Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM

After 260 Years, St. Andrews Golf Club to Allow Women Members for First Time

Much has changed in the world since 1754, the year when the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland became known as the “home of golf.” One thing that has not changed during those 260 years however is the golf club that is often considered the sport’s spiritual home has continued to bar women from becoming members. Until Thursday, that is.

The iconic Scottish club, much like Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, was facing increasing pressure to allow female members after hundreds of years as an old boys club. In 2012, Augusta admitted two female members, one of which was former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. On Thursday, in a mail-in ballot among its 2,400 male members, the St. Andrews club leapfrogged a century or two and voted to follow suit with 85 percent supporting the admission of female members.


“Before Thursday's vote, women could play on the course, on Scotland's east coast, but they were not allowed in the clubhouse and had no significant part in the sport's rulemaking,” the BBC reports. “The policy will take effect immediately, and the club said some women would be put on a fast track for membership to avoid having to spend time on the long waiting list,” according to the New York Times.

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Sept. 18 2014 6:10 PM

Texas' Meat-Loving Agriculture Chief Calls it Quits

Texas' meat-loving agriculture commissioner has abandoned his beloved steak, pork, and mutton for oil and gas.

Commissioner Todd Staples, who earlier this month wrote a blistering—if largely fact-free—jeremiad against the "Meatless Monday" movement, announced Thursday that he will quit his statewide-elected office early to take a job as the president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association, a powerful trade group in the Lone Star State.


Staples has been atop the state's Department of Agriculture since 2007. Earlier this year he came up short in his bid for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, and then found himself back in the headlines earlier this month after penning his pro-meat op-ed. (Sample line: "Restricting children’s meal choice to not include meat is irresponsible and has no place in our schools.") For more on Staples' push to paint Meatless Monday as an evil vegetarian plot, you can check out my story from last week.

According to Vote Smart, the oil and gas industry funded Staples' 2010 campaign for re-election to the tune of $80,700—a lot of cash for a state office but less than the $105,100 the livestock industry gave him in the same cycle.

Staples' current term was set to expire early next year. In between when he steps down and when a new commissioner is appointed in January, the state agriculture department will be run by Staples' chief of staff, Shannon Rusing, and the agency's deputy commissioner, Drew DeBerry. While it's unlikely the agency will do an about-face under their watch, it's also hard to believe that either will be as pro-meat as a man who once called the U.S. Agriculture Department's short-lived suggestion that its own employees eat less meat "treasonous."

Sept. 18 2014 4:37 PM

LeBron James’ Hairline is Un-Receding

LeBron James introduced his latest shoe, which features a lot of pastels among its available color combinations and will reportedly cost $200, on Tuesday. What was most notable about his press appearance wasn't the shoes, though, but the sudden advancement of his hairline (see above). LeBron is on TV all the time, so his male-pattern baldness had been widely noted, partly because of the comic contrast between his middle-aged-looking head and the peak perfection of the rest of his body. That contrast might be a thing of the past. No word yet on what means James might've used to attain the sharpened-up look.

Sept. 18 2014 3:42 PM

Scotland's Secession Ballot is Outstandingly Simple

The only problem is there's no option for "Lizard People."


h/t lizard people

Sept. 18 2014 3:22 PM

Suspect in Bali Suitcase Murder Has a Lawyer for Her Fetus

Heather Mack, the Chicago teen being detained on the Indonesian island of Bali along with her boyfriend on suspicion of killing her mother, is retaining a lawyer for her fetus. From Reuters

"I'm here to represent Heather's unborn child," lawyer Vanessa Favia told reporters late on Wednesday outside the police station where Mack is being detained in Bali's provincial capital of Denpasar.


Favia said Mack was three months pregnant.

"I'm here to make sure that she's getting proper nutrition and ... all the medical attention she needs, so that she can have a healthy baby in the future," Favia said.

The two suspects have not been formally charged with a crime. Under Indonesian law, charges would follow an investigation that could take weeks.

Mack's mother's corpse was found stuffed into a suitcase that had been seen in the possession of Heather Mack and her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer. If found guilty of premeditated murder, the pair will be sentenced to life in prison or receive the death sentence, says USA Today. If deemed guilty of an unplanned crime, they'll receive a 15-year sentence. Executions in Indonesia are carried out by firing squad; five took place last year, according to Amnesty International.

A spokesman for the Bali police previously told Reuters Mack's unborn child could be raised in prison.

Sept. 18 2014 11:09 AM

Typo on 1999-Era Résumé Explains Why Tom Brady's Life Stalled Out After College

Remember Tom Brady? In 1999, he was a “big man on campus,” the handsome quarterback of the University of Michigan football team, probably dating the head cheerleader or what have you. But we've barely heard from him since. His life just never seemed to “take off.” What happened? A clue may have been may available today, as he posted his old résumé on Facebook. You can see it above. Here's the most important section:


Via Facebook

“Superintendentent”? Poor attention to detail—and a likely explanation for why T. Brady never did find a job in the hospitality or financial services sectors. This is how a promising young person once “Elected Team Captain of 1999 University of Michigan Football Team” ends up with a job selling weird boot-shoes in Australia.

Sept. 18 2014 10:27 AM

Child Poverty in U.S. Declines for First Time Since 2000

The Census Bureau reports that child poverty rates have fallen for the first time since 2000, and overall poverty rates have fallen for the first time since 2006. From the Christian Science Monitor:

The poverty rate for children fell nearly 2 full percentage points last year, from 21.8 percent to 19.9 percent, according to the US Census Bureau. The poverty rate for all Americans also declined, to 14.5 percent from 15 percent a year before.

The overall poverty rate is still higher than it was in 2007, and 45 million Americans are under the poverty line. You can find guidelines for determining the rate here; for a married couple with two children under 18, for example, the “poverty threshold” for annual income is $23,624.

Sept. 17 2014 11:24 PM

NFL Under Siege As Two More Players Punished for Domestic Violence Charges

As the NFL grappled with the fallout from allegations of child abuse levied against Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson on Wednesday—just days after the suspension of Ray Rice for domestic violence—one might reasonably wonder: How could things get worse for the league?

Here’s how: Greg Hardy and Jonathan Dwyer.


Carolina Panthers defensive star Greg Hardy, like Peterson, was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list Wednesday, making him, in effect, no longer part of the team—other than he still gets paid—until the legal system runs its course. “Hardy has a Nov. 17 date set to hear his appeal of a July 15 guilty verdict for assaulting and threatening ex-girlfriend Nicole Holder,” ESPN reports. “Hardy's arrest warrant and testimony at his preliminary trial paint a pretty horrible picture,” Deadspin notes, as “Hardy is accused of hitting, throwing, and strangling girlfriend Nicole Holder, slamming her into the floor and into an empty bathtub.”

And then there’s Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer, who was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of aggravated assault. Here’s more from the Arizona Republic:

Police said Dwyer was arrested Wednesday at the team's training facility in Tempe on allegations stemming from two incidents that occurred on two days in late July at a southeast Phoenix home involving a 27-year-old woman and an 18-month-old boy. The woman did not report the incidents until Sept. 11, said [Phoenix police spokesman Trent] Crump.
Dwyer was booked into the Fourth Avenue Jail on suspicion of aggravated assault against the woman for fracturing a bone and aggravated assault against the child for throwing the shoe toward the toddler, Crump said. The Cardinals back also faced allegations for preventing the use of a phone and criminal damage for property that was damaged or destroyed during the July incidents, he said.
The Cardinals immediately deactivated Dwyer from all team activities and released a statement Wednesday evening: "We became aware of these allegations this afternoon when notified by Phoenix police and are cooperating fully.

Sept. 17 2014 10:19 PM

Occupy Wall Street Activists Sue Each Other Over Who Owns the Movement’s Twitter Account

The Occupy Wall Street movement’s guiding—if vaguely defined—principle was: Stick up for the little guy—the 99 percent. Sticking it to the proverbial man also seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, three years after the movement’s cultural and political apex, things have gotten a bit complicated for OWS activists. The movement itself may have been leaderless and ownerless by nature, propelled by discontent and fueled by social media, but that doesn’t help answer the ultra-modern question now facing the group: Who owns the Twitter feed—@OccupyWallStNYC—that helped make it all happen?

To try to figure that out, a group of activists filed suit in the New York State Supreme Court on Wednesday, the New York Times reports, “accusing a former comrade of taking unilateral control of the shared account and locking out the organizers he had once collaborated with.” The story of the OWS Twitter handle is particularly interesting, in part because it evolved in the same helter-skelter fashion as the movement itself. Here’s more from the Times:

[T]he Twitter account was created in summer 2011 by Adbusters, the Canadian magazine that first called for an occupation of Wall Street. The resulting protests began on Sept. 17, 2011. Adbusters turned the account over to Marisa Holmes, the lawsuit said, a filmmaker and activist who had helped to moderate Occupy meetings in August 2011 in Tompkins Square Park. Ms. Holmes, in turn, gave others access to the account, which now has 177,000 followers. But in August, Justin Wedes, one of those with access, changed the passwords and locked out his fellow administrators, according to the lawsuit.
Mr. Wedes did not respond to requests for comment via phone or email. But in a blog post dated four days after the lockout, he wrote that he disbanded the collective of administrators because relationships among the group had become fractious. “Clearly the question of ownership of the account is a contentious one, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers,” he wrote, adding that he planned to put the account “in the hands of responsible stewards.” Ms. Holmes had a different recollection of events, saying that other members of the collective were about to vote Mr. Wedes out of the group.

“Holmes said that there had been numerous attempts to get control of the Twitter feed from Wedes, and that suing him was a last resort,” BuzzFeed reports. “She accused him of using the feed for his own projects, especially his activism surrounding water rights in Detroit. “

Sept. 17 2014 7:43 PM

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Diagnosed With Cancer

Last week, perpetually embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford complained of stomach pain while eating breakfast and went to the hospital to get it checked out. On Wednesday, Ford’s doctor announced the mayor has a malignant liposarcoma, a “rare and difficult cancer that will require aggressive chemotherapy,” the Associated Press reports.

Here’s more on the prognosis and what’s ahead for Ford via the AP:

[Mount Sinai hospital’s Dr. Zane Cohen] said the mayor will be treated with fairly intensive chemotherapeutic agents within the next two days. He said the cancer is spreading and that they have found "a small nodule in the buttock" near the left hip. The doctor said Ford's cancer makes up only about one percent of all cancers but said he was optimistic about Ford's treatment because they have many experts in sarcoma at the hospital. He said there may or may not be surgery involved depending on how the first treatments go.

Ford had been planning another run for mayor, a position he miraculously has been able to hold onto—although with curtailed powers—after an avalanche of drug and alcohol indiscretions, videotapes and scandals. After spending time in the hospital last week, however, the best-known mayor in the world decided to withdraw from the race and was replaced by his brother, councilman Doug Ford.

“Ford, 45, said earlier in the week that he was vomiting and in pain. He suggested his condition was dire, telling the Toronto Sun, ‘I guess the good Lord wants me somewhere else,’” according to the Toronto Star. Ford’s father died of colon cancer in 2006.