Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

Sept. 15 2014 5:01 PM

TMZ Says Actress Allegedly Detained on Prostitution Suspicion Was Having Sex in Public

This weekend, actress Daniele Watts alleged in a Facebook post that she'd been detained by police because she refused to give them ID after "showing affection" with her boyfriend while "fully clothed." Her boyfriend wrote in his own Facebook post that police suspected Watts of being a prostitute, perhaps because she is black and he is white. A new TMZ report suggests that such a suspicion may have originated instead because the pair were having sex in the front seat of a car:

Daniele Watts had just left CBS studios in the San Fernando Valley around 2 PM Thursday. She says she was making out with her BF, but we've learned witnesses from the nearby Art Directors Guild office building told cops they were watching her and her BF have full-on sex in the passenger seat WITH THE DOOR OPEN!
The eyewitnesses said the guy was sitting in the seat, she was straddling him and it was for everyone to see. One eyewitness told cops they cleaned themselves up afterward with a tissue.

TMZ has also posted audio of Watts' confrontation with officers.

Correction, Sept. 15, 2014: This post originally quoted TMZ as writing that witnesses had observed Watts from the Directors Guild office building. TMZ's story now says the witnesses were watching from the Art Directors Guild office building.

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Sept. 15 2014 4:18 PM

36-Year-Old NFL Player Reportedly Suffering Memory Loss Will Return to Play After Concussion

John Abraham is a 36-year-old linebacker who plays for the Arizona Cardinals. He suffered a concussion during his team's September 8 game; though it was Abraham’s first reported career concussion, ESPN's Adam Shefter reported that he was already having trouble with memory loss. Abraham took a leave of absence from the team and was said to be considering retirement. That's no longer the case, per Cardinals coach Bruce Arians (i.e. “BA”):

Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, who suffered his third concussion in the last year in a preseason game, is also expected to return to play.

Sept. 15 2014 12:29 PM

Adrian Peterson to Return Next Week, Say Minnesota Vikings

The NFL, having recently come under fire for its handling of Ray Rice's domestic assault case, could take Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's recent indictment for child abuse as an opportunity to examine its own culture and set higher standards for its players. Or it could let Adrian Peterson play on—which, according to a statement released by the Minnesota Vikings on Monday, is what it will probably do.

From ESPN:

Peterson was deactivated for the Vikings' Week 2 game against the New England Patriots after he was indicted by a grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child.
"Today's decision was made after significant thought, discussion and consideration. As evidenced by our decision to deactivate Adrian from yesterday's game, this is clearly a very important issue," Vikings owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf said in a statement.
"On Friday, we felt it was in the best interests of the organization to step back, evaluate the situation, and not rush to judgment given the seriousness of this matter. At that time, we made the decision that we felt was best for the Vikings and all parties involved. To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child..."

The statement went on to say that the decision was a matter of "due process," an excuse that has been used by other NFL teams when deciding to let their players play in the face of serious criminal allegations. Since beating children is largely legal in much of the United States, don't expect Peterson to go to jail, or, evidently, miss much playing time. 

Sept. 15 2014 11:17 AM

Urban Outfitters Sells Kent State Sweatshirt Splattered With Fake Blood

This weekend Urban Outfitters briefly made a “Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt” splattered with fake blood available on its website for $130; it's now listed as “Sold Out.” The joke is that in 1970 four Kent State students were shot to death by National Guard soldiers while protesting the Vietnam War.

In 2010 Urban Outfitters sold a T-shirt that displayed the message “Eat Less.” The joke is that some people starve themselves because they believe obsessively that they are overweight.

In 2004 Urban Outfitters sold a “Jewish Girls” T-shirt covered in dollar signs. The joke is that Jewish people are obsessed with money.

In 2003 Urban Outfitters sold a board game called “Ghettopoly,” which included a card rewarding players for the achievement of “you got yo whole neighborhood addicted to crack.” The joke is that poor people are drug addicts and drug dealers.

In 20[insert future dates here], Urban Outfitters will sell [item names] emblazoned with [image/text] referring to [historic tragedy and/or demeaning stereotype]. While it is true that [historic tragedy and/or demeaning stereotype] is a subject that could be referred to or perhaps even joked about in a different context without causing offense, it is difficult to see [item name] as anything other than a smug insult to [relatively powerless group] given that it is only the latest in a long line of similarly belittling products manufactured by a corporation controlled almost exclusively by [names of white males].

Update, September 17, 2014: Urban Outfitters says the Kent State sweatshirt was a one-off item purchased at a flea market and re-sold, and that what appears to be fake blood is "discoloration" from "natural fading and bleaching."

Sept. 14 2014 2:36 PM

Liberal Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders May Run for President in 2016 as Democrat

Famously independent Sen. Bernie Sanders says he may run for president in 2016, either as an independent or a Democrat. In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Sanders insisted that “the issue is not Hillary,” but it seems clear a Sanders run could complicate Clinton’s path to the White House, considering there would be significant crossover in their supporters. Sanders says he’s going to Iowa to test the waters and analyze whether it makes more sense for him to run as an independent or a Democrat.

“The truth is, profound anger at both political parties, more and more people are becoming independent, the negative is, how do you set up a 50-state infrastructure as an independent?” he asked. Sanders made it clear he would run on a message of change to try to appeal to middle-class voters angry at Wall Street. “The American people want change. They want Congress, they want candidates to stand up to the big money interests,” Sanders said. “I think anybody who speaks to the needs of the working class and the middle class of this country and shows the courage to take on the billionaire class, I think that candidate will do pretty well.”

Sanders’ message is likely to appeal to progressive Democrats who are famously wary of Clinton, points out the Hill. And even if he doesn’t get very far, Sanders could still help shape the issues that take center stage during the presidential campaign. “There is a profound anger at understanding that the middle class is disappearing,” Sanders said.

The Vermont independent talked of his plans as Clinton returned to Iowa Sunday to headline, along with Bill Clinton, Sen. Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry fundraiser, reports the Associated Press. This year, the event will be a farewell for Harkin, who is retiring from Congress. Clinton has not returned to Iowa since she lost the January 2008 presidential caucuses.

Sept. 14 2014 12:33 PM

North Korea Sentences 24-Year-Old American to Six Years of Hard Labor

North Korea’s Supreme Court sentenced U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller to six years of hard labor after a 90-minute trial, claiming he had traveled to the country to conduct espionage. Miller now becomes the second American currently serving time in North Korea. Another American, Jeffrey Fowle, is awaiting trial.

The sentence is clear—and there’s no chance of appeal—but pretty much everything else related to this case remains murky. In the trial, the court accused Miller, of Bakersfield, California, of tearing up his tourist visa when he arrived in Pyongyang. The court said the 24-year-old wanted to see what a North Korean prison was like so that he could investigate the country’s human rights situation, according to the Associated Press, which was allowed to attend the trial.

Miller “looked thin and pale at the trial” and “waived the right to a lawyer,” reports the AP. During the proceedings, the court dismissed earlier speculation that Miller had sought asylum in North Korea, and said he had also falsely claimed to have U.S. military secrets. Miller told CNN earlier this month that he went to Pyongyang “prepared to violate the law of DPRK before coming here. And I deliberately committed my crime.” But he did not elaborate on what that crime might be. Miller traveled to North Korea as a tourist, part of a growing wave of Western visitors to the country.

U.S. officials believe North Korea is using the American detainees to get a high-level Washington official to travel to Pyongyang, notes Reuters. “This is the way that they play,” a State Department official said. “They use human beings, and in this case Americans citizens, as pawns.” Although that strategy may have worked in the past, analysts say Washington has too much going on elsewhere in the world to devote much attention to North Korea. Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae is serving 15 years in a labor camp while Jeffrey Fowle was arrested in May for leaving a bible in a public place. There is no date for his trial.

Sept. 14 2014 2:24 AM

Cops Briefly Detain Django Unchained Actress Because They Thought She Was a Prostitute

Actress Danièle Watts says she was briefly “handcuffed and detained” by cops in Los Angeles because they thought she was a prostitute. Her boyfriend, chef Brian James Lucas, says the cops thought they were a prostitute and john. Both of them wrote and posted pictures of the ordeal on Facebook. Watts, who played Coco in Django Unchained and stars as Martin’s Lawrence’s daughter on Partners, says the cops “accosted me and forced me into handcuffs.”

Lucas writes that from the questions cops asked, it seemed obvious what was going on:

I could tell that whoever called on us (including the officers), saw a tatted RAWKer white boy and a hot bootie shorted black girl and thought we were a HO (prostitute) & a TRICK (client).
This is something that happened to her and her father when she was 16. What an assumption to make!!!
Because of my past experience with the law, I gave him my ID knowing we did nothing wrong and when they asked D for hers, she refused to give it because they had no right to do so.
So they handcuffed her and threw her roughly into the back of the cop car until they could figure out who she was. In the process of handcuffing her, they cut her wrist, which was truly NOT COOL!!!

Police quickly released Watts when they figured out who she was. Variety got in touch with an LAPD press officer who said the department had no record of the incident.

Sept. 14 2014 1:29 AM

Mark Sanford’s Fiancée Surprised by his Facebook Post Announcing Breakup

Washington insiders were shocked Friday when Rep. Mark Sanford announced the end of his relationship with his Argentine fiancée in a rambling, 2,346-word Facebook post. The fiancée, María Belén Chapur, was also surprised. “I learned it from the press today,” she told the New York Times on Saturday. The former South Carolina governor, who famously said in 2009 he had gone “hiking on the Appalachian Trail” when he was in fact in Argentina with Chapur, blamed the end of the relationship on his ex-wife, Jenny Sanford.

“No relationship can stand forever this tension of being forced to pick between the one you love and your own son or daughter,” Sanford wrote. “And for this reason Belen and I have decided to call off the engagement.”

Chapur isn’t buying it, telling the Times that Sanford should not “leave blame on Jenny.” She now feels he prioritized his political career over their relationship. “I think that I was not useful to him anymore—he made the engagement thing four months before the elections,” Chapur said. “So this is not about his son, this is about his career and his ambitions.”

Over the last few months, Chapur and Sanford apparently argued incessantly about a wedding date. The two had gotten engaged two years ago, and she was tired of waiting. But Sanford asked her to put off the marriage for two more years. And the relationship that began in the figurative Appalachian Trail ended in Paris. The two apparently had a great time there but she delivered an ultimatum. And he didn’t budge. “His response was, ‘24 months. If not I’ll say goodbye and I will look for you in 24 months.’ ” She asked him to make the breakup public, but she apparently had no idea he was planning on the Facebook post.

Sept. 14 2014 12:29 AM

ISIS Releases Video Showing Beheading of British Aid Worker David Haines

ISIS released a video Saturday showing the beheading of British hostage David Haines, making him the third Westerner to be killed by the militant group in recent weeks. British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the killing late Saturday, calling it “an act of pure evil” in a statement that appeared to confirm the video was authentic. Earlier, the British Foreign Office had said it was working to verify the video, which also includes a threat to kill another British hostage, reports the BBC.

The 44-year-old father of two from Perth, Scotland, was kidnapped in Syria while working for the French aid group Acted. He has a 17-year-old and a 4-year-old daughter, reports the Guardian. No stranger to dangerous areas, Haines had previously worked in Libya and South Sudan. The British government had worked to keep Haines’ kidnapping a secret, but he was shown kneeling in the sand in the video that showed the murder of American journalist Steven Sotloff. Less than 24 hours before the latest video, Haines’ family had released a statement calling on the ISIS militants to “make contact with us.”

The video, titled “A Message to the Allies of America,” begins with a clip of Cameron. Then Haines looks straight into the camera. “My name is Daivd Cawthorne Haines. I would like to delcare that I hold you David Cameron entirely responsible for my execution,” he said, according to the Telegraph. “You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State just as your predecessor Tony Blair did, following a trend against our British prime ministers who can’t find the courage to say no to the Americans. Unfortunately it is we the British public that in the end will pay the price for our Parliament's selfish decisions.”

President Obama also condemned the “barbaric murder” on Saturday. “The United States stands shoulder to shoulder tonight with our close friend and ally in grief and resolve,” Obama said, according to the Associated Press. “We will work with the United Kingdom and a broad coalition of nations from the region and around the world to bring the perpetrators of this outrageous act to justice, and to degrade and destroy this threat to the people of our countries, the region, and the world.”

Sept. 13 2014 1:55 PM

U.S. Officials Threatened James Foley’s Parents With Prosecution Over Ransom

Although James Foley’s mother said she wasn’t surprised that the government would want to prevent her family from raising money for a ransom to free her son, she was shocked at how it was handled and how the message was delivered, Diane Foley told ABC News.

“I was surprised there was so little compassion. … It just made me realize that these people talking to us had no idea what it was like to be the family of someone abducted… I’m sure [the U.S. official] didn’t mean it the way he said it, but we were between a rock and a hard place. We were told we could do nothing… meanwhile our son was being beaten and tortured every day.”

The warnings came primarily from "a highly decorated military officer serving on the White House's National Security Council staff." Current and former officials confirmed the threats to ABC News, with one saying that it “was an utterly idiotic thing to do.”

Earlier the mother of the journalist who was beheaded by ISIS told CNN that she was “embarrassed and appalled” by how U.S. officials handled her son’s kidnapping. “I think our efforts to get Jim freed were an annoyance,” Diane Foley said. “Jim was killed in the most horrific way. He was sacrificed because of just a lack of coordination, lack of communication, lack of prioritization.”

The family learned about Foley’s death from “one journalist calling us and crying on the phone,” Diane Foley told Fox News. Foley’s brother, Michael Foley, had earlier told Fox News that government officials “were actually an impedance” to getting the journalist released. “I was specifically threatened by the Department of State about raising funds towards ransom demands for my brother,” he said. “We were smart enough to look past it but it slowed us down. We lost a lot of time.”