a documentary about college sexual assault called The Hunting Ground, which premiered in January 2015. She's also filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Florida State did not follow its obligations under Title IX in its handling of the case; the school ruled in December 2014 after a code-of-conduct hearing that not enough evidence existed to punish Winston through its own disciplinary system.

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