Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley

Nov. 27 2014 1:17 PM

Oil Plunges to Four-Year Low After OPEC Refuses to Cut Output

Oil prices kept plunging Thursday after OPEC countries decided to keep production unchanged despite the more than 30 percent drop in crude prices since June. OPEC decided to hold on to its collective ceiling of 30 million barrels a day at a meeting of the oil-producing countries in Vienna that lasted more than five hours, reports Reuters. "Oil prices are now completely in the hands of the market," one analyst explained. The decision was not a surprise but seemed to be another demonstration that the “once-powerful cartel is losing the power to push up markets to its own advantage,” notes the Associated Press.

US crude price plunged to $68.2 a barrel and Brent crude dropped to $71.58 after the decision. Oil has been collapsing amid increased output from the United States and signs of weakening demand across the world. And the once all-powerful oil cartel seems unable to stop the slide amid hints that the oil-producing countries are now engaged in a price war. “Unable to come up with a strategy for handling these new developments, the cartel has decided not to intervene, evidently hoping that low prices will eventually curb production in the United States,” notes the New York Times

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Nov. 27 2014 12:55 PM

NYPD Arrests Ferguson Protesters Trying to Disrupt the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Police in New York arrested a number of protesters on Thursday who were apparently part of a movement to disrupt the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in order to demonstrate against the failure to indict Darren Wilson for shooting and killing Michael Brown. At least seven people were detained, according to the New York Post, which had warned in its front page today about a “plot against Snoopy.” The seven people who were arrested were apparently part of a group of people who overturned a trash can and tried to “run toward the floats,” according to WPIX-TV. “But an hour later, there was no sign of turmoil along the parade route,” notes the New York Daily News.

Anywhere from 50 to 100 protesters gathered early Thursday morning to protest and police accompanied them as they walked from 42nd street to 37th street. That is when a group apparently tried to break from the designated protest route to disrupt the ongoing parade. The group was part of a movement that used the hashtag #StoptheParade to organize on Twitter. In addition to Michael Brown, protesters, some of whom carried signs reading “black lives matter,” also remembered Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died after he was put in a chokehold by a police officer.  

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As Mashable notes, you would never guess there had been any trouble with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from the NBC live broadcast of the event.

Nov. 27 2014 11:59 AM

Darren Wilson’s Actions After Shooting Michael Brown: “Totally Unorthodox and Unusual”

Darren Wilson failed to follow what is considered to be standard protocol after a shooting. And he was hardly the only one. The transcripts from grand jury testimony make evident that police carried out numerous actions that experts say are highly unusual. First of all, Wilson drove himself back to the police station, put his own gun into evidence and quickly washed blood off his hands without anyone photographing them first, reports the Washington Post. Apparently “there was no photographer available” and Wilson seemed to be more concerned with getting someone else’s blood off his body than preserving evidence. “His concern was not of evidence, but as a biohazard or what possible blood hazards it might attract,” said an FBI agent.

A former Florida police chief tells the Post that Wilson’s actions, particularly handling his own weapon and washing his hands, were “totally unorthodox and unusual” adding that “this would be considered very out of line—very, very bad from an investigative perspective.”

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Others also moved forward in a way that several experts described as unusual. The officers who interviewed Wilson after the shooting did not record the conversation, for example. And the medical examiner did not take photographs—because his camera’s battery was dead—nor measurements at the scene of the crime—because what had happened was “self-explanatory.”

Although Wilson insisted earlier this week there was nothing he could have done differently, the New York Times talks to several experts who say the officer had several opportunities to take a step back and de-escalate the confrontation. But still, several also agree that when Brown allegedly grabbed Wilson’s gun it may have been difficult for the officer to stand down. “If someone is trying to disarm a police officer or grab their weapon, that’s a felony,” a former Baltimore police officer said. “If someone grabs your weapon, as a cop you’re not thinking they are going to scare you with it. In my mind, every time someone tried to grab my gun in the street, they were going to try to kill me. That encounter changes everything.”

Nov. 27 2014 10:16 AM

A List of Hillary Clinton’s Demands to Accept $300,000 for a University Speech

The Washington Post used a Freedom of Information Act request to get an inside look at just what it takes to get Hillary Clinton to come speak at your university. First of all, there’s the matter of cash: a cool $300,000, which is apparently the “special university rate.” That is the answer UCLA received when it asked whether the public university could get some sort of discount. Undeterred by the price tag, the university moved forward with booking the former secretary of state. Yet the cash was hardly all the university had to put forward as booking the presidential hopeful involved a string of requests that kept organizers busy until she delivered he Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership speech on March 5, 2014.

The university had decided to award the former secretary of state the UCLA medal. But in a clear example of how carefully Clinton’s people stage-manage her appearances, they asked that the medal be presented in a box rather than draped around her neck. Other demands included:

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·        On the stage: lemon wedges, room temperature water, a carafe of warm/hot water, coffee cup and saucer

·        A computer, mouse, printer and scanner

·        Spread of hummus

·        Chairs with two long, rectangular pillows and two cushions to be kept backstage in case the former secretary of state “needed additional back support”

·        A teleprompter and “2-3 downstage scrolling monitors”

·        A special podium (her team rejected the podium that had been set up for her use)

·        Coffee

·        Tea

·        Room temperature sparkling and still water

·        Diet ginger ale

·        Crudité

·        Sliced fruit

·        Approval for any promotional materials

·        Recording is permitted “for archival purposes” and only a two-minute highlight video can be uploaded to YouTube

·        “Prestaged” group photos so that Clinton doesn’t have to wait “for these folks to get their act together.” The former secretary of state “doesn’t like to stand around waiting for people.”

A Clinton spokesman refused to comment on the demands.  

Nov. 27 2014 9:15 AM

Protests in Ferguson Dwindle as More Than 150 Detained in California

Ferguson welcomed Thanksgiving with a strange sense of calm as the streets were mostly empty Wednesday night and Thursday morning following two days of unrest. Cold weather and snow appeared to have pushed protesters to stay at home as only two arrests were made in the area overnight, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. After the huge protests of earlier in the week, only around 100 people, many of whom were media, gathered in Ferguson at around 8 p.m. Wednesday night. By midnight, only around 12 demonstrators and eight members of the media remained.

In California, however, it was a different story. Los Angeles police arrested at least 130 people Wednesday night after demonstrators ignored police orders to disperse, reports the Los Angeles Times. The police said a group of around 300 demonstrators had become unruly and were blocking traffic. Meanwhile, around 35 people were detained in Oakland as police took on more aggressive action against protesters who allegedly became disruptive and turned toward vandalism, causing damage to local businesses and private property for the third straight night, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. It wasn’t all violent in California though as around 300 protesters marched peacefully in San Diego, according to Reuters. “Ferguson, we’ve got your back,” they chanted.

Nov. 26 2014 8:11 PM

Darren Wilson’s Lawyers Say He Kept Quiet Before Grand Jury Decision to Keep Story Consistent

Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson’s legal team sat down with the Washington Post for an interview on Wednesday. The lawyers described the deliberate legal strategy implemented to keep Wilson out of the public eye, to keep his story consistent. From the Post:

They determined quickly after the shooting that Wilson shouldn’t speak publicly — in contrast to George Zimmerman, a volunteer watchman who in 2012 shot black teenager Trayvon Martin — because it could only hurt his case… He stayed silent publicly, and when he spoke to investigators and jurors, his version of events remained consistent… As the grand jury proceedings moved along over the past few months, Wilson’s lawyers — a group familiar with representing police cases — said they felt confident that they had the upper hand. That’s largely because witnesses who did speak publicly told conflicting stories about the 90-second encounter between Wilson and Michael Brown. If the grand jury had determined that Wilson should face a criminal trial, they would have had plenty of ammunition when cross-examining witnesses, they said.
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The lawyers also recount the lengths Wilson went to in order to stay out of sight for more than three months following his Aug. 9th shooting of Michael Brown.

Darren Wilson was mowing his lawn on Aug. 19 — 10 days after he’d shot an unarmed teenager — when he got a call telling him that his address was popping up in online reports. He quickly packed up his belongings and moved in with a relative, somebody who didn’t have the same last name. By nightfall, media members were outside the house. Wilson then spent about a week with one of his lawyers, Greg Kloeppel, until finally he moved into what his legal team now calls the “quote-unquote permanent location,” which they declined to disclose. Wilson hasn’t been back to his ranch-style home since he stopped cutting the grass midway through…
[The lawyers] also described a period of life on the run in which Wilson bounced from house to house but rarely went out in public… One Wilson lawyer, Neil Bruntrager, said that Wilson used “certain [disguise] tricks” he’d learned as a police officer to go out incognito, without specifying what they were. He preferred going to movies because of the darkness.

Nov. 26 2014 7:40 PM

Looted Ferguson Bakery Gets $170,000 in Crowdfunded Donations to Rebuild

Natalie DuBose opened a bakery in Ferguson, Missouri in June. The mother of two sank her life savings into the shop, called Natalie's Cakes and More, but sales plummeted in August after protesters took to the streets in Ferguson. She went weeks without a customer coming through her door. DuBose managed to rebound, but on Monday, after the grand jury declined to charge Darren Wilson with a crime, her small business was dealt another blow. Looters smashed her storefront windows, “sending shards of glass into the cake boxes, behind the counter and into bowls and utensils drying on a rack,” according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “The violent act jeopardized all her Thanksgiving sales – with more than 40 orders waiting to be filled.”

DuBose began calling her customers to tell them the news, and then started baking to remake the lost orders. The Ferguson community pitched in to help. A friend, suggested DuBose set up a crowdfunding site to take donations the help rebuild. The response was overwhelming. In just days, DuBose received over 5,000 donations amounting to over $170,000.

Here’s DuBose message on her GoFundMe page:
My shop, which had it's grand opening this summer was vandalized in the riots. My main windows were smashed and bakery damaged. I'm beside myself, but with the holidays, can't stop working. I'm very busy cleaning and trying to repair my business. I'm also trying to catchup on baking cakes for Thanksgiving! I promise to update this later. I'm truly mixing batter right now. I began baking and selling cakes at local flea markets, slowly saving money to start my small business. I LOVE TO BAKE !!! It was my dream and I'm working hard to accomplish that dream… It was suggested that I start this account by a new friend and here it is. I do need help to rebuild and create a website, so any donations would be a huge assistance. I'm not sure where to find the money to repair my little bakery. But, even if you just stopped by to say hello. Thank You !!!! I've never felt such love.

Nov. 26 2014 3:56 PM

Cleveland Cop Took Seconds To Decide To Kill 12-Year-Old Tamir Rice

A rookie Cleveland cop shot and killed Tamir Rice literally seconds after arriving at a park where the 12-year-old was carrying a BB gun. In disturbing new security video, released on Wednesday by police, officer Timothy Loehmann is seen exiting his police vehicle and almost immediately deciding to shoot the child.*

From Cleveland.com:

A rookie officer pulled the trigger, said Jeffrey Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association.
Police were sent to the Cudell Recreation Center at Detroit Avenue and West Boulevard about 3:30 p.m. when someone called 9-1-1 to report a "guy with a gun pointing it at people."
The caller told dispatchers twice that the gun was "probably fake," but that detail was not relayed to the responding officers, Follmer said.
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The video was made public one day after the parents of Rice had sent out a letter asking the city’s Mayor Frank Jackson and the Cleveland Police Department to release the footage, NBC affiliate WKYC reported.

From the letter:

While we request the release of the complete video, we also ask for the media to give our family privacy as we continue to grieve and learn about what happened. We feel the actions of the patrol officer who took our son's life must be made public.
It is our prayer and request for citizens in the City of Cleveland and throughout Northeast Ohio to remain calm at this time. We ask for the public to demonstrate peacefully.
Though the hurt our family feels is too painful for words to describe, we still have faith in the justice system. We thank the community for their prayers, encouragement and support. It has helped us during this difficult time.

Officials have said that the boy was shot when he pulled the pellet gun from his pants after he was told by cops to raise his hands, although he didn’t point the gun at the officers. The video appears to show that he was shot before he would have had time to point the gun, or raise his hands, anywhere. 

*Correction, Nov. 27, 2014: This post originally misstated that the officer who shot Tamir Rice had not yet been named. The police released the name on Wednesday.

Nov. 26 2014 11:54 AM

Jian Ghomeshi Arrested

Canadian radio host Jian Ghomeshi surrendered to police Wednesday morning and has been charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of "choking." From the Toronto Star:

Toronto police began their investigation on Oct. 31. At the time, three women, including Trailer Park Boys actress Lucy DeCoutere, had come forward with allegations.
Nine women and one man have told the Star and other media that they were choked, hit or sexually harassed by Ghomeshi.
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The CBC, Ghomeshi's former employer, said on Tuesday that he has withdrawn a $55 milion suit against the network. Ghomeshi was fired on Oct. 26 as the Star was preparing to publish a report about his alleged history of violent and harassing behavior.

Nov. 26 2014 11:28 AM

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Had Emergency Heart Surgery

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had emergency heart surgery and is recuperating, the court says. From Bloomberg:

The 81-year-old Ginsburg, a two-time cancer survivor, is expected to be released in the next 48 hours, the court said in a one-paragraph statement. She was hospitalized after experiencing discomfort last night during exercise at the court, and doctors discovered a blockage in her right coronary artery.
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Staff at MedStar Washington Hospital Center placed a stent in that artery.

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