Nation & World News

Putin: ‘No Regrets’ Over Crimea Annexation

By Scott Neuman on April 26th, 2015 | Last updated: April 26, 2015 at 4:04 pm

In a new documentary in Russia, President Vladimir Putin says that the annexation of Crimea just over a year ago was justified and righted a historical wrong.

In the film titled The President, Putin denies that the importance of the Black Sea peninsula is not strategic. “It’s because this has elements of historical justice. I believe we did the right thing and I don’t regret anything,” he says, according to RIA news agency.

Reuters reports:

“Putin also said sanctions imposed by the West after the annexation were aimed at halting Russia’s progress as a global power.

“The film, marking Putin’s 15 years in power, had already been aired in Russia’s Far East. It was scheduled to be shown in western Russia … on Sunday.”

In eastern Ukraine, where separatists backed by Moscow have sought to carve out an independent Russian-speaking territories, sporadic fighting has continued despite a cease-fire deal.

Today, one Ukrainian serviceman was reportedly killed and seven others wounded in separatist attacks in the past 24 hours, according to Ukraine’s military.

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Baltimore Police: 34 Arrested In Freddie Gray Protest

By Scott Neuman on April 26th, 2015 | Last updated: April 26, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Police in Baltimore say that 34 people were arrested and six police officers received “minor injuries” in protests Saturday afternoon and evening over the death in custody of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man.

In a statement today, police said a “small contingent of yesterday’s protesters caused violent disruptions downtown and in West Baltimore last night and early this morning.” It said that otherwise the demonstrations had been “mostly peaceful.”

Police said a number of shop fronts were vandalized and several police vehicles damaged.

Later today, mourners are expected to gather at a North Baltimore funeral home in a wake to remember Gray, who died April 19 — a week after his arrest. He led officers on a foot chase and reportedly sustained a fatal spinal cord injury at the time of his arrest or while he was being transported without a seat belt in a police van.

Anthony Batts, the city’s police commissioner, acknowledged on Friday that Gray did not receive timely medical attention for his spinal injury.

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2 Dead, 5 Missing After Sudden Squall Hits Alabama Sailing Regatta

By Scott Neuman on April 26th, 2015 | Last updated: April 26, 2015 at 3:07 pm

Updated at 1:20 p.m. ET

At least two people are dead and five others missing after a powerful storm swept through a race regatta in Alabama’s Mobile Bay, capsizing sailboats.

Ideal race conditions suddenly turned Saturday afternoon, when winds quickly went from 15 knots to 50 knots, generating waves as high as 10 feet along the 18-mile course.

One body was plucked from the water Saturday night and another today as a Coast Guard search continued for five sailors still unaccounted for, The Associated Press quoted Petty Officer Carlos Vega as saying.

Earlier reports had said that four people were missing.

“Apparently there were a number of vessels that became distressed, either capsized or what have you. They were scattered anywhere from Dauphin Island Bridge all the way out into Mobile Bay and across to Fort Morgan. It was a wide area,” Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier told AL.com.

Reuters says that only some of the boats that capsized were part of the Dauphin Island regatta in Mobile Bay, which Collier said involved more than 100 sailboats and as many as 200 sailors.

“It’s been a very tragic day,” Michael Smith, with the Buccaneer yacht club, told WSFA-TV. “We’ve had a lot of breakage, missing people, fatalities.”

Survivors Randy Rutledge and Rhonda Morgan Gilreath, speaking to AL.com, recounted how they were just 15 minutes from the finish line at Dauphin Island Bridge when their 23-foot sailboat was swamped by the steep waves.

“It was just unbelievable how high the waves were,” Gilreath said. “They were just bashing you from every side.”

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Eliud Kipchoge Edges Out Fellow Kenyans To Win London Marathon

By Scott Neuman on April 26th, 2015 | Last updated: April 26, 2015 at 3:07 pm

In his first London Marathon win, Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge edged past his countryman and defending champ Wilson Kipsang to win the distance race by five seconds, with a final time of 2:04:47. Fellow Kenyans, including the world-record holder, rounded out the third and fourth spots.

ESPN writes:

“In a tight finale, Kipchoge broke clear of Kipsang in the final 800 meters before waving and pointing at the crowd in front of Buckingham Palace as he finished five seconds in front of his compatriot.

“Kipsang still holds the course record of 2:04:29, which he set last year.”

“It was a tough race. My training paid off and it went to plan,” Kipchoge told reporters. “The crowd were wonderful and lifted me for my sprint finish.”

Reuters reports:

“The narrow, twisting turns of London’s course, compounded by blustery conditions, were not conducive to world record pace and an assault on [Dennis] Kimetto’s 2:02.57 set in September’s Berlin marathon was unlikely. …

“Kipchoge and Kipsang made their break along the banks of the River Thames and as the pair geared up for a sprint finish it was Kipchoge who opened up a narrow gap in the final kilometer and Kipsang was unable to reel him in.”

And ESPN notes:

“[While] Kenya dominated the men’s race, a four-year winning streak for the East African nation ended in the women’s event. Tigist Tufa became only the second Ethiopian woman to win in London, emulating Derartu Tulu’s triumph in 2001.

“The 28-year-old Tufa won her first major marathon in 2 hours, 23 minutes, 22 seconds, with two-time winner Mary Keitany of Kenya 18 seconds adrift. Tufa’s compatriot, Tirfi Tsegaye, was third.”

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High-Altitude Rescue Underway On Everest

By Scott Neuman on April 26th, 2015 | Last updated: April 26, 2015 at 3:07 pm

Following a powerful quake that has killed more than 2,000 people in Nepal, a high-altitude effort is underway on the slopes of the world’s highest peak to rescue trapped climbers and recover the bodies of those killed when the temblor triggered a massive avalanche that swept base camp.

At least 17 people were killed and more than 60 injured when a wall of snow and ice shook loose from the mountain and smashed through the tent city that is Everest Base Camp — a staging area on the south (Nepalese) side of the mountain for support teams and climbers trying to reach the top of the 29,029-foot mountain.

Other climbers are reportedly trapped higher up on the mountain, at or near Camps 1 and 2.

In a post from Saturday, we collected tweets from climbers and officials about the situation on the mountain in the hours immediately after the earthquake and avalanche.

Eric Simonson of Washington-based International Mountain Guides reports that his spoken to his team via sat phone and that “All the IMG members and [Sherpas] are safe. The many climbers up at Camps 1 and 2 from several different teams are all doing well.”

“Unfortunately, the news from [Everest Base Camp] is quite bleak,” Simonson adds, reporting that the earthquake caused a huge block of ice to snap off high up the mountain.

“The tons and tons of falling ice going this vertical distance created a huge aerosol avalanche and accompanying air blast that hit the upper part of Everest BC and blew many tents across the Khumbu Glacier towards the lower Icefall,” he writes.

Pemba Sherpa, 43, a Mount Everest guide, is quoted by The Associated Press saying he was swept almost 1,000 feet by the tumbling wall of ice and snow and “lost consciousness” briefly.

“There are still many people who are still missing on the mountain. There were several tents buried by the snow, several blown away,” he was quoted by the AP as saying.

Meanwhile, reports from the north (Tibetan) side of the mountain, where far fewer climbers make attempts, appear to be much better than those from the Nepali side.

Summit attempts are traditionally made during short breaks in the weather in early May, so many climbers and their Nepali Sherpa porters were on the mountain when the earthquake occurred just before noon local time on Saturday.

The first group of survivors was flown to Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, but none of their injuries appear to be life threatening, according to the AP.

The news agency says: “Twenty-two of the most seriously injured had already been taken by helicopter for treatment in the village of Pheriche, the location of the nearest medical facility. But bad weather and communications were hampering more helicopter flights, said Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.”

Among the climbers reportedly killed on the mountain is Dan Fredinburg, a Google executive who handled product management for the tech giant’s privacy team. StartupGrind.com, a website that follows the tech industry, says that Fredinburg co-founded the Google Adventure Team “to translate the Google Street View concept into extreme, exotic locations like the summit of Mount Everest or the Great Barrier Reef off Australia.”

Fredinburg’s sister posted the news of her brother’s death on his Twitter account and Jagged Globe, the Everest team he belongs to, also posted a statement.

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Powerful Aftershock Jars Kathmandu; Nepal Quake Toll Rises

By L. Carol Ritchie on April 26th, 2015 | Last updated: April 26, 2015 at 11:04 pm

Updated at 10:40 p.m. ET

A magnitude-6.7 aftershock rumbled Kathmandu and sent people running for open ground Sunday morning, a day after a massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake ravaged Nepal and the region. The death toll from the disaster topped 3,000, a police official told Reuters.

NPR’s Julie McCarthy, reporting from the capital, described the scene on Weekend Edition Sunday:

“Many of the people who had been too terrified to sleep in their own homes last night congregated in a series of mini tent cities around Kathmandu,” Julie says.

“When it struck, I didn’t feel it right away, but I heard this roar of people around me rise in sheer panic shouting ‘It’s coming!’ and they began running for their lives all over again,” she said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the aftershock, the largest of numerous others rattling frightened residents, registered at a shallow depth of 6 miles.

Minutes later, Nepal felt another aftershock measuring 5.0 in magnitude, says the Indian Express.

At least three U.S. citizens are among the dead, the State Department said in a statement on Sunday. The total number of confirmed dead in Nepal was 2,430, with another 61 confirmed dead in India, and a handful of others in the Tibet region of China and Bangladesh.

Saturday’s quake was close to Mt. Everest, sending down new avalanches of snow and rock.

“An earthquake that long set off avalanches all the way around us,” Jon Reiter, an American mountaineer at the Napelese base camp, told CNN. “And they came down — they were large, they were massive avalanches.”

Rescue helicopters lifted the wounded from the slopes. At least 17 people died at the base camp and 61 were injured, AP says.

Rescues crews were dispatched from around the world to the region, but severed communications and landslides hindered the effort. India sent four planes carrying 450 disaster relief personnel, which reached the country Sunday. China dispatched a 62-member search team, reports the Wall Street Journal.

A Pentagon statement said today that a U.S. military C-17 Globemaster departed Dover Air Force Base bound for Nepal.

The giant transport was carrying 70 personnel including a USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team, the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue team and several journalists, as well as 45 square tons of cargo. It is expected to arrive in Kathmandu on Monday, the statement said.

The BBC reports:

“As military helicopters hovered over Kathmandu and ferried relief supplies to victims of the earthquake in western Nepal, search and rescue efforts were going on in at least five locations in Kathmandu.

“Near the prime minister’s official residence, two bulldozers scoured the rubble of a flattened four-storey house.

“A bystander said it was the local tax office. The bodies of the four staff inside had been recovered minutes before.”

The United States is giving $1 million in immediate assistance and preparing a response team, says CNN. Britain, Pakistan and European Union countries are among nations sending teams, said the BBC.

In Kathmandu, tens of thousands endured freezing temperatures to sleep outside overnight for fear of further quake damage. Rescue workers and international aid teams started out at dawn to dig through rubble and debris in a desperate search for survivors.

Hospitals struggled to cope with the wounded. Reuters quotes a paramedic who said Kathmandu’s Bir Hospital had received 300 to 350 patients with severe injuries; most of them died, he said.

According to the AP:

“In the Kalanki neighborhood, police rescuers tried to extricate a man lying under a dead person, both of them buried beneath a pile of concrete slabs and iron beams. His family members stood nearby, crying and praying.

“Police said the man’s legs and hips were totally crushed.

” ‘We are digging the debris around him, cutting through concrete and iron beams. We will be able to pull him out but his body under his waist is totally crushed. He is still alive and crying for help. We are going to save him,’ said police officer Suresh Rai.”

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After Baltimore March, Clashes Between Protesters, Police

By Scott Neuman on April 25th, 2015 | Last updated: April 26, 2015 at 7:04 pm

Updated at 7:40 p.m.

Protesters who have turned out in the streets of Baltimore for several days to express anger over the police custody death of Freddie Gray have gathered in their largest demonstration to date Saturday afternoon.

Organizers and supporters, who vowed to “shut down” the city, were using social media to share video of crowds gathering to protest the April 12 death of Gray, who suffered a fatal spinal cord injury while in custody.

Thousands gathered in the city’s streets, reports The Associated Press. Marchers walked to City Hall, and paused for a moment of silence before the hospital where Gray died.

After an afternoon of peaceful marching, the day turned violent outside Camden Yards, where some protesters had gathered ahead of a game between the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox. There, several police cars were vandalized, reports NPR’s Nick Fountain, and items were thrown at police.

Gray died last Sunday, a week after officers chased him down and arrested him in the Gilmor Homes project in West Baltimore. Police say he had a history of violence and drug dealing and that he fled when officers approached him.

His death has sparked city-wide demonstrations protesting police brutality. NPR’s Scott Simon visited West Baltimore to talk with residents about their impressions of Gray and police practices.

Earlier Saturday, the AP quoted the president of a black lawyers’ group as predicting thousands would turn out for today’s protest.

“Things will change on Saturday, and the struggle will be amplified,” said Malik Shabazz of Black Lawyers for Justice. “It cannot be business as usual with that man’s spine broken, with his back broken, with no justice on the scene.”

As we reported on Friday, Baltimore Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis acknowledged during a news conference that officers had handcuffed Gray after an arrest and placed him in the back of a police van without buckling him in. Davis, however, said it had not yet been determined whether Gray’s fatal injury was sustained in van or at the time of arrest.

Also on Friday, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake held a news conference in which she demanded answers at the same time she urged the public to be patient.

“In order to have justice and not just seek justice, the investigation needs to follow procedures,” she said. “We have to be able to follow up on leads and they have to be as thorough as possible.”

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Indonesia Sets Executions For 3 ‘Bali Nine’ Drug-Smugglers

By Scott Neuman on April 25th, 2015 | Last updated: April 25, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Updated at 3:40 p.m. ET

Two Australians and a woman from the Philippines convicted nearly a decade ago of drug smuggling in Indonesia have been informed by authorities that their execution by firing squad is imminent.

“Indonesian authorities today [Saturday] advised Australian consular officials that the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran will be scheduled imminently at Nusa Kambangan prison in central Java,” Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement.

It is unclear whether an exact date has been set for Chan and Sukumaran — convicted of being ringleaders of the so-called “Bali Nine” heroin-smuggling ring — as well as Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina maid who says she was tricked into acting as a “mule” to carry drugs. However, Indonesian law requires that inmates be given 72 hours notice of execution, which could mean they will be put to death as early as Tuesday.

As we reported on Friday, the two Australians are the sole Australian Bali Nine detainees who are facing a firing squad. Other Australians connected to the ring have received lengthy or life prison sentences. Two Nigerians, a Brazilian, a Frenchman and a Ghanaian iand one Indonesian in addition to Veloso are also on death row.

The group is being held on the island of Nusakambangan, known as “death island” because of its high percentage of inmates awaiting execution.

Foreign Minister Bishop said she would continue to pressure Jakarta to grant clemency to the Australians, but Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who took office last year, has followed his predecessors in maintaining a zero-tolerance policy for drug smuggling.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

“A French man on death row with Chan and Sukumaran won a temporary reprieve from the firing squad but any hope for the nine others has disappeared.

“Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told Fairfax Media the French Embassy was not among those summoned to discuss the imminent executions because Serge Atlaoui still had a legal case before the Administrative Court.”

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On Everest, Quake-Triggered Avalanche Leaves Death, Chaos

By Scott Neuman on April 25th, 2015 | Last updated: April 26, 2015 at 3:03 am

Read this post on Storify.

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There’s A Sad Reason ‘Migrants,’ Not ‘Immigrants,’ Is The Word Being Used

By Mark Memmott on April 25th, 2015 | Last updated: April 26, 2015 at 3:06 pm

As NPR and other news outlets report about the hundreds of people killed this month when the ship they were on went down off the Libyan coast, the stories are referring to those who died as “migrants.”

There’s a case to be made that the word “refugees” also applies. A refugee, according to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, is “a person who flees from home or country to seek refuge elsewhere, as in a time of war or of political or religious persecution.”

Among those on the ship that sank, and the other vessels sailing from Northern Africa to Southern Europe, were people fleeing the war in Syria and persecution in places such as Somalia.

It’s fair to say that almost anyone who takes the risks associated with these trips is likely to be desperate and is seeking refuge. But to label all those aboard the ships as refugees may not be accurate. The word migrants, however, fits. Webster’s says that to migrate is to “move from one place to another.” A migrant, in turn, is “a person, bird, or animal that migrates.”

The word also conveys what is happening: Large numbers of people are on the move, looking for homes. They are migrating across hundreds or thousands of miles.

The word “immigrants” is not being used in most media reports. There’s a sad reason. To immigrate, Webster’s notes, is to “come into a new country, region or environment … esp. in order to settle there.”

Tragically, the hundreds who died this month did not reach their destinations.

Note: We know there are also legal definitions of the words migrant and refugee. The International Organization for Migration has posted its glossary here. This post and Saturday’s “Word Matters” conversation, however, are about the way news outlets use the words, not international agencies.

Mark Memmott is NPR’s standards and practices editor. He co-hosted The Two Way from its launch in May 2009 through April 2014.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript :

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I’m Scott Simon. More than 800 people died last weekend when a boat they were taking to flee the war, suffering and terror in the Middle East, capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. Those who died were characterized by most news outlets as migrants. They came from almost 10 countries, including conflict zones like Syria and Somalia. Why do news organizations, often including NPR, say migrants? We’re joined now by Mark Memmott, NPR standards and practices editor. Mark, thanks so much for being back with us.

MARK MEMMOTT, BYLINE: Glad to be here.

SIMON: Why do we say the victims were migrants and not say refugees?

MEMMOTT: Well, let’s work through the words. Refugees leave their homes or their countries to escape persecution, or they might be seeking safety because of wars, as you said. Some may have been forced from their homes by armed forces. Certainly, many of the people who we’ve been hearing or reading about are refugees, but they’ve been coming from more than a dozen countries, and they’ve been coming for many different reasons; some of them maybe just to seek better lives. The word migrants fits for them all. As the dictionary says, a migrant is a person who moves from one place to another, and in particular, it’s a word applied to those who leave one country to settle in another. We haven’t been using the word immigrants for a very sad reason. The people who didn’t make it to Europe – the hundreds who drowned – never got the chance to immigrate. One immigrates when you arrive in a new country.

SIMON: Does the choice of word frame the story in a certain way for people?

MEMMOTT: Yes, and I think it also helps them understand what the situation – you know, the word migrants puts a picture in listeners’ minds. These are people who are on the move; many have traveled hundreds, thousands of miles. And as we learn more about the individuals or the families who’ve been part of this migration and the reasons they’ve left their homes, we probably will refer to many of them as refugees. But without knowing the specifics of their stories, the word that seems to fit best when reporting about them is migrants.

SIMON: Let’s move on to another topic. The New York Times recently ran into some trouble with one of its sources in an article they had about the rise in popularity of vaping – electronic cigarettes – e-cigarettes. Help us understand this story if you could.

MEMMOTT: Well, I should begin by saying that, you know, as the expression goes, there, but for the grace of God, go I, or in this case, we. What happened to The Times could happen to NPR and actually may have happened. We just don’t know it. Here’s the story. A Times reporter posted a message on Twitter. It was a callout. She wanted to hear from – and I’m paraphrasing her words – teens who vape and who are willing to talk about it with a reporter twice their age. One of the people who got in touch with The Times made up a good story. He pretended to be an 18-year-old high school senior from Mississippi who enjoys a particular flavor endorsed by a rapper known as Lil Ugly Mane. The Times found out about the hoax after the pretender bragged about it on Twitter.

SIMON: So a prank.

MEMMOTT: A prank – he wanted to see if he could get it into The Times, see how far he could go. In fact, he said afterward that he had an even greater story to tell, but he liked the reporter so much that he didn’t press it too far.

SIMON: (Laughter) News organizations use social media callouts these days, including this one.

MEMMOTT: Yes. I mean, we want to find, quote, unquote, “real people.” We need to talk to those who have been affected by events. We can’t be everywhere. Social media callouts are another way of reaching out. The thing is there’s hard work to be done once the responses start coming in. Identities need to be verified. Stories need to be checked out. Claims need to be challenged sometimes. We don’t want to be trolled, as the hoaxers say, and end up reporting someone’s fun but fabricated tales.

SIMON: One of the things I like about social media callouts is that – assuming you can verify the story – you can get a diversity of experience that you don’t get ’cause I – we both remember the days when, for example, if you needed to talk to a citizen about, let’s say, filing his or her taxes, you would literally walk out into the newsroom and say, you know, anybody here know someone who has to get a tax extension? And you’d wind up with a shoe salesman from Winnetka because some guy who worked in the newsroom knew him or her.

MEMMOTT: Right, a guy who knows a guy would put you in touch with an accountant who then would track down one of his clients who’s willing to talk – a classic way of finding people. This is kind of the – similar in some ways. You’re putting out a call for input, if you will. You’re putting out a call for people to get in touch. The thing is it’s just another tool, and the key is what happens after the responses start coming in. That’s where the skill we call reporting comes in. The old rule in newsrooms, as you know, Scott, is if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out. We need to remember that when we do these social media callouts, too. We need to check that person out.

SIMON: Mark Memmott – NPR standards and practices editor. You can write to him directly at word matters – all one word – @npr.org. Thanks very much, Mark.

MEMMOTT: You’re welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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