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Oct. 10 2015 11:59 AM

Bombings At Turkish Peace Rally Reportedly Leave More Than 80 Dead

More than 80 people were killed by twin bombings at the site of a peace rally in the Turkish capital Ankara on Saturday, the BBC reports:

TV footage shows scenes of panic and people lying on the ground covered in blood, amid protest banners.
The blasts took place near the city's central train station as people gathered for a march organized by leftist groups.
Turkey's president condemned the attacks as "terrorist acts."
Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced what he called "this loathsome attack that targeted our unity and our togetherness."

No group immediately took responsibility for the explosions, which came only three weeks before a round of national elections. In addition to the death toll, which is likely to rise, authorities say that nearly 200 others were injured by the blasts.

CNN notes that the Turkish government, in a reversal a policy of avoiding conflict with ISIS in neighboring Syria, has recently allowed U.S. forces to launch strikes against ISIS from an air base in southern Turkey. "If Turkey's really hurting ISIS, then there will be attacks," Esra Ozyurek of the London School of Economics told the network in July.

Suspicion over the bombings has also been directed at Kurdish separatist groups, including the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which announced over the summer that it was pulling out of a three-year cease-fire agreement with the Turkish government. Al Jazeera reports that, following the bloodshed Saturday, the PKK claimed it was holding back its armed fighters:

Hours after the bombing, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party ordered its fighters to halt operations in Turkey unless they faced attack. The group said through the Firat news agency website that it would avoid acts that could hinder a "fair and just election."

In an address to the Turkish people, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on the country to stand firm against terrorism. "This is an attack that does not target a specific group; it is an attack on the entire nation and an attack on our unity," he said of the bombings on Saturday, according to CNN. "Turkey is a country that has managed to maintain peace in the region." Davutoglu said the destruction was the work of two suicide bombers.

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Oct. 10 2015 9:36 AM

Dad Blogger Kanye West Hates In-App Purchases That Make His Wife Millions

Noted consumer advocate Kanye West fired off a series of angry tweets Friday night, complaining about an app that had allowed his daughter to make purchases without him knowing about it. Can't these greedy game designers give parents a break? 

Kanye didn't name and shame the app in question, but we assume his daughter is still a little young to be playing his wife's insanely lucrative "Kim Kardashian: Hollywood" game, which is loaded with chances for kids to spend their unsuspecting parents' money. Kim answered complaints about her app with some sage advice about setting parental controls, so Kanye might want to let her tinker with the iPad before they hand it over to their two-year-old again.


Kanye didn't say how much little North managed to charge to him before he caught on, but it'll probably be covered by the modest nine-figure income his wife's family reportedly pulled in from their branded games last year.

Oct. 10 2015 8:06 AM

Week in Photos

Picture taken from Quito, Ecuador, of the Cotopaxi volcano spewing ash on Oct. 8, 2015. The volcanic activity, which began Aug. 14 after 138 years of silence, continued with "steam emissions and a moderate load of ash," the country's security ministry said.

Oct. 9 2015 5:38 PM

This Week’s 2016 Twitter Power Rankings

Rectangles are sized by number of retweets. Click on a candidate to zoom in.
Interactive by Andrew Kahn

Hello and welcome to Week 7 of the Slatest’s 2016 Twitter Power Rankings. Above, you’ll find our handy interactive of the entire week’s worth of candidate tweets: how many each White House hopeful sent and how often they were retweeted and favorited, along with how each fared in the 140-character fight with their political rivals on both sides of the aisle. (Click to zoom in on a particular candidate, and click again to see the content of each tweet.)

Below, meanwhile, you’ll find our tried-and-true method of ranking each candidate’s single most successful tweet of the past seven days. Together, the two offer a helpful snapshot of which topics dominated the political conversation online and also give us some insight into which contenders are winning the campaign Twitter wars and why.


The ground rules again:

  • For the rankings below, we’re defining a candidate’s most successful tweet as the one that receives the most retweets.
  • Tweets that include a direct request for a retweet are ineligible for the traditional rankings because that’s cheating. RT if you agree! (Retweet-begging tweets, though, will still appear in the interactive at the top.)
  • Only tweets from the past seven days are eligible. Since we’ll publish the weekly rankings every Friday, that means any tweet sent in the seven days prior to when we hit the big red button at around 10 a.m. to cull all the data.

You’ll find this week’s takeaways at the bottom, but without any further ado:

1.) Ben Carson (Last week: 4)

2.) Bernie Sanders (1)

3.) Hillary Clinton (3)

4.) Donald Trump  (2)

5.) Ted Cruz (5)

6.) Mike Huckabee (7)

7.) Carly Fiorina (12)

8.) John Kasich (15)

9.) Rand Paul (10)

10.) Jeb Bush (8)

11.) Marco Rubio (11)

12.) Bobby Jindal (14)

13.) Martin O'Malley (6)

14.) George Pataki (13)

15.) Rick Santorum (9)

16.) Jim Webb (20)

17.) Lindsey Graham (18)

18.) Lawrence Lessig (17)

19.) Chris Christie (16)

20.) Lincoln Chafee (19)

21.) Jim Gilmore (21)

Single Tweet Winner: Ben Carson

Viewed in a vacuum, Carson’s #IamaChristian tweet—a reference to last week’s shooting in Oregon, where the gunman allegedly asked his victims whether they were Christian before he shot them—could generously be seen as an act of solidarity with anyone who has been persecuted for his or her religion. Viewed in light of the rest of Carson’s comments on the matter, though, the tweet looks like one more display of empty, counter-factual bravery from a man who seems to believe that the mass shooting would have played out differently if he would have been there to help take down the gunman, and that Jews would have beaten the Nazis if only they had been armed.

Overall RT Winner: Trump. Again.

Trump accounted for nearly half of all the retweets in the entire 2016 field this week, and once again took the top spot with some help from his usual social media tricks: He took swipes at his rivals and the press, he tried to use his Caps-lock button to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, and he manually retweeted a whole bunch of random supporters. But one thing was new this week: The Donald actually came to the defense of a rival. “Ben Carson was speaking in general terms as to what he would do if confronted with a gunman, and was not criticizing the victims,” Trump tweeted. “Not fair!”

Overshadowed again: Jeb Bush.

Bush made his own controversial comments in the wake of the Roseburg shooting, seeming to suggest last Friday that—at the very least—the tragedy was an isolated incident, and not part of a larger problem that requires prompt federal action. The good news for Jeb, though, was that by the middle of this week the press had largely moved on from Bush’s third-person indifference to Carson’s first-person insensitivity. The bad news for Jeb? Once again, everyone was talking about someone else ahead of him in the polls.

Oct. 9 2015 5:16 PM

The Friday Slatest: Two Fatal Campus Shootings and a Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded today to a civil-society alliance in Tunisia that's helped that country sustain its recent transition to democracy; less hearteningly, college students were killed in on-campus shootings in Arizona and Texas. In other news:


Have a good day out there, I guess!

Oct. 9 2015 4:17 PM

One Dead in a Texas University’s Third Reported Shooting This Week

A student was shot and killed on campus at Texas Southern University on Friday, Houston police say—and the incident is the third reported shooting at the college this week. According to the AP, two individuals have been "detained for questioning."

A "shooting incident" was reported around midnight Thursday at the same housing complex where the student was killed Friday, and an individual was shot Tuesday on campus as well, the Washington Post writes. Friday's death at Texas Southern was also the second fatal campus shooting in the United States in less than 12 hours; a student was killed in a confrontation early this morning at Northern Arizona University as well.

Oct. 9 2015 3:30 PM

Marco Rubio Is Not “Surging in the Polls,” Shows No Signs of Actual Momentum

Following a second strong, if understated, debate performance late last month, Marco Rubio is currently riding a wave of positive press. He is “surging in the polls,” has “the hot hand,” and is even emerging as “the favorite to win the GOP presidential nomination.”

With the summer of Trump coming to a close, it seems, we are at the cusp of a new stage of the campaign where the non-silly-season favorites begin to assert themselves and the race finally gets serious. And there is good reason why that means Rubio’s stock is on the rise: With Scott Walker out and Jeb Bush giving his own backers serious heartburn, Rubio is the only member of the GOP establishment’s former Big Three who appears to be heading in the right direction. As New York magazine’s Benjamin Wallace-Wells correctly put it Friday, "it is startling how well the race has gone for Rubio so far." If not Marco, the logic goes, then who?


The thing is: The race hasn’t gone that well for Rubio. Personally, I’m largely on board with this Rubio-will-win-by-default line of thinking. But it’s worth noting given the current hype cycle that, to date, he has yet to translate the buzz into anything tangible. Put simply, there just isn’t a whole lot of concrete evidence to suggest that Marco’s current “momentum” is much more than the product of the wishful thinking of a nervous Republican Party and the predictions of a bored political press corp.

Consider: Late Thursday night, Rubio’s campaign announced that it had raised $6 million during the previous three months—that’s half the amount he brought in during his first three months in the race, back when he was everyone’s second choice and almost no one’s first. His summer haul, meanwhile, looks all the more disappointing when compared with those of his rivals, who are not being treated with anywhere near the same political reverence: Ted Cruz brought in $12 million and Ben Carson raised $20 million during that same period. (So far, the only other Republican to release third-quarter figures is Rand Paul, who reported raising a paltry $2.5 million. Besting a man who is in danger of losing his spot on the main debate stage, though, is hardly something to celebrate.)

Rubio’s team has been careful to keep expectations low all year, but even they felt the need to put a brave face on their lackluster fundraising report, assuring supporters that their man is currently on pace to have his best single fundraising month so far in October. Never mind that, conveniently, that’s the type of hype that can’t be double-checked until the campaign files its next fundraising report in early 2016.

The cash race isn’t the only one that Rubio is underperforming in relative to his current buzz. For a man who is “surging” in the polls, his survey numbers tell a much less exciting story. Yes, he’s inched up a few points here and there following his strong performance on the CNN stage—a bump that can be explained, at least in part, by the glowing reviews he received in the press—but, at best, Rubio’s simply keeping his head above water at the moment.

According to Huffington Post’s polling tracker, for example, Rubio entered July in fourth place with about 9 percent in national polls, within 5 points of then-leader Jeb Bush. Today, he’s in third-place at 10.5 percent, but more than 17 points behind front-runner Donald Trump. RealClearPolitics’ rolling average tells a similar story: Rubio entered July tied for third at 9.4 percent; today he’s in fourth with 9.9 percent.

The picture’s not any prettier in the states that open the GOP nominating contest early next year. By RCP’s count, Rubio is currently at 7.7 percent in Iowa, down a fraction of a point from where he was in early July, and down more than 4 points from his high-water mark in May. In New Hampshire, he’s at 7 percent, down more than a point from the beginning of July and down more than 4 from his best showing the month before. And in South Carolina, Rubio’s at 5 percent, down more than a point from where he began the summer.

For an establishment favorite, meanwhile, Rubio doesn’t yet appear to be the favorite of much of the establishment. He picked up the backing of two congressmen in the past two weeks, but those endorsements bring his total to only five. According to FiveThirtyEight’s tracker—which weighs endorsements by the relative importance of the endorser’s office—Rubio currently sits in eighth place in the GOP field, behind Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, and Lindsey Graham.

Rubio’s current “surge,” then, is much less about him moving forward than it is his fellow conventional candidates falling backward. Given the current anti-status-quo status quo, that’s enough to allow Rubio to have his moment out front in the establishment lane that most observers still expect to produce the eventual Republican nominee. The big question, though, is whether Rubio will actually be able to capitalize on it before the spotlight moves on.

Oct. 9 2015 11:01 AM

NBA Player Whose Leg Was Broken During NYPD Arrest Found Not Guilty on All Charges

A jury in Manhattan has found Atlanta Hawks guard Thabo Sefolosha not guilty on three charges related to his arrest on April 8 outside a nightclub for allegedly interfering with NYPD officers at the scene of a stabbing. Sefolosha, 31, reportedly suffered a broken leg during his arrest and has said he was injured by police officers; before his trial he rejected prosecutors' offer to dismiss charges against him in exchange for community service.

Sefolosha was found not guilty of misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. Police had claimed he was slow to move away from a crime scene and then "charged at an officer whose back was turned," in the New York Times' words. Sefolosha testified that he was not charging at police but rather trying to give money to a panhandler who was being escorted by an officer. He did admit to calling one officer a "midget."


Sefolosha's attorney complained during the trial that authorities had not provided him in timely fashion with police documents that, when compared with video footage of the scene, appeared to contain false assertions. The judge subsequently told jurors that they could "infer" that the documents in question contradicted officers' trial testimony.

Oct. 9 2015 9:46 AM

Obama Shuts Down Dismally Unsuccessful Program to Train Syrian Rebels

The Obama administration is shutting down the Pentagon’s beleaguered and dismally unsuccessful $500 million program to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight against ISIS. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made the announcement in London on Friday and President Obama is expected to speak on it later today.

The 150 recruits currently in the program will finish their training and a much smaller center for leaders of opposition groups will be set up in Turkey. The Obama administration is also currently considering Turkey’s proposal that the U.S. aid a separate force of Arab fighters that would fight alongside Kurdish militias to march on ISIS’s capital in the eastern city of Raqqa. A Pentagon official told the New York Times  that from now on the U.S. would focus on supporting groups already fighting ISIS “rather than using training to try to manufacture new brigades.”


The train-and-equip program, which began a little over a year ago to recruit “moderate” Syrian rebels for training in neighboring countries, probably should have been seen as a long shot from the start. The U.S. was looking to recruit rebels to fight the Islamic State exclusively, rather than Bashar al-Assad’s military, which the potential recruits have been battling for years and care much more about defeating. So recruits were hard to come by. The plan was to train 5,400 fighters by the end of 2015 and 15,000 over the next three years, but only a few dozen actually went through the program. Last month, Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of the U.S. Central Command, admitted to Congress that only four or five U.S.-trained rebels were actually fighting against ISIS.

This isn’t quite the full story. Since 2013, the CIA has been running a separate covert program that has, according to the Washington Post,trained and armed thousands of fighters sent back into Syria’s civil war.” That program is presumably not effected by Friday’s announcement, but it’s facing dark days as well. Some of these CIA-backed rebels appear to have been specifically targeted in airstrikes across western Syria by Russia, which sees them as the primary threat to Assad’s regime. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, while the Pentagon has pledged to defend their trained rebels—such as they are—if they come under attack, no such guarantees have been extended to the groups supported by the CIA. The U.S., so far, doesn’t appear to have taken any steps to protect them from Russian strikes.

After Friday, it’s doubtful any rebel group would continue to count on U.S. support. 

Oct. 9 2015 9:27 AM

Four Shot, One Killed Near Dorm at Northern Arizona University

Police say four people were shot, one of them fatally, by an 18-year-old freshman after a "confrontation" at about 1:20 a.m. Pacific time this morning near a dorm on the campus of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. The suspected shooter, Steven Jones, is in custody. The victims of the shooting were also students.

The dorm, Mountain View Hall, houses a number of students who are members of fraternities and sororities. The Delta Chi fraternity confirmed to the Washington Post that some of its members were "involved" in the shooting, though it did not give further details.