Commercial Airplane Carrying 239 Goes Missing En Route to Beijing
For now we'll all have to hold our breath, but the news out of southeast Asia doesn't look good at the moment, via an Associated Press breaking-news alert:
Malaysia Airlines says it has lost contact with a plane carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew on route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The airline says that Flight MH370 has lost contact with Subang air traffic control at 2:40 a.m. Saturday. The flight is operated on the Boeing 777-200 aircraft. It departed Kuala Lumpur at 12:41 a.m. Saturday and was expected to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m. the same day.
"Malaysia Airlines is currently working with the authorities who have activated their search and rescue team to locate the aircraft," the carrier said in a statement. Boeing, the maker of the plane, released its own statement late Friday night our time that read, in part: "Our thoughts are with everyone on board."
Beijing is 13 hours ahead of the east coast, so the plane had been out of contact with air traffic controllers for more than six hours—and was more than two hours overdue in Beijing—by the time the airline made the announcement.
Slatest PM: Russia Threatens to Shut Off Ukraine's Gas
Russia Ratchets Up the Pressure: New York Times: "Russia ratcheted up pressure on the West over the Ukraine crisis on Friday, moving for the first time to endorse the Crimea region’s secession plan, threatening Ukrainian customers with a gas shut-off and warning the United States that 'hasty and ill-considered steps' toward sanctions would harm relations. The developments illustrated how quickly the crisis has evolved. Just three days earlier, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had said he did not foresee the possibility of the Crimean Peninsula becoming part of Russia. But leaders of both houses of Russia’s Parliament said on Friday that they would support a vote by Crimeans to break away from Ukraine and become a region of the Russian Federation. That was a clear signal that the Kremlin was throwing its full weight behind a secession drive that Ukraine, the United States and other countries have called unconstitutional and a violation of international law."
Turning the Gas Off: Wall Street Journal: "OAO Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller told journalists Friday that Ukraine owes the Russian energy giant $1.89 billion, having failed to meet a Mar. 7 deadline for payment of its February deliveries. He warned that a failure to pay the bill could result in a repeat of the 2009 gas crisis, when Gazprom switched off supplies to Ukraine for a number of weeks, raising prices in Europe and causing some shortages. ... The moves come as Russia's response to the pro-Europe uprising that has toppled President Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev and taken control of Ukraine's government. The Kremlin, which views neighboring Ukraine as part of its privileged sphere of influence, has denounced the new powers in Kiev as illegitimate."
Diplomacy Stalled: Washington Post: "International efforts to defuse the crisis have so far been stymied. On Friday, for the second time in two days, a team of 47 military and civilian observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was blocked from entering Crimea, according to Agence France-Presse. The group was stopped by armed men at a checkpoint flying a Russian flag. With Russian ships continuing to blockade Ukrainian navy vessels in the Sevastopol harbor, a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer, USS Truxtun, entered the Black Sea on Friday through Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait for what the Navy said was a routine visit unrelated to the events in Ukraine. The Navy said the destroyer, with 300 sailors on board, was previously scheduled to train with Romanian and Bulgarian naval forces."
Watch President Obama Meet His Professional Doppelganger
As part of the White House's initiative to prosthelytize millennials on the benefits of ObamaCare, President Obama and members of his administration met with various YouTube personalities last week in the West Wing. Among them was Obama impersonator Iman Cross, who treated POTUS to his best impression of the commander in chief, trademark baritone voice and all.
"Either I can get to work or you can. You can take a lunch break, and I can take an hour. Fill in for you," Crosson said, while standing with Obama in the Oval Office as White House staffers cracked up behind them. The president was a good sport, laughing and telling Crosson that he'd need more gray hair on his head in order for the impersonation to be truly dead on.
"It was just a mind blowing moment–because I've been doing this for so many years–to be in his office, doing an impression of him, for him," Crosson said of the experience.
Bad News, Creeps: "Upskirting" Is No Longer Legal in Massachusetts
Two days after the state’s highest court sparked outrage when it ruled that state law allows people to take such photos, Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill today to ban the practice.... The legislation sailed through the House and Senate Thursday, a day after the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state’s voyeurism law did not specifically prohibit people from secretly photographing under a woman’s clothing. It was a rare act of swift action in a Legislature often known for its glacial approach to making laws. ...
Under the bill signed Friday, it will now be a misdemeanor to take secret photos and videos of “the sexual or other intimate parts of a person under or around the person’s clothing.” The law would apply to times when a “reasonable person” would believe those parts of their body would not be publicly visible. Distributing those images could lead to felony charges and prison time.
As my colleague Hanna Rosin detailed yesterday, the case in question involved a man named Michael Robertson who was arrested for allegedly taking photos under the skirts of unsuspecting women sitting across from him on a Boston trolley back in 2010. The state's high court, however, ruled this week that Robertson could not be charged under the existing "peeping Tom" law because one of the five criteria was that "the subject was another person who was nude or partially nude," and the women whose photos showed up on his cellphone were, like most riders on the Boston trolley, dressed in clothing at the time he took their pictures.
U.S. Adds 175,000 Jobs, but Unemployment Rate Ticks Up to 6.7 Percent
Today's jobs report brings good news and bad. The good: employers added 175,000 jobs in February, a figure well above the anemic job gains recorded in the previous two months. The bad: The gains were down from the average of 189,000 added over the past year and, in the words of the New York Times, "fell a bit short of what policy makers had been hoping to see at this stage of the recovery."
The nation's unemployment rate, meanwhile, ticked up a tenth of a point to 6.7 percent as would-be-workers flooded back into the labor market looking for work. Here's Bloomberg with the half-full reading:
The report indicates employers remain upbeat about the economy’s prospects after winter storms and freezing temperatures across the eastern U.S. slowed consumer spending, housing and manufacturing. ... The figures showed hiring at professional and business services increased by the most in a year, while payrolls also rebounded in education and health services. State and local government agencies, factories and construction firms also added to headcounts last month. Revisions to prior reports added a total of 25,000 jobs to overall payrolls in the previous two months.
A pre-report survey of economists conducted by Bloomberg predicted gains of between 100,000 to 220,000.
Is He or Isn't He? Alleged Bitcoin Founder Denies He Founded Bitcoin.
AP’s anxiously-awaited Nakamoto exclusive is out. The newswire reports the man who Newsweek claimed is the founder of bitcoin in a much-talked about cover story today, denies he had anything to do with the cryptocurrency. Here’s the AP:
In an exclusive two-hour interview with The Associated Press Dorian S. Nakamoto, 64, said he had never heard of Bitcoin until his son told him he had been contacted by a reporter three weeks ago.
Reached at his home in Temple City, Calif., Nakamoto acknowledged that many of the details in Newsweek's report are correct, including that he once worked for a defense contractor. But he strongly disputes the magazine's assertion that he is "the face behind Bitcoin."
Earlier today, Nakamoto's home was staked out by a pack of media and he was chased across Los Angeles as he traveled to lunch and then the offices of an AP reporter for the interview. LA Times Deputy Business Editor Joe Bel Bruno live-tweeted the shenanigans and continues to provide updates. Stay tuned, if today is any clue, this story is far from settled.
Update, 9:30pm ET: Leah McGrath Goodman, the author of Newsweek's investigative piece, is standing by her report, specifically that Nakamoto indicated his involvement with bitcoin. Nakamoto told the AP his comments to Goodman were misunderstood and that he thought she was questioning him about his work as an engineer, not bitcoin. Here's the key passage in question:
Tacitly acknowledging his role in the Bitcoin project, he looks down, staring at the pavement and categorically refuses to answer questions.
"I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it," he says, dismissing all further queries with a swat of his left hand. "It's been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection."
The AP suggests the possibility of a language barrier. While Nakamoto, who was born in Japan, speaks both English and Japanese, his English is not perfect. Or it could be just a simple case of he-said, she-said.
Americans Spend 11-hours a Day with Digital Media
Americans like their digital media. A new report from Nielsen shows the average adult spends nearly half of the day -- 11 hours -- with electronic media. Contrary to what you might think, the old standbys, TV and radio, are doing quite well. Here’s the breakdown for the average American adult (18+):
Live TV: 5 hours, 4 minutes
Radio: 2 hours, 46 minutes
Smartphone: 1 hour, 7 minutes
Internet on a PC: 1 hour, 1 minute
Time-shifted TV: 32 minutes
Game Console: 12 minutes
DVD/Blu Ray: 9 minutes
Other Multimedia device: 2 minutes
Though smartphones have overtaken PC’s and Americans are now making time for time-shifted TV (eg. DVR), Nielsen finds our habits have remained pretty steady over the past few years.
The ratings company also looked at media consumption patterns by age, finding that our TV habits start young, dip during teenage years, then rise steadily for the rest our lives. Here’s a look at weekly TV usage by age group:
2-11: 24 hours, 16 minutes
12-17: 20 hours, 41 minutes
18-24: 22 hours, 27 minutes
25-34: 27 hours, 36 minutes
35-49: 33 hours, 40 minutes
50-64: 43 hours, 56 minutes
65-plus: 50 hours, 34 minutes
So don’t worry about missing this week’s episode of True Detective, you’ll be spending the rest of your life in front of the TV anyway.
This Is Either the Best or Worst Lawyer Commercial Ever Made
If you’re a [cough, cough] completely innocent resident of Pittsburgh who’s been [exaggerated wink] “wrongly” accused of a crime, Daniel Muessig is the criminal defense attorney for you. Muessig has released a hilariously blunt advertisement for his services featuring a montage of (fictional) local rapscallions committing crimes like burglary, home invasion, prescription fraud, conspiracy, drug trafficking, prostitution, and solicitation, all of whom thank Dan for representing them after they make off with their loot. “I’m the Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney Pittsburgh criminals hire when they commit crimes,” says Muessig.
Lawyering isn’t Muessig's only hustle. When he’s not starring in viral videos or successfully reducing the bail of a suspect in a bakery robbery, Muessig also dabbles in freestyle rapping and crime novel writing. His 2011 e-book Nightwork, set in Philadelphia, follows a “small group of young Jewish criminals” who “fight to control a slice of the city's marijuana trade. But it all unravels in a few days, leaving one man to avenge his friends, elude police, and survive in a pitiless city.”
Editing a flashing "REAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY" sign over your sales pitch might make lesser lawyers seam unserious, but by the video’s conclusion, Muessig’s schtick has us convinced that he's the man to call should we ever find ourselves in a sticky situation in the greater Pittsburgh area. “Any criminal defense attorney who promises you a result is most likely a liar or a scumbag,” Muessig declares correctly. “But what I can promise you is my committed, fighting effort to make sure you’re adequately defended on any charge that you’re facing.” He adds: “I pick up the phone, I answer calls, I return letters, and I make jail visits. Because I’ll probably be there, visiting my friends anyway.”
Proportion of Students Attending Their First-Choice College Hits 39-year Low
The proportion of college freshmen attending their first choice school is the lowest it’s been in 39 years, or since the data has been collected, according to a new survey from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. While 76 percent of students say they are admitted to their top choice four-year institution, only 57 percent are enrolled there. That’s compared with 69 percent of students who enrolled at their top choice in 2003 and 72 percent in 1993.
Unsurprisingly, economic factors are a significant consideration in enrollment choice – and an ever-increasing one. The share of students who cite financial aid as very important rose to 49 percent in 2013, up from 33 percent in 1993 and just 19 percent in 1973. Similarly, cost of attendance is gaining in importance as well, with 46 percent of students identifying it as very important, compared to 31 percent in 2004.
"Students are becoming savvier shoppers," Kevin Eagan, interim director of the research program told The Chronicle of Higher Education. They are looking for "the best deal."
That may be so, but the rising cost of college is also likely to blame as is the follow on burden of student debt. The two are particularly top of mind for first generation college goers, according to the report, which calls on higher education institutions to "continue their efforts to simultaneously constrain costs and craft financial-aid packages that adequately address students’ financial needs."
Read more takeaways from the report over at The Chronicle.
Slatest PM: Senate Rejects Military Sexual-Assault Bill After Emotional Debate
Senate Blocks: Associated Press: "The Senate on Thursday blocked a bill that would have stripped senior military commanders of their authority to prosecute or prevent charges for alleged rapes and other serious offenses, capping an emotional, nearly yearlong fight over how to curb sexual assault in the ranks. The vote was 55-45, short of the 60 necessary to move ahead on the legislation sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. Defeated but unbowed, the senator received hugs from Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., after the vote. The Pentagon's leadership vigorously opposed the measure, arguing that officers should have more responsibility, not less, for the conduct of the men and women they lead."
The Battlefied: New York Times: "The debate pitted the Senate’s 20 women against one another, and seemed bound to leave hard feelings, given that a solid majority of the Senate actually backed Ms. Gillibrand’s proposal. ... Several Republicans, including Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, supported the Gillibrand proposal, and expressed deep frustration with the military’s failure to stem the number of sexual assaults. Congress began scrutinizing the sexual assault problem in the military after a recent series of highly publicized cases, including one at the Naval Academy, and after the release of new data from the Pentagon on the issue. On Sept. 30, 2013, the end of the last fiscal year, about 1,600 sexual assault cases in the military were either awaiting action from commanders or the completion of a criminal investigation."