Nation & World News

Review Of Leaked Test Results Shows Doping Is Widespread In Track And Field

By Eyder Peralta on August 2nd, 2015 | Last updated: August 2, 2015 at 5:03 pm

According to a review of the results of 12,000 blood tests, the world of track and field has a doping problem that is as big as the one cycling had at the height of Lance Armstrong’s popularity.

That’s according to the Sunday Times and Germany’s public broadcaster ARD/WDR, which obtained a leak of documents with the bloodwork of 5,000 athletes.

The International Association of Athletics Federations, track and field’s world governing body, said in a statement that, indeed, the analysis from these news organizations was based on “an IAAF Data Base of private and confidential medical data which has been obtained without consent.”

According to a BBC reading of the data, it shows that a third of medals — including 55 golds — handed out at the Olympics and World Championships between 2001 and 2012 were won by athletes whose test results were suspicious.

More than 800 athletes, about one in seven of the 5,000 included in the leak, had blood results that experts consider “highly suggestive of doping.”

The Times reports:

“Two of the world’s foremost anti-doping experts, who reviewed the files for this newspaper, said the data provided compelling evidence that the IAAF had failed to take sufficient action against athletes with highly suspicious tests.

“Robin Parisotto, a scientist who regularly reviews athletes’ blood tests, said: ‘Never have I seen such an alarmingly abnormal set of blood values … So many athletes appear to have doped with impunity, and it is damning that the IAAF appears to have idly sat by and let this happen.’

“The second expert, exercise physiologist Michael Ashenden, who gave evidence against Armstrong, was equally appalled: ‘For the IAAF to have harvested millions of dollars from the broadcasting of athletics events around the world … yet only devote a relative pittance of those funds towards anti-doping, when they could see the terrible truth of what lay beneath the surface, is … a shameful betrayal of their primary duty to police their sport and to protect clean athletes.'”

The World Anti-Doping Agency said that it was alarmed by the findings.

“These allegations require swift and close scrutiny to determine whether there have in fact been breaches under the World Anti-Doping Code and, if so, what actions are required to be taken by WADA and/or other bodies,” WADA’s president, Craig Reedie, said in a statement. “As always, WADA is committed to doing what’s necessary to ensure a level playing field for clean athletes of the world.”

One bit of positive news: Test results for stars Mo Farah and Usain Bolt looked normal.

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A Hitchhiking Robot’s Journey West Ends Early … In Philadelphia

By Eyder Peralta on August 2nd, 2015 | Last updated: August 2, 2015 at 4:03 pm

After a bunch of really nice humans helped a hitchhiking robot traverse the length of Canada and most of Germany, the robot was going to try to make it from Massachusetts all the way to California.

HitchBOT is the brainchild of two Canadian social scientists. As Frauke Zeller and David Harris Smith explained it in a piece for the Harvard Business review, it was an experiment meant to spark a discussion “about trust, notions of safety, and about our attitude towards technology.”

For his third trip, hitchBOT, a cute robot with kitsch appeal made of a bucket, a display and noodle appendages, was dropped off at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, on July 17.

The first few days, things went smoothly: With the help of friendly humans, who gave hitchBOT a ride and also charged him, he hit up Fenway Park and Providence and New Haven and even crossed off the first item on his bucket list: “See the lights in Times Square.”

Eventually, he made it to Philadelphia, where Jesse Wellens, of YouTube fame, showed him around town in the early morning hours of Saturday. At 3:57 a.m. ET. on Saturday, Wellens tweeted that he was dropping hitchBOT off at Elfreths Ally, the oldest residential street in the U.S.

Unfortunately, that’s where hitchBOT’s journey ended.

On his blog, the robot wrote that his body was damaged but “my love for humans will never fade.”

Lauren O’Neil, a journalist for the CBC, capped the news with a terrible picture:

HitchBOT’s family — aka the researchers — issued this statement:

“hitchBOT’s trip came to an end last night in Philadelphia after having spent a little over two weeks hitchhiking and visiting sites in Boston, Salem, Gloucester, Marblehead, and New York City. Unfortunately, hitchBOT was vandalized overnight in Philadelphia; sometimes bad things happen to good robots. We know that many of hitchBOT’s fans will be disappointed, but we want them to be assured that this great experiment is not over. For now we will focus on the question “what can be learned from this?” and explore future adventures for robots and humans.”

In an interview with the CBC back in March, Smith said he hoped hitchBOT’s journey would lead to some introspection on the way society works.

Maybe, he said, it could spark discussion on some big questions like: “What kind of people are we? Are we kind? Do we live in a safe world, you know for the most part?”

Which leaves us with one question: What does this say about the U.S.?

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President Obama To Unveil Tough Proposal Targeting Greenhouse Gases

By Eyder Peralta on August 2nd, 2015 | Last updated: August 2, 2015 at 11:03 am

Calling it the “biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change,” President Obama said his administration would unveil the final version of a proposal aimed at curbing the amount of carbon pollution put out by power plants.

NPR’s Scott Horsley reports that the new regulations are actually tougher than the ones unveiled by the Environmental Protection Agency in a draft proposal in June of 2014.

Two big numbers: The regulations require that power plants cut carbon emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. That number was 30 percent in the draft proposal. The rules also demand that 28 percent of a power plant’s generating capacity come from renewable sources such as wind and solar. That number was 22 percent in the proposed rule.

As Scott puts it, these new regulations, which the White House calls America’s Clean Power Plan, is the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s plan to combat climate change.

“The administration has been pushing other big countries — China, India, Brazil — to take similarly aggressive action in advance of an international summit in Paris later this year,” Scott reports.

Of course, this new regulation is already controversial and likely faces a drawn-out legal battle.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, wrote an op-ed back in March calling on states to “hold back on the costly process of complying.”

“States report that the regulation’s mandates are not technologically achievable, cannot be implemented under rushed timelines and threaten both state economies and energy reliability for families,” McConnell wrote.

In a video released overnight by the White House, President Obama says climate change is an urgent matter. Power plants, he said, are the single biggest source of carbon pollution.

“Climate change is not a problem for another generation,” he says. “Not anymore.”

He concludes: “Remind everyone who represents you that protecting the world we leave to our children is a prerequisite for your vote. Join us. We can do this. It’s time for America and the world to act on climate change.”

The final rules do move back the date by which states must start complying with the regulations from 2020 to 2022.

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Jericho Isn’t Cecil’s Brother And Is Probably Still Alive, Lion Researcher Says

By Bill Chappell on August 1st, 2015 | Last updated: August 1, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Two non-profit conservation groups in Zimbabwe are telling distinctly different stories about a lion that’s seen as an ally of Cecil, the popular 13-year-old animal whose death at the hands of an American hunter in July sparked international outrage.

“We are absolutely heart broken,” the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said Saturday, announcing via Facebook page that Jericho, which it called Cecil’s brother, was shot and killed at 4 p.m. (local time) Saturday afternoon.

The news was soon picked up by large media outlets. But that report was quickly countered by another conservation group that says the reports of Jericho’s death are false. The non-profit Bhejane Trust wrote on its own Facebook page:

“According to Brent Staplekamp at Hwange Lion Research, Jericho was alive and well at 8.30 tonight and moving around Antoinette Estate ( where Cecil was shot) with a female. I can assure you no one is hunting lion on Antoinette after the Cecil incident!”

Perhaps, the trust said, the task force’s leaders had confused Jericho with the investigation into another lion that had been shot nearby on July 2.

NPR contacted Dr. Andrew J. Loveridge, who helps run the research project in Hwange that’s part of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit in Oxford’s Department of Zoology. They’re the ones who put tracking collars on both Jericho and Cecil, who was killed by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer.

“We believe this report is incorrect and will confirm with a sighting of the Jericho tomorrow (it is nightime here),” Loveridge says.

As for the relationship between the two lions, Loveridge says, “Cecil and Jericho are not brothers, but male lions frequently form coalitions with unrelated males in order to successfully hold territories.”

Jericho had been mentioned in an update by the WCRU unit earlier Saturday, in which Dr. David Macdonald wrote that Jericho, who had previously been mentioned as a potential threat to Cecil’s cubs, was in fact helping to protect them.

“Cecil’s coalition involved a partnership with another beautiful male, nicknamed Jericho,” Macdonald wrote. “Jericho is as likely as Cecil to be the father of some of the cubs, so he has a stake in their survival. Right now, Jericho is in good health and he (and the lionesses) will defend the cubs.”

Agencies in both the U.S. and Zimbabwean governments are looking into Cecil’s killing, which reportedly took place after he was lured away from western Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.

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Wildfires In California Spur Emergency Declaration; 1 Firefighter Dead

By Bill Chappell on August 1st, 2015 | Last updated: August 1, 2015 at 3:03 pm

With 20 major wildfires burning in California, the state’s governor, Jerry Brown, has declared a state of emergency. Nine of those fires cover areas of at least 1,000 acres; a firefighter from Rapid City, S.D., was killed while battling one of them, in Northern California.

From Los Angeles, Danielle Karson reports:

“The U.S. Forest Service is investigating how David Ruhl died. He was killed while fighting a wildfire in Modoc National Forest.

“A search began Thursday night, when Ruhl couldn’t be contacted. His body was found Friday morning. Ruhl was an engine captain from South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest.”

According to a statement by Gov. Brown, Ruhl “is survived by his wife, Erin, and their two children. He worked for the U.S. Forest Service for 14 years and previously served in the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Ruhl had gone to in California on a temporary assignment that began in June. The governor has ordered that the flags atop the Capitol be flown at half-staff in Ruhl’s honor.

As of Saturday, there were nearly 9,000 firefighters working to combat large fires in the state. In declaring a state of emergency, Brown is attempting to speed aid and firefighting resources to the affected areas.

“California’s severe drought and extreme weather have turned much of the state into a tinderbox,” Brown said. “Our courageous firefighters are on the front lines and we’ll do everything we can to help them.”

One of the blazes, the so-called Rocky Fire, “has consumed about 15,000 acres of oak, brush and grassland — about 24 square miles, or half the area of San Francisco,” member station KQED reports.

That fire is currently only 5 percent contained, according to the Fire Tracker online tool from member station KPCC. It has also prompted evacuation advisories for hundreds of residents of Lake County.

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After Devastating Injury, Austrian Pole Vaulter Is Breathing On Her Own

By Bill Chappell on August 1st, 2015 | Last updated: August 1, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Kira Grunberg, Austria’s top women’s pole vaulter who suffered a horrible injury during training Thursday, is breathing on her own and could soon leave intensive care. The 21-year-old underwent emergency surgery after fracturing at least one of her cervical vertebrae.

Doctors say the fall has left Grunberg a paraplegic — a development that shocked the sporting world in Europe and brought offers of emotional and financial support for the young athlete who holds Austria’s record for the women’s pole vault.

Grunberg’s parents were present at Thursday’s training session, in which she fell and hit her head after attempting what her manager said was a normal practice jump. She was rushed to a hospital in Innsbruck, where surgeons worked to preserve her vital functions.

Doctors say that Grunberg could be transferred to the general ward, reports Austrian media outlet ORF.

The site adds that the Austrian Association of Athletics Federations has announced that it is providing a 10,000 euro emergency fund for Grunberg, and that the Tyrolean Athletics Federation has set up a donation account in he name.

On the athlete’s Facebook page, her family and management are thanking her friends and supporters for their solidarity, saying that the accident not only ended her athletic career, but also began a new life for Grunberg.

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Sailing Federation Will Test Waters For Viruses In Brazil’s Olympics Venues

By Bill Chappell on August 1st, 2015 | Last updated: August 1, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Saying that recent stories about raw sewage in Brazilian waterways that will serve as Olympics venues in 2016 helped “wake us up again and put this back on the agenda,” the head of sailing’s world governing body says his group will test for viruses and bacteria in the water.

The International Sailing Federation’s chief executive, Peter Sowrey, tells the AP that the move is prompted by concerns over athletes’ health and safety.

The news comes days after the AP published a report on pollution in Rio’s Guanabara Bay, the scene for sailing competitions in next summer’s Olympic Games, and Rodrigo de Freitas lake, which will host rowing and canoeing events.

“We found that viruses linked to human sewage are present in the waters around Rio de Janeiro in astronomically high numbers,” the AP’s Brazil bureau chief Brad Brooks told NPR’s All Things Considered this week. He said that in one area, the levels were “1.7 million times the figures that you might find on a beach in Southern California.”

The Summer Olympics in Rio won’t start until next August, but athletes will be sailing there later this month, as part of an Olympic test event. The ISAF’s move to examine the water independently is an escalation of a previous plan, in which local authorities had pledged to build “ecobarriers” to keep garbage from floating into competition areas.

The ecobarrier plan was a response to a test event held in 2014, after which sailors told the ISAF that they were concerned that objects floating in the bay would interfere with races.

Earlier this year, two Brazilian sailors who were training in Rio’s Guanabara Bay saw their boat slam into a large plastic box in the water, capsizing their boat.

“The impact broke the daggerboard, damaged the hull, and as we turned we fell on top of the sails and scraped the two sails. The damage was very significant and it is just unacceptable,” one of the sailors said, according to the website Sailing Scuttlebutt.

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MH370 Update: Recovered Jet Section Arrives At French Lab For Testing

By Bill Chappell on August 1st, 2015 | Last updated: August 1, 2015 at 2:04 pm

The piece of a jet that’s believed to be from a Boeing 777 — the same model of a Malaysia Airlines plane that went missing last year — is now in France, where it will be examined in a government laboratory near Toulose.

After the large piece of debris was discovered on the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean this week, Malaysia Airlines said it “is almost certainly part of a Boeing 777.”

The airline also says that MH370 “is believed to be the only 777 to have crashed south of the equator since the jet came into service 20 years ago.”

Speaking about the debris, ocean circulation expert Arnold L. Gordon of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory told NPR this week, “I think it is very likely that it’s from Flight 370.”

The section was flown to Paris and received a police escort to the lab, reports France 24, which adds that investigators will also examine parts of a brown suitcase that was found near the wing section.

From Paris, Jake Cigainero reports for our Newscast unit:

“Until now, Australian authorities had led the international investigation into Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared en route from Kuala Lampur to Beijing.

“French investigators now hold a key piece of evidence, believed to be a wing part, known as a flaperon, that could be from the missing Boeing 777.

“Investigators hope to determine the cause of the crash and possibly find clues that lead to more wreckage. The flight disappeared over the Indian Ocean nearly 4,000 miles away from where the flaperon was found, on an island off the coast of East Africa.

“French authorities and Malaysian experts will meet Monday in Paris.”

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Israeli Officials Promise To Find Arsonists Who Killed Palestinian Child

By Daniel Estrin on August 1st, 2015 | Last updated: August 1, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Israeli leaders vowed to find the suspected Israeli extremists behind an arson attack that killed a Palestinian toddler early Friday.

We reported Friday that the attack killed the 18-month-old boy and wounded four of his family members — some critically.

The injured were flown to an Israeli hospital where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited one of the toddler’s brothers, who he said suffered burns over 60 percent of his body.

“We’re shocked, we’re outraged,” Netanyahu said in a video posted by his office. “There’s zero tolerance for terrorism wherever it comes from, whatever side of the fence it comes from we have to fight it and fight it together.”

The attack occurred before dawn in the West Bank village of Duma. Two houses were burned and perpetrators spray-painted the walls with Hebrew words, including “revenge.”

Suspicion turned quickly toward Jewish settlers, usually youth, who have committed so-called “price tag” attacks. These are attacks against Palestinians to make them pay when the Israeli government takes actions seen as harming settlers’ interests — like when Israel this week carried out a court order and demolished buildings in a Jewish settlement. Also, as one Israeli official pointed out, an Israeli was killed 30 days ago near the location of Friday’s arson.

The attack could push the issue to a higher level of Israeli concern. “I think that what we are having here is a defining moment for the Israeli public,” said Israeli political science professor Yaron Ezrahi.

Ezrahi noted that Israeli leaders quickly labeled the perpetrators “terrorists,” a term they usually apply to Palestinian attackers. He said they realize that this kind of extreme violence “can consume this society from inside.”

Palestinians have long called for Israel to do more to prevent violence by Jewish settlers, who live in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. They blamed Israel for the most recent attack. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called it a “war crime.” And long-time Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the attack was “a direct consequence of decades of impunity given by the israeli government to settler terrorism.”

Meanwhile, Israeli officials are wary of another round of violence. Security has been increased in the West Bank.

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Watch: 164 Skydivers Fall Into Formation, Breaking World Record

By Lucy Perkins on July 31st, 2015 | Last updated: August 1, 2015 at 3:03 pm

A new skydiving record was set Friday in Ottawa, Ill., at speeds up to 240 mph.

One hundred and sixty-four people jumped from airplanes, falling into a flower formation and holding hands for a few moments before continuing to drop to earth. The previous skydiving record was set by 138 people in 2012, according to The Associated Press. It took the new record-holding team 13 attempts to beat that mark.

This feat wasn’t without risks — jump from such a high altitude (nearly 20,000 feet), and parachutes or people can collide. The AP continues:

“Despite the risks, flyers came from as far away as France, Britain, Dubai and Australia — one even spent three days traveling to Chicago from Reunion, off the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean — to participate.

” ‘When (record) jumps work well, it’s like there’s a certain peace to it all, a certain harmony to it all,’ said Norman Kent, a longtime skydiving videographer who filmed the jump. ‘And it’s contagious, it’s like it’s in the air and you can feel it even from a distance as a cameraman.’ ”

But, if it’s done correctly, it can be beautiful:

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