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July 31 2015 12:16 AM

Here Are Some Things the Internet Thinks Should Make You Madder Than Cecil the Lion

The death of Cecil the lion has turned into the hunt for Walter Palmer as the Minnesota dentist revealed as the beloved lion's killer has gone underground to avoid questions from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the wrath the collective Internet. 

As the vitriol directed at Palmer spread this week, so did expressions of the sentiment that if we could spare the outrage for a beheaded lion, we should be able to spare some outrage for a variety of non-lion things:

Other animals that have died recently

There are endangered animals at risk all over the world, not least in Africa. Five elephants were killed for their tusks in Kenya, the Washington Post noted, "as the world mourned Cecil the lion."

The animals in need of attention aren't all rare. They might just be prepared rare.

Abortion

Florida Senator and 2016 presidential hopeful Marco Rubio had something to say about Cecil and some videos he's been watching, and there was no shortage of conservatives chiming in with similar thoughts.

Black Lives Matter

Sandra Bland, Sam DuBose, and others who have died in police custody or as a result of police violence were mentioned by activists as deserving some of the attention directed toward the death of Cecil.*

People in Zimbabwe

As Retuers pointed out Thursday the sentiment stirred by Cecil's death is not shared by many Zimbabweans, and the outpouring of grief is perplexing to people dealing with tough economic and social problems in addition to the occasional threat to life and property by wild animals:

"Why are the Americans more concerned than us?" said Joseph Mabuwa, a 33-year-old father-of-two cleaning his car in the center of the capital. "We never hear them speak out when villagers are killed by lions and elephants in Hwange."

*Correction, July 31, 2015: This post originally misspelled the name of Sam DuBose.

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July 30 2015 11:38 PM

Rep. Steve King Says Obergefell Ruling Means You Can Marry a Lawnmower

Reactionary Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King has long been one of Congress' go-to sources for insane yet admirably creative sound bites, having once called an undocumented immigrant who attended the State of the Union a "deportable" and asserted that for every immigrant who's brought to the United States as a child and becomes a valedictorian there are 100 more who become drug mules with "calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert." King was at it again Thursday at an Iowa event for evangelical 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee:

A July 7 article in an Iowa newspaper quotes King elaborating on this unique interpretation of the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges:

I had a strong, Christian lawyer tell me yesterday that, under this decision that he has read, what it brings about is: It only requires one human being in this relationship—that you could marry your your lawnmower with this decision. I think he's right.

First it's men marrying men. Then men marrying dogs. Then lawnmowers. You might ask, Where does it end? I'll tell you where it ends: With every man in America being ordered to marry a dog that's riding a lawnmower.

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Good dog!

July 30 2015 8:54 PM

New Body Cam Videos Show Cops Coalescing Around False Narrative of Sam DuBose Killing

Two police officers who supported the apparently false narrative given by officer Ray Tensing to justify his fatal shooting of unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose have been placed on paid administrative leave, as two new videos that seem to further damage all three officers’ original accounts were made public on Thursday.

Tensing was charged with murdering DuBose on Wednesday and city officials released video footage from his body camera that seemed to contradict the officer’s account that he shot DuBose in self-defense after being dragged by the driver's car.

On Thursday, Tensing pled not guilty to murdering DuBose and his lawyer said the charges were unwarranted. Stewart Mathews also gave a possible preview of his client’s defense, saying that the officer was knocked to the ground, dragged, and “feared for his life.”

This account—which appeared to be contradicted by the video from Tensing’s body camera that showed him firing his gun and then falling down—was very similar to the stories initially given by two of Tensing’s fellow University of Cincinnati officers on the scene, Phillip Kidd and David Lindenschmidt, who have both now been placed on leave.

Furthermore, the body cameras of Kidd and Lindenschmidt—made public on Thursday—show just how quickly Tensing and his colleagues coalesced around a false narrative of how the incident occurred. The footage should serve as a powerful lesson to anyone who automatically believes the accounts of police officers in these types of shooting incidents, for which cops are rarely prosecuted.

In Kidd’s video, he can be seen chasing after DuBose’s car alongside Tensing after the fatal shot was fired and the vehicle went out of control. After the car crashes and the chase ends, you can hear Tensing say “I thought he was going to run me over.”

As Tensing appears to formulate his story, you can hear Kidd confirm it aloud. Tensing says “he was dragging me” and Kidd replies “yeah, I saw that.”

At the three minute and 30 second mark in the above video, Tensing repeats “he was dragging me, man” and then says “I just got my hand and my arm caught.” Again, Kidd replies “I saw that.” Kidd then curses and asks Tensing “what was he reaching for?” Tensing replies “He kept reaching around. I told him to step out of the car. He couldn’t produce a license.”

Tensing then says “I almost got ran over” and Kidd responds “don’t—don’t say anything,” before cursing again.

Later in the video, another officer asks Kidd if he saw Tensing being dragged and he says “yes.”

Kidd backed up Tensing’s account in the official police report of the incident. Lindenschmidt, however, was portrayed as more circumspect in that document, which says “It is unclear how much of this incident [officer in training] Lindenschmidt witnessed.”

But Lindenschmidt’s body cam video, which also starts off with him chasing DuBose’s out-of-control car, shows him supporting what appears to be a false narrative of the shooting as well.

Lindenschmidt initially asks Tensing “what’d he pull on you?” After Tensing doesn’t answer, he asks again “he pulled?” This time, Tensing responds “he didn’t reach for anything.”

At about the four-minute mark in the above video Lindenschmidt tells another officer the exact opposite, though. “He had a traffic stop, the guy took off from him. The officer got caught in his car, because the guy reached for something—he thought—and so he grabbed onto the car,” Lindenschmidt says, contradicting what Tensing had just told him. “Our officer went down, he got tangled in the car, drew his gun and fired.”

At just after the seven-minute mark, Lindenschmidt actually describes the shooting accurately, though, saying that Tensing fired before the car went dangerously out of control. (In the video, the car appears to go out of control only after DuBose had been shot when he had apparently attempted to start to pull the car away from Tensing.) “I was right behind him. He fired from right here and the guy took off,” Lindenschmidt says to another officer, getting the order of events correct.

Lindenschmidt then appears to go back to the other order: “I just arrived to back him up when the guy took off. The officer was stuck in the vehicle. Fired one round.”

At the end of the video, Lindenschmidt says “I’m going to turn my camera off” before being instructed to "keep it on for now." That's when the footage ends.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters told the Cincinnati Enquirer on Thursday that he told DuBose’s family his office would examine what Tensing’s colleagues "said and how they said it, but I did urge them to remember that our focus is on the shooting."

In an emotional press conference on Wednesday, DuBose’s sister Terina Allen said that Tensing would not have been indicted without the video footage “because the second officer was ready to corroborate every lie that the first officer said in the report.”

The Enquirer also reported that Kidd and Eric Weibel, the officer who wrote the initial report on the incident, had been named as defendants in a 2010 wrongful death lawsuit by the family of an unarmed mentally ill man who died a few days after being restrained and tasered by police.

Weibel included what can at the very least be described as his own embellished description of how Tensing looked like his clothes “had been dragged over a rough surface” after the incident. He has not yet been reported to have been placed on administrative leave.

The Enquirer also reported that Kidd could be charged for giving a false statement.

“It was a false statement. The video evidence doesn’t support it,” Philip Stinson, a Bowling Green State University criminologist who gathers data on officer arrests, said of Kidd’s description of the incident. “There seems to be the elements of a crime there.”

The Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio chairman Bruce Szilagyi seemed to support the officers in question when he said that video footage didn't always tell the whole story. “People who watch an encounter on video using the slow motion setting to determine what happened have a luxury that police on the street don’t,” Szilagyi said.“We make split second decisions. Some are right, some are wrong. but all of our decisions are made with an eye toward protecting the public and ourselves.”

Update, July 31, 2015, 5:00 p.m.: The Guardian is reporting that Kidd and Lindenschmidt will not be prosecuted for having initially corroborated Tensing’s version of the shooting.

“Two UC officers arrived on the scene as Tensing was reaching into Mr Dubose’s car. Both officers made comments at the scene but later were interviewed in depth by Cincinnati Police Officers about what they had had witnessed,” a statement from the county prosecutor’s’ office said. “In their official interviews, neither officer said that they had seen Tensing being dragged.”

“These officers were totally cooperative in the investigation and consistent in their statements,” Deters said about the decision. “[There was] some confusion over the way the initial incident report was drafted [but that was] not a sworn statement by the officers [it was] merely a short summary of information.”

“These officers have been truthful and honest about what happened and no charges are warranted,” said Deters.

If the two officers did cooperate with the grand jury honestly, as Deters has implied, and will even possibly testify against their fellow officer at trial, then that could be a justifiable reason not to charge them with a crime. It doesn’t change how disturbing their initial behavior was, though, and shouldn’t prevent their police departments from sending down even harsher punishments than have already been applied.

July 30 2015 8:22 PM

Iowa Killjoys Won’t Let Donald Trump Land Helicopter in Middle of State Fair

There’s not a lot right now that can put the brakes on Donald Trump, but he has apparently been thwarted in his latest quest to bigfoot the Republican primary by the bosses of the Iowa State Fair.

The British tabloid the Daily Mail published an interview with Trump Thursday in which the candidate talked excitedly about Iowa’s “World's Fair,” which gets underway in early August, and where Trump was planning on bringing his 12-passenger Sikorsky helicopter to entertain the kids and prevent any attention from accidentally being paid to any of his 2016 rivals.

“We’re going to fly it out to Iowa and I’m going to have it there,” he said in his Manhattan office, initially referring to the annual event as “The World’s Fair.”
“I look forward to that. I went there once years ago,” he said. “It was so great. So many people.”
And so many Republican primary voters. With children.
“I’m going to try giving kids lifts in the helicopter,” he said near the end of a half-hour interview that ranged in topics from high finance to Hillary Clinton’s “low class.”
“You know, young kids. Yeah!” Trump said, sounding like a kid who’s just built his first pinewood derby car.

Sadly for Trump, and the many cable television producers looking forward to video of him being mobbed by hordes of helicopter-crazed children, state fair officials say a Trump touchdown “will not be happening” at the fair. “Trump did not ask for permission to do so, nor would he be granted permission if he does indeed seek it,” according to the Des Moines Register.

Trump could still find a way to land somewhere near the fairgrounds, but it might be better to deploy this particular stunt at a different event anyhow. Maybe Trump hasn’t spent much time on the ground at the Iowa State Fair, where outrageous, borderline-dangerous foodstuffs are an indispensible part of its storied culture. Does he really want to use a $7 milllion chopper full of cream-colored Italian leather and gold-plated seatbelt buckles to take 10 children who’ve been stuffed with Deep Fried Nacho Balls and Ultimate Bacon Brisket Bombs, then baked all day in the midwestern sun, on their first helicopter ride? 

July 30 2015 4:04 PM

Fox News’ Debate Criteria Are a Total Sham

As pollsters and number-crunching journalists have already pointed out, Fox News’ decision to use five national polls to determine who makes it onstage—and who doesn’t—at the first GOP debate isn’t exactly a scientific process. As Bloomberg’s Steven Yaccino put it, “Methodologically, they might as well be drawing straws.”

It turns out, though, that drawing straws for the final few spots on stage could actually be fairer than what will actually happen next Tuesday at Fox News HQ. It would certainly be more transparent. As New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman points out, with less than a week to go before the field is set, the conservative cable network hasn’t specifically said how it will go about deciding which polls it will use and which it will ignore. “We don’t know what methodology they’re going to use,” one concerned John Kasich adviser told Sherman. “We’ve been asking the question and they haven’t shared.”

The most specific criterion the network has offered publicly to date is that its polling experts will select “the five most recent national polls, as recognized by Fox News”—a statement that effectively says that Fox News will pick the polls that Fox News picks. This isn’t a minor point: With the bottom half of the GOP field so tightly packed and with so much variability from one poll to the next, if Fox execs wait until the last moment, they won’t be picking polls—they’ll be selecting candidates. And as the head of a cable network that thrives on conservative chaos, Fox News chief Roger Ailes is hardly a disinterested observer. Worse still, Ailes is making those decisions in secret while hiding behind the polls in public.

Here’s more from Sherman, who literally wrote the book on Fox News:

Inside Fox, the debate is generating controversy among Ailes’s senior ranks. “There’s total confusion about all of it. The Second Floor is making it up as they go along,” one Fox personality told me, referring to Ailes’s executive suite. According to sources, Fox executives are still undecided about which polls to use and who will be allowed on the stage. … Even inside Fox, some are awed that a presidential race is being influenced by a television channel. “Crazy stuff,” another personality told me, “you have a TV executive deciding who is in — and out — of a debate!”

The stakes are particularly high for Kasich, Rick Perry, and Chris Christie, who currently have the best chances of snagging one of the final two spots on the main stage. For them, a few points in a single poll could mean the difference between getting the opportunity for a breakout on the main stage and being forced to sit awkwardly at the losers forum during what could be the beginning of the end for campaigns that have barely began. Of course, candidates who miss out on the debate will have good reason to direct their anger elsewhere: Fox News is sure to be hiring again soon.

July 30 2015 3:44 PM

U.S. Calls Turkey’s Moves Against ISIS a “Game Changer,” but What Game Is Turkey Playing?

Obama administration officials have described Turkey’s agreement to finally commit to the air war against ISIS in neighboring Syria as a “game changer,” and it may well be if the NATO country succeeds in setting up a safe zone free from both ISIS and Bashar al-Assad’s military. But for the moment, Turkey seems more intent on attacking another enemy altogether.

Since last week, Turkish jets have launched airstrikes into Iraq, targeting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Kurdish nationalist militant group it has fought with varying degrees of intensity since the mid-1980s. The PKK has retaliated with attacks on military targets in Turkey. The recent uptick in violence has derailed a peace process between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and the PKK that began in 2012. The strikes against the PKK have been much heavier than those against ISIS so far, leading Kurdish politicians to accuse the government of using the ISIS operation as cover.

Turkey’s two-front war is also contradictory, as Kurdish forces in both Iraq and Syria have been the most effective force battling ISIS. Turkey is bombing its enemy and its enemy’s enemy, a position the U.S. is also familiar with.

With Kurdish nationalism on the rise in Iraq and Syria, and Kurdish parties making dramatic political breakthroughs in Turkey, Erdogan’s government is concerned that the fight against ISIS will increase the PKK’s influence—one of the main reasons it’s been reluctant to get involved in fighting ISIS until now. Recent ISIS attacks have forced Erdogan to reckon with the ISIS threat, but he’s still clearly hoping it’s possible to play both sides.

July 30 2015 3:02 PM

Can the Taliban Survive the Death of Their Leader?

The Taliban today announced a successor to longtime leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, whose death was confirmed yesterday. The group will now be led by Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, Omar’s chief deputy, who has been representing the group at Pakistan-based peace talks with the Afghan government. The latest round of those talks was delayed following the announcement of Omar’s death. A Pakistani intelligence official tells CBS that Mansoor may be more likely to compromise than his predecessor, “a very rigid man who would not see reason.”

What makes this all very strange is that, according to the Afghan government, Omar died in April 2013 in Pakistan. The Taliban’s political office has confirmed the date but says Omar actually died in southern Afghanistan. That presumably means that Mansoor has already been leading the group for about two years, perhaps even issuing statements endorsing the peace initiative under Omar’s name, all the while knowing Omar was dead.

It makes sense that Taliban leaders would keep Omar “alive.” Though he was almost never seen publicly even before his alleged death, the former supreme leader of Afghanistan was an important unifying symbolic presence for a movement dividing into rival factions, including some now affiliated with ISIS. Those divisions are going to deepen without Omar’s presence, no matter how spectral it was: One faction has already accused Mansoor of murdering his mentor. 

The announcement of Omar’s death also raises some questions about the role of Pakistan in the conflict in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been hosting the talks but is widely suspected of supporting militants within Afghanistan, playing a double game with the neighboring country. It was reportedly Pakistani officials who informed Afghanistan about Omar’s death, which some see as a move to disrupt the talks. If Omar really did die in a hospital in Karachi, as Afghanistan suggests, it would contradict years of Pakistani denials that he was in the country.

Though obviously it wouldn’t be the first time a world-famous international terrorist turned out to be hiding in plain sight in Pakistan.  

July 30 2015 2:47 PM

Federal Judge Says Drug Dog Was a Bad Dog, but Trainer Disagrees: “He’s a Very Good Dog”

In a Tuesday ruling, a federal appeals court upheld the conviction of a man caught with cocaine in Bloomington, Illinois—but said that Lex, the drug dog that police deployed after stopping the man's car, is so incompetent that he should not be used to establish probable cause for searches.

Tuesday's ruling pointed to records showing Lex nearly always signals drugs are present — 93 percent of the time. And it cited other figures that indicated he is frequently wrong — more than 40 percent of the time.
"Lex's overall accuracy rate ... is not much better than a coin flip," the ruling says.

You could say that the judge writing the opinion believes that Lex is a Bad Dog. But his trainer disagrees.

"The opinion is unfair and very one-sided," Michael Bieser said in a phone interview. He added about Lex, who remains on the job, "He is a very, very good dog."

The Supreme Court is expected to take up the case of Bad Dog v. Good Dog during its upcoming term.*

*Not true.

July 30 2015 1:41 PM

Greenpeace Activists Successfully Blockade Shell Icebreaker Bound for the Arctic

Call it kayaktivism’s biggest victory to date: On Wednesday morning, a group of 13 climbers associated with Greenpeace rappelled from the St. John’s Bridge in Portland, Oregon, intending to block a Shell icebreaker from returning to the Arctic. On Thursday, in hour 29 of the climbers’ protest on the bridge, Shell’s ship, escorted by the U.S. Coast Guard, was forced to return to port.

A Periscope livestream, shot by activist Kristina Flores, shows the Fennica turning around in the Willamette River on Thursday morning to cheers from the protesters. It’s unclear what Shell’s plans are now for the MSV Fennica—it’s been docked in Portland, undergoing repairs—and a ship-tracking website showed no pending itinerary. During her broadcast, Flores said, “We have the staying power to be here as long as necessary.”

Flores and her fellow protesters are opposed to the ship’s return to the Arctic, and are attempting to slow Shell’s resumption of oil drilling there, where it has a checkered history. A January study by a team of British scientists showed that continued oil exploration in the Arctic is inconsistent with efforts to limit global warming to so-called “safe” levels. The campaigners are also frustrated with the Obama administration for recently approving Shell’s Arctic oil drilling, which has been widely criticized as being inconsistent with his overall plan to limit U.S. carbon emissions. In recent days, Portland has become the focal point of this frustration because of the Fennica, a Finnish-flagged support ship whose presence is required at Shell’s controversial drilling site in the Chukchi Sea in the Alaskan Arctic. The Fennica carries a capping stack, a critical piece of safety equipment designed to prevent oil leaks in case of a well blowout.

On Wednesday, I exchanged tweets with one of the climbers, Dan Cannon, who wrote of the experience: “This is bigger than Greenpeace and/or the climbers - the movement to protect the Arctic is vast.” In a statement, Dan Ritzman, the director of the Sierra Club’s Arctic campaign said: “These brave activists have done what hundreds of thousands of Americans have called on President Obama to do: Stop Shell from drilling in the Arctic.”

A similar action led by activists in brightly colored kayaks last month in Seattle failed after the Coast Guard pulled protesters out of the way. A spokesperson for Shell, Megan Baldino, said in a statement about this most recent protest, “We respect the rights of individuals and groups to express their opinions:  All we ask is that they do so within the confines of the law and maintain safety as their first priority.”

During its quarterly earnings report on Thursday, Shell announced it is cutting 6,500 jobs and plans to reduce capital investment by $7 billion amid a sharp drop in profits, which it blamed on multi-year low oil prices it says “could last for several years.” As Slate’s Jordan Weissmann has pointed out, continued low oil prices particularly affect oil companies’ profitability in the Arctic, the most expensive place to drill for oil.

In an interview with a New Hampshire television station on Tuesday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton appeared to break with the Obama administration in her first substantive comments on Arctic drilling. “I have doubts about whether we should continue drilling in the Arctic," Clinton said. "I don't think it is a necessary part of our overall clean energy climate change agenda.”

Update, 4:45 pm.: The Associated Press reports a federal judge in Alaska ruled on Thursday that the Greenpeace activists are in contempt of an earlier ruling preventing protests too close to Shell’s vessels. The judge imposed an escalating fine on Greenpeace, payable to Shell, at $2,500 per hour—rising to $10,000 per hour if the protest is still continuing on Sunday.

Update, 8:55 pm.: After more than 40 hours, Shell's Fennica has departed Portland. The Oregonian reports an eventful afternoon which involved an official closure of a section of the Willamette River and nearly continuous confrontations between protesting kayakers and the Coast Guard, including the Coast Guard and local authorities forcibly removing kaykers from the river using hooked poles. After removing three of the climbers from the bridge, authorities were eventually able to clear a wide enough path through the river for the Fennica to pass.

July 30 2015 1:26 PM

Six Reported Stabbed at Jerusalem Pride Parade by Orthodox Extremist Who Did the Same Thing in 2005

An ultra-Orthodox extremist named Yishai Shlissel who was recently released from prison after stabbing three people at Jerusalem's 2005 LGBT pride parade apparently stabbed six people at the same parade on Thursday, reports say.

Paramedics were treating two people in serious condition, one in moderate condition and three people who were lightly injured. All of the victims were in their thirties.

After Shlissel was subdued and emergency responders arrived to treat the victims, the march continued.

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