Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

Nov. 23 2014 9:31 PM

Odell Beckham Jr. Makes Greatest Catch Ever

Everyone is saying it on TV and on Twitter: Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. just made the greatest catch ever.

Yep, pretty much. Here's another view of the catch, from beginning to end.

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Beckham's one-handed snag, his second touchdown of the night, came in the second quarter of Sunday night's game between Dallas and New York, and came despite being mauled by a Cowboys defender.

The rookie out of LSU specializes in the one-handed catch, as you'll see in this video of his warmup routine.

He did this in college, too. Watch this amazing grab in the 2014 Outback Bowl.

And this one may be the best of all: an absurd one-handed catch of a kickoff.

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Nov. 23 2014 5:46 PM

Lawyer Dresses as Thomas Jefferson in Court, Gets Disbarred for “Inexplicable Incompetence”

You may have the right to an attorney, but just make sure it’s not Dennis Hawver. Why? The Kansas Supreme Court recently voted unanimously to disbar Hawver for what the court called “inexplicable incompetence.” If you were wondering what exactly inexplicable incompetence looks like in the legal profession, Hawver is your man.

Where to start? Try this: During a 2005 murder trial, Hawver described his client—Phillip Cheatham—to the jury as “a professional drug dealer” and a “shooter of people.” Hawver’s unconventional legal reasoning only went downhill from there. Here’s the gist of the defense he mounted for his client in the capital murder trial from the Topeka Capital-Journal:

Hawver said the strategy of Cheatham—who he described as "an experienced and highly street-smart and intelligent criminal" who was a cocaine dealer convicted of killing another "dope dealer"—was to tell jurors that if he had killed two women in 2003, he wouldn't have left alive a third shooting victim to identify him to police. The survivor was shot eight times by the real gunman to convince her to identify Cheatham as the killer, Hawver said in explaining the trial strategy.
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Not only did Hawver leave out evidence that might have exonerated Cheatham—“I had no idea that cellphones had GPS capabilities at that time”—during the sentencing phase of the trial he told jurors “they should execute the killer in his closing argument,” according to the Capital-Journal. In legalese, this strategy is referred to as: reverse psychology. As you might have guessed, Cheatham was convicted of murder and sentenced to the death penalty. Thankfully, the court overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial last year, ruling—in the understatement of the year—that Hawver had failed to represent his client properly. Here’s more from the ABA Journal:

Hawver had never previously tried a capital murder case and had not tried a murder case in more than 20 years … He was unfamiliar with ABA guidelines for trying capital murder cases. At trial, he informed the jury his client had previously been convicted of voluntary manslaughter, even though prosecutors agreed to a stipulation that the client had a prior felony conviction without further details … In an affidavit, Hawver also said he failed to seek dismissal of the capital charge after the Kansas Supreme Court struck down the death penalty scheme.

That appears to be the dictionary definition of “inexplicable incompetence.” The only case that can remotely compete in the inexplicable incompetence department with Hawver’s handling of Cheatham’s defense is when he represented himself. The Kansas Supreme Court unsurprisingly took disciplinary action against Hawver in order to disbar him. During a disciplinary hearing earlier this year, Hawver represented himself before the court—dressed as Thomas Jefferson. The Capital-Journal reported from inside the courtroom, and it wasn’t pretty.

Wearing a white powdered wig, a dark 18th century suit and long white stockings, Hawver sat in the Supreme Court listening to two earlier cases before his disciplinary case was called. Hawver represented himself during the hearing before the Supreme Court and before the disciplinary administrator's office in November 2013 … Hawver said he dressed as Jefferson, his personal hero, to see whether the Kansas Supreme Court would protect his constitutional rights. "Am I going to get you to protect my rights to defend my client" as I see fit? Hawver said. The First Amendment protects his actions with his clients, and the Sixth Amendment protects the rights of his client, he said. Hawver said he might not have jumped through every "American Bar Association hoop" but he believed Cheatham was innocent … "Phillip Cheatham didn't complain about my performance. You did," Hawver said, referring to the justices. "I am incompetent!" Hawver said, banging the lectern with his hand.

The Kansas Supreme Court agreed, unanimously ruling to disbar. Hawver said earlier this year, however, he wasn’t really sweating losing his license because he was planning on leaving the legal profession anyway in order “to devote his time to growing vegetables in an aquaponics garden.” “I don’t think practicing law is productive,” he said.

Nov. 23 2014 2:38 PM

12-Year-Old Boy Carrying BB Gun Is Shot and Killed by Police Outside a Cleveland Rec Center

A 12-year-old boy wielding a BB gun who was shot by a Cleveland police officer at an area recreational center on Saturday afternoon died from his injuries on Sunday morning, according to the hospital. Police responded to a call reporting a man with a gun outside the rec center on Saturday afternoon. The caller told the police dispatchers the gun was “probably fake,” and that the boy was “probably a juvenile,” but that information was never passed on to the police officers arriving at the scene.

Here’s how the police described the events leading up to the fatal shooting by the officer via the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

A rookie officer and a 10-15 year veteran pulled into the parking lot and saw a few people sitting underneath a pavilion next to the center. The rookie officer saw a black gun sitting on the table, and he saw the boy pick up the gun and put it in his waistband, Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Jeffrey Follmer said. The officer got out of the car and told the boy to put his hands up. The boy reached into his waistband, pulled out the gun and the rookie officer fired two shots, Tomba said. Tomba said the child did not threaten the officer verbally or physically. At least one of the shots hit the child in the stomach. He was rushed to MetroHealth Medical Center in serious condition.
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“The department's Use of Deadly Force Investigation Team is investigating the shooting,” the Plain Dealer reports. “Detectives recovered the weapon, which turned out to be a BB gun with the orange safety marker scratched off, police said.” The Cleveland police said in a statement the BB gun resembled a semi-automatic pistol.

Nov. 23 2014 1:15 PM

The Time Bill Cosby Humiliated Marion Barry

Earlier this week, Deadspin dug up an old story about Bill Cosby admonishing a Notre Dame football player for getting mediocre grades. Cosby, who had reached the moral scold phase of his career at this point, told Dean Brown that his 2.5 GPA was “OK if you have a mental disorder.”

In 1986, three years before Cosby eviscerated Brown in front of his teammates, he mocked a more public figure: Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry.

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Courtland Milloy described the scene in an Oct. 9, 1986 story in the Washington Post:

When D.C. Mayor Marion Barry walked onto the stage Monday night at the tribute to the late jazz musician Thelonious Monk, host Bill Cosby began cracking jokes about him. “Here's the mayor of D.C. … or what's left of it,” Cosby said.
Barry winced and forced a smile, but Cosby didn't stop there.
“The mayor told me he was looking for a campaign contribution,” Cosby continued. “I asked, ‘How did you do in the primary?’ He said, ‘I got 71 percent.’ So I told him, ‘Here's 35 cents.’ ”
As Barry was making his presentation, Cosby returned to the stage with cohost Debbie Allen on his arm, and without even letting the mayor kiss her, Cosby turned on his heels and escorted Allen away.
The audience snickered and Barry hung his head. Even though it might seem like an honor to be poked fun at by the most popular man in America, this act came across as a show of disrespect. If Barry weren't embarrassed, many people in the audience were.

Cosby was at the peak of his fame in 1986, as The Cosby Show had reached No. 1 in the ratings with a weekly audience of 30 million households. This was also around the time, Barbara Bowman alleges, that Cosby “brainwashed [her] into viewing him as a father figure, and then assaulted [her] multiple times.”

Barry, meanwhile, was about to be elected for his third term as mayor. In Milloy’s view, the D.C. politician—whose administration was beset by allegations of corruption—was lucky he wasn’t facing stiffer competition. “One got the impression that if Cosby wanted to run for mayor as a write-in candidate, Barry would have to throw in the towel,” Milloy wrote.

In 1990, a little more than three years after Cosby yukked it up at his expense, Barry was arrested after getting caught on tape smoking crack as part of an FBI sting operation. In 1994, though, Barry completed a remarkable political comeback, getting elected for a fourth term as mayor.

Cosby was not impressed. In October 1996, the Washington Post’s Reliable Source column reported that the comedian “refused a photographer's request that he pose for a picture with D.C. Mayor Marion Barry at a National Coalition on Black Voter Participation event.” A Cosby spokesman said, “He is not a fan of the mayor” and did not want a photograph that might “suggest he is a friend of the mayor, a supporter of the mayor.”

Cosby and Barry would make up, sort of. At an event a couple of months after the photograph incident, the Post reported, Cosby “blew a make-up kiss at [Barry’s wife] Cora Masters Barry.”

Nov. 23 2014 11:34 AM

Marion Barry, Washington, D.C.’s “Mayor for Life,” Dies at Age 78

After decades as the brightest light in D.C. politics, former Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry died at the age of 78, the Barry family confirmed early Sunday morning. The Washington Post describes the four-term mayor, who was serving on the D.C. City Council at the time of his death, as “the most influential and savvy local politician of his generation … He dominated the city’s political landscape in the final quarter of the 20th century.” Barry, who mounted an unlikely and successful bid for a fourth term as mayor after doing time in federal prison, was dubbed “Mayor for Life” in the nation’s capital.

Barry was a sharecropper’s son who rose to power in the nation’s capital as a civil rights champion. Descriptions of Barry’s tenure in office, and relationship with the city he governed, however, depended on whom you asked. Here’s more from the Post:

He came to Washington as a champion of the downtrodden and the dispossessed and rose to the pinnacle of power and prestige. As mayor of the District, Mr. Barry became a national symbol of self-governance and home rule for urban blacks. His programs helped provide summer jobs for youths, home-buying assistance for the working-class and food for senior citizens. And he placed African Americans in thousands of middle- and upper-level management positions in the city government that in previous generations had been reserved for whites …
When Mr. Barry took office, so chaotic had the District’s finances been that the city didn’t even know how much money it had in the bank. He instituted budgetary and fiscal accounting procedures to figure that out. But by the end of his last term as mayor, Congress and the courts had stripped him of much of his authority, complaining of graft, corruption and gross mismanagement in his administration.
“Some governments are corrupt but are known for their competency in running the city,” Sen. John C. Danforth (R-Mo.) told Mr. Barry at a 1989 hearing on the D.C. budget. “Others are incompetent but considered clean. [Washington’s] government is scandalously corrupt and hopelessly incompetent.”
In 1990, Mr. Barry was arrested on drug charges in a sting by the FBI and D.C. police after having been lured to a Washington hotel room by a woman with whom he’d previously had an amorous relationship. “Bitch set me up!” he muttered aloud as he was being placed under arrest. The comment was captured on FBI videotapes of the sting and broadcast on television, and it would endure as a signature phrase in Mr. Barry’s vocal legacy. His conviction months later would become front-page news around the world. He completed a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program and served six months in a federal prison, then used the experience to his political advantage as a platform in his improbable comeback bid for elected office.

Nov. 22 2014 6:23 PM

ESPN Denies Suspending Baseball Writer From Twitter for His Views on Evolution

ESPN’s slap-on-the-wrist of choice when its on-air employees get a little too boisterous on social media is the Twitter ban. ESPN’s Bill Simmons has, in the past, tweaked the network brass with his social opinionating and has been ordered to lay low on Twitter as a result. This week, ESPN enforced a no-tweet zone on baseball writer Keith Law. Deadspin noticed Law’s usually active Twitter feed—Law’s Tweeted nearly 54,000 times—went quiet on Wednesday after a dust up last week with former pitcher and current ESPN baseball analyst Curt Schilling over the issue of evolution. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

“That's no coincidence,” Deadspin reported on Friday, “[Law’s] been given a Twitter timeout by ESPN, and we're told that it's for loudly and repeatedly defending Charles Darwin from transitional fossil Curt Schilling, his Bristol colleague.” Schilling is decidedly anti-evolution. ESPN denied the suspension was due to Law’s science-based view of the world. "Keith's Twitter suspension had absolutely nothing to do with his opinions on the subject," ESPN said in a statement.

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So, apparently, science is OK with ESPN. The network does, however, get a bit prickly about its employees going after one another on social media—despite essentially demanding it on air. Otherwise, Skip Bayless would be best known as the older brother of a famous chef. Perhaps, then, ESPN was unhappy with Law’s encouragement of using monkeys as weapons against colleagues? We’ll have to wait for more details on what exactly went down in Bristol. But here’s a portion of the Schilling/Law back-and-forth.

Nov. 22 2014 5:40 PM

Ferguson Grand Jury Decision Appears Unlikely This Weekend

The city of Ferguson, Missouri has been anxiously waiting for a grand jury decision on whether police officer Darren Wilson will be indicted for the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown. Despite speculation that the grand jury decision could be announced over the weekend, according to multiple sources, it now appears unlikely an announcement will be made until next week. CNN reports the grand jury, as of Friday, had yet to reach a decision on the case, and local officials tell ABC News the grand jury will not reconvene again until Monday.

“Federal, state and county officials have been ramping up their readiness in case there is a fresh wave of angry and, at times, violent protests over the jury's decision,” ABC News reports. “Many stores have boarded up their windows for fear of destructive protesters.” On Monday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard ahead of the imminent grand jury decision. “Some, though not all, public schools that serve Ferguson reportedly plan to be closed Monday and Tuesday,” according to the Washington Post.

Nov. 22 2014 3:26 PM

UVA Suspends Fraternities in Wake of Sexual Assault Allegations

A searing story in the latest issue of Rolling Stone takes on the issue of sexual assault on American college campuses—using the University of Virginia as an unfortunate case study. It’s a disturbing read. The story recounts a gruesome gang rape of a young woman at a UVA frat house, a campus culture where individuals overlook sexual crimes in order to maintain frathouse-based social standing, and the university administration’s profound indifference to incidents of sexual assault on campus. Days after the story was published, Rolling Stone followed up with even more accounts of rape and sexual assault at UVA.

The university has been on the defensive since the story broke. On Saturday, UVA President Teresa Sullivan suspended fraternities at the university until next semester. “Beginning immediately, I am suspending all fraternal organizations and associated social activities until January 9th, ahead of the beginning of our spring semester,” Sullivan wrote in a statement on Saturday. “In the intervening period we will assemble groups of students, faculty, alumni, and other concerned parties to discuss our next steps in preventing sexual assault and sexual violence on Grounds.”

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The accusations are serious. Here’s an excerpt from Rolling Stone:

UVA isn't an edgy or progressive campus by any stretch. The pinnacle of its polite activism is its annual Take Back the Night vigil, which on this campus of 21,000 students attracts an audience of less than 500 souls. But the dearth of attention isn't because rape doesn't happen in Charlottesville. It's because at UVA, rapes are kept quiet, both by students—who brush off sexual assaults as regrettable but inevitable casualties of their cherished party culture—and by an administration that critics say is less concerned with protecting students than it is with protecting its own reputation from scandal. Some UVA women, so sickened by the university's culture of hidden sexual violence, have taken to calling it "UVrApe." "University of Virginia thinks they're above the law," says UVA grad and victims-rights advocate Liz Seccuro. "They go to such lengths to protect themselves. There's a national conversation about sexual assault, but nothing at UVA is changing." 

In her letter addressing the report, Sullivan invokes the words of Thomas Jefferson as a model of how the university should respond. “Jefferson, as he always does, provides a compelling backdrop: It is more honorable to repair a wrong than to persist in it.” Jefferson was, of course, the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia. But for all of his strengths to aspire to, Jefferson is probably not the most appropriate role model when it comes to sexual conduct, as historians describe Jefferson as having a sexual relationship with a slave, Sally Hemings, when she was as young as 14 years old.

Nov. 22 2014 10:59 AM

President Obama Reverses Course, Extends U.S. Combat Role in Afghanistan

President Obama reversed course on his previous decision to end American troops’ combat role in Afghanistan by the end of the year. The classified order, the New York Times reports, will give American troops broader offensive capability in the country—including carrying out missions against the Taliban and broader support of the Afghan military—than first articulated by the President earlier this year.

“In effect, Mr. Obama’s decision largely extends much of the current American military role for another year,” according to the Times. “Mr. Obama and his aides were forced to make a decision because the 13-year-old mission, Operation Enduring Freedom, is set to end on Dec. 31.” Here’s more from the Times on Obama’s rethink on America’s post-combat mission strategy:

In an announcement in the White House Rose Garden in May, Mr. Obama said that the American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year, and that the missions for the 9,800 troops remaining in the country would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the “remnants of Al Qaeda.” The decision to change that mission was the result of a lengthy and heated debate that laid bare the tension inside the Obama administration between two often-competing imperatives: the promise Mr. Obama made to end the war in Afghanistan, versus the demands of the Pentagon that American troops be able to successfully fulfill their remaining missions in the country.
The internal discussion took place against the backdrop of this year’s collapse of Iraqi security forces in the face of the advance of the Islamic State as well as the mistrust between the Pentagon and the White House that still lingers since Mr. Obama’s 2009 decision to “surge” 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan. Some of the president’s civilian advisers say that decision was made only because of excessive Pentagon pressure, and some military officials say it was half-baked and made with an eye to domestic politics.
Mr. Obama’s decision, made during a White House meeting in recent weeks with his senior national security advisers, came over the objection of some of his top civilian aides, who argued that American lives should not be put at risk next year in any operations against the Taliban—and that they should have only a narrow counterterrorism mission against Al Qaeda. But the military pushed back, and generals both at the Pentagon and in Afghanistan urged Mr. Obama to define the mission more broadly to allow American troops to attack the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other militants if intelligence revealed that the extremists were threatening American forces in the country.

Nov. 21 2014 6:58 PM

GOP-Controlled Intelligence Committee Debunks Benghazi Conspiracies

The Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has issued a report roundly rejecting a number of conspiracy theories about the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The report, which was released on Friday after a two-year-long investigation, responded to a number of long-running theories about the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.

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The report found that there was no evidence of a “stand-down order” and that there was no advanced warning of the attack, two canards that have been reported by media outlets such as Fox News.

The report said that the process used to create a series of contested talking points by then–U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice was flawed, but the report did not say that Rice or the administration had intentionally misled the public with those talking points.

In appearances on Sunday morning shows after the attack, Rice described the attacks as having stemmed from a spontaneous protest over a comically bad anti-Islam film called Innocence of Muslims. There was no such protest, but the report attributed this confusion to contradictory intelligence reporting that came in after the attacks and not to some willful act of deceit by the administration.

Republican Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers of Michigan and the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, gave this statement as they released the report:

For over two years, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence exhaustively investigated the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi Libya. We spent thousands of hours asking questions, poring over documents, reviewing intelligence assessments, reading cables and emails, and held a total of 20 Committee events and hearings. We conducted detailed interviews with senior intelligence officials from Benghazi and Tripoli as well as eight security personnel on the ground in Benghazi that night. Based on the testimony and the documents we reviewed, we concluded that all the CIA officers in Benghazi were heroes. Their actions saved lives.

The report echoed the findings of a similar bipartisan review panel by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released earlier this year along with five previous investigations.

The Benghazi Select Committee, created by House Speaker John Boehner, will continue to investigate Benghazi. A democratic member of that committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, urged it to shift its focus to security at State Department facilities.

"It's my hope that this report will put to rest many of the questions that have been asked and answered yet again, and that the Benghazi Select Committee will accept these findings and instead focus its attention on the State Department's progress in securing our facilities around the world and standing up our fast response capabilities," Schiff said in a statement.

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