Nation & World News Nation & World News from WUFT, NPR and PBS Sat, 18 Apr 2015 20:03:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 ‘Furious 7′ Races To New Record, Quickly Hitting $1 Billion Mark Sat, 18 Apr 2015 18:50:08 +0000 Universal says the movie is the studio's first to cross the billion-dollar mark during its first run in theaters, putting it above films such as Jurassic Park and Despicable Me.]]>

It’s taken the street-racing movie Furious 7 only 17 days to reach $1 billion in worldwide box office grosses, according to Universal Pictures. On its opening weekend, the movie reportedly made $143.6 million in the U.S. It’s the last in the Fast and Furious franchise to feature the late actor Paul Walker.

Universal says the movie is the studio’s first to cross the billion-dollar mark during its first run in theaters, putting Furious 7 above films such as Jurassic Park, Despicable Me and the Jason Bourne movies.

Universal says the Fast and Furious franchise has now earned $3.39 billion worldwide.

This week, star Vin Diesel, a mainstay of the franchise, predicted that there would be an eight installment in the franchise.

If you’re wondering what the other fast-grossing films are, the Slash Film blog notes:

“Before Furious 7, the fastest climb to $1 billion was 19 days, set by Avatar (2009) and tied by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) and The Avengers (2012). It might have a hard time keeping that record with Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: The Force Awakens on the horizon, but it’s an impressive achievement nonetheless.”

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WWII Aircraft Carrier Is Found ‘Amazingly Intact’ On Ocean Floor Near San Francisco Sat, 18 Apr 2015 16:43:00 +0000 It fought in World War II and was used in two atomic bomb tests. Now, 64 years after it was scuttled, the USS Independence has been located by an undersea survey team led by NOAA and the U.S. Navy.]]>

It fought in World War II and was used in two atomic bomb tests. Now, 64 years after it was scuttled, the USS Independence has been located by an undersea survey team led by NOAA and the U.S. Navy.

A new image of the ship suggests it’s in good shape for a craft that was damaged by shock waves, heat and radiation in the Pacific Ocean.

Independence sits on the bottom as if ready to launch its planes,” said James Delgado, maritime heritage director for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Noting the ship’s war service, he added, “It is a reminder of the industrial might and skill of the “greatest generation’ that sent not only this ship, but their loved ones to war.”

From San Francisco, NPR’s Richard Gonzales reports:

“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been on a mission to map an estimated 300 historic shipwrecks lying outside San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

“Using a remotely controlled miniature submarine, scientists captured video images of the USS Independence sitting upright, about 30 miles off the coast.

“The Independence was used as a target ship for two Bikini Atoll atomic bomb tests in 1946. It was then moored in San Francisco as the Navy used it to study nuclear decontamination. But by 1951, the Navy scuttled it off the coast and kept the site secret. Scientists say because of the location the contamination poses no threat.”

The Independence sits in water that’s roughly a half-mile deep, off of California’s Farallon Islands. NOAA says the carrier was part of a fleet of more than 90 ships that made up a “target fleet” for the atomic bomb tests.

The scuttled carrier is not to be confused with other warships that have carried the USS Independence name. A long-serving carrier was retired in 1998; the newest version is an angular, low-profile ship made of aluminum that the Navy calls a “littoral combat ship.”

The Navy says the “littoral combat” designation is used for “a fast, agile, networked surface combatant designed to operate in the near-shore environment, while capable of open-ocean tasking, and win against 21st-century coastal threats such as submarines, mines, and swarming small craft.”

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Antitrust Inquiry Reportedly Looks At How Big Theater Chains Snare Movies Sat, 18 Apr 2015 15:52:00 +0000 Small theaters’ claims that large cinema chains keep them from screening first-run movies have reportedly prompted a Department of Justice investigation. News of a federal inquiry comes as arguments over preferential treatment and exclusivity have been heating up in recent years.

NPR’s Mandalit del Barco reports:

“A Supreme Court decision in 1948 required that movie studios divest their ownership in theaters. The idea was to guarantee independent theaters could show new movie releases. Since then, major chains have consolidated, and they’ve been clashing with smaller theaters over who gets dibs on first run films.

“Some small theater owners say the larger chains– owned by just a handful of companies — regularly prevent them from running new releases at the same time. It’s a practice known as ‘clearing’ the market. Small theater owners have filed several legal suits and complaints against AMC, Regal and Cinemark multiplex chains.

“A task force of experts, economists and lawyers are now reportedly working with Department of Justice’s antitrust division to look into the accusations.”

Both The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal say the Justice Department’s antitrust division is bolstering its investigation. The Times quotes a DOJ spokesman who says the agency won’t confirm or deny the inquiry.

Last fall, “a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by Starlight Cinemas, the owner of a few independent movie theaters in California, against exhibition giant Regal Entertainment Group,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

That dismissal followed on the heels of the first signs that the Justice Department was taking a closer look at the relationship between big exhibitors and large movie studios.

The complexities of film distribution were hinted at in a New York City theater’s federal lawsuit against Regal and other companies that was argued for years after it was filed in 2003. The owners of Village East theater alleged unfair practices in its densely populated release “zone.”

Law 360 reported:

“Because of the perception that theaters in a particular zone compete, exhibitors within the film zones — like the Village Zone in this case — can request exclusive rights to a film.

“The Village Zone, which is one of most densely populated film zones in the U.S., has just three first-run theaters for first-run top commercial films — the Union Square 14, the Loews Village VII and the Village East.”

After the Regal-owned Union Square 14 opened near the Village East, Law 360 reported, the new facility drew more than 70 percent of all film revenue in the zone, while the smaller theater got less than 11 percent.

Village East’s case against Regal was eventually dismissed; its other allegations ended in either dismissals or settlements.

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Australia Says It Broke Up ISIS-Inspired Plot To Attack WWI Event Sat, 18 Apr 2015 15:07:00 +0000 In a series of early-morning raids, Australian counterterrorism police arrested five men in the Melbourne area Saturday, over their possible involvement in a plot to attack a memorial ceremony.]]>

In a series of early-morning raids, Australian counterterrorism police arrested five men in the Melbourne area Saturday, over their possible involvement in a plot to attack police officers at an upcoming World War I remembrance ceremony.

Three of the men were later released; police say that Sevdet Ramdan Besim, 18, “has been charged with conspiracy to commit acts done in preparation for, or planning, terrorist acts.”

From Sydney, Stuart Cohen reports:

“Police say two of the men were planning terror attacks at ANZAC Day ceremonies, Australia’s memorial day, marking the 100th anniversary of the country’s entry into World-War I.

“Officials say the planned attack involved knives and was targeted at police. A third man was arrested on weapons charges, while two others in custody are said to be cooperating with police.

“Several of the men arrested are members of a radical Islamic study center and were associates of another man there who was killed back in September after a knife attack at a suburban Melbourne police station.

“Australia’s prime minister is urging the public not to allow the threats to stop them from attending major Anzac Day commemorations around the country.”

Australia’s ABC news agency gives this rundown of the charges, other than those against Besim:

“A second man, 18, from Hampton Park, was also arrested on terrorism-related offences this morning during a major joint counter-terrorism team operation.

“A third man was arrested for weapons offences and two other men were in custody assisting police with their inquiries, after seven search warrants were executed.”

ABC quotes Australian Federal Police AFP Acting Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan saying, “At this stage we have no information that it was a planned beheading. But there was reference to an attack on police.”

A neighbor of one of the men tells The Age that the sounds of flashbang grenades, smashing glass and smoke alarms woke him up — and that he’s surprised by the focus on the house next door.

“We have lived here for roughly eight years, and they have been our neighbors the whole time,” the man said. “Seriously never had any issues with them, they have been great neighbors. The son … he’s helped me fix the fence, they bring our bins up for us. We have even said to our kids if anything ever happened to us they could go next door and they’d help.”

If you’re wondering about the name ANZAC Day — the name is derived from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The observance marks the anniversary of the landing of troops at the Gallipoli peninsula, in an ill-fated operation in what is now Turkey. Thousands died in the rough campaign.

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Suicide Bombing Kills At Least 35 In Jalalabad; ISIS Reportedly Claims Responsibility Sat, 18 Apr 2015 13:59:00 +0000 Both the United Nations and the Taliban have condemned the attack, which targeted civilians who were in a long line at a bank.]]>

In what could be the first attack in Afghanistan by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the extremist group has reportedly said it is behind Saturday’s deadly attack in Jalalabad. Media outlets and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani have noted the claim, which has not been independently verified.

“Who claimed responsibility for horrific attack in Nangarhar today? The Taliban did not claim responsibility for the attack, Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack,” Ghani told Agence France-Presse. Daesh is the Arabic term for ISIS.

In the attack, “a suicide bomber detonated his suicide vest in a line of people queuing for salaries near the New Kabul Bank branch,” reports Afghanistan’s TOLO news agency. The blast killed at least 35 people and left more than 100 wounded, according to the United Nations. It’s the third outburst of violence in the region in the past two weeks.

From Kabul, Rebecca Hersher reports:

“The attack took place in the eastern city of Jalalabad. A suicide bomber on a motorbike detonated a bomb outside a bank. Afghan authorities say two other bombs were defused in the city before they detonated.

“Last week, a NATO convoy was targeted in another blast outside Jalalabad, and a recent insider attack at the governors compound killed one American and wounded eight. A Taliban spokesman says the group does not claim responsibility for today’s explosion. In recent months, the group has appeared to try to distance itself from attacks that kill civilians.”

The claim that ISIS was behind the attack came through a man who said he is a spokesman for the group, as well as an online message.

Reuters quotes the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid saying, “It was an evil act. We strongly condemn it.”

U.N. Special Representative for Afghanistan Nicholas Haysom also condemned the attack and expressed condolences to its victims, saying, “The continuing use of suicide attacks in densely populated areas, that are certain to kill and maim large numbers of Afghan civilians, may amount to a war crime.”

Haysom added, “Those responsible for this horrendous crime must be held accountable.”

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Heavy Police Presence At Ferry Demonstrations Bring Seoul To A Halt Sat, 18 Apr 2015 12:47:00 +0000 Thousands of police formed a perimeter around the heart of South Korea's capital Saturday, in an effort to dampen a third day of protests over the government handling of a ferry disaster one year ago.]]>

A weekend of planned vigils and marches to mark the one-year anniversary of the deadly Sewol ferry sinking in South Korea has turned into tense clashes between demonstrators and police.

Seoul police say they put 12,800 riot officers on the streets to manage demonstrations by families of Sewol victims and their supporters, who are demanding a thorough investigation of the ferry disaster that killed 304 people. More than 250 victims were students from a single high school.

Since the disaster, a promised outside investigation into the sinking has yet to begin, nine victims are still unaccounted for and the ferry remains at the bottom of the ocean.

In Gwanghwamun Square, the symbolic city center where demonstrations have been taking place on-and-off since the April 2014 ferry sinking, a planned sit-in and march to the Blue House, the home of the president, were prevented by police who say demonstrators were illegally protesting. As crowds swelled, officers deployed water cannons to keep demonstrators away from police lines. On Friday and Saturday nights, police used pepper spray on crowds during tense moments — a move Amnesty International is calling an “insult to victims” and illegal.

As of Saturday afternoon local time, police say 22 people have been arrested in the tensions.

Using buses to create a tight perimeter around the heart of central Seoul Saturday, police successfully kept inside the demonstrators, who are in their third day of events commemorating the sinking, and kept out regular citizens trying to move about a normally busy, tourist-filled part of the city.

Police also shut down major arteries for traffic and a central subway station, bringing commerce to a halt in South Korea’s capital.

Hae Ryun Kang contributed reporting.

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Oklahoma Approves Nitrogen Asphyxiation For Executions Fri, 17 Apr 2015 21:57:00 +0000 Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a law today allowing nitrogen to be used in executions in the state in case lethal injection is ruled unconstitutional or the drugs are not available.

Oklahoma is the first state to approve such a method. It would involve placing a mask over an inmate’s face and supplying pure nitrogen instead of air. The condemned person slowly asphyxiates from lack of oxygen. Besides lethal injection, other methods currently approved for use in other states are electrocution, gas chamber, hanging and firing squad.

“Nitrogen-induced hypoxia is a painless form of execution that doesn’t require any specific pharmaceutical compounds or any medical expertise to administer,” Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City, the House sponsor of the legislation, was quoted by The Tulsa World as saying. “It is a far better alternative to the electric chair should lethal injection ever become unavailable, and so I thank the governor for signing this bill into law.”

Many states have experienced shortages of lethal injection drugs because manufacturers opposed to capital punishment have refused to supply them.

A study commissioned by Oklahoma and published last month concluded that “an execution protocol that induced hypoxia via nitrogen inhalation would be a humane method to carry out a death sentence.”

A year ago, Oklahoma carried out a botched execution of death row inmate Clayton D. Lockett, who was given the sedative midazolam due to a shortage of the drug normally used, sodium thiopental. Lockett took 45 minutes to die as he writhed in pain on the execution gurney.

The Atlantic noted in an article published last month: “This isn’t Oklahoma’s first time engineering new execution methods. The modern lethal-injection protocol was first proposed by an Oklahoma state medical examiner named Jay Chapman in 1977.”

In March, Utah also brought back the firing squad.

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First-Place Fake-Out: Woman Who Didn’t Run Marathon Stripped Of Title Fri, 17 Apr 2015 21:20:00 +0000 Last Sunday, runner Kendall Schler was the first to cross the finish line at the GO! St. Louis Marathon. She received a $1,500 check and a photograph with Jackie Joyner-Kersee at the finish line. Trouble is Schler of Columbia, Mo., had not run the entire 26.2-mile course.

That’s not all. Schler, race organizers say, also faked her third-place finish at last year’s race – with a time that allowed her to qualify for the prestigious Boston Marathon this year.

St. Louis marathon officials stripped Schler of her title, voided last year’s time and banned her from future Go! St. Louis events. Organizers of the Boston Marathon vacated her entry into Monday’s race.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has more:

“[B]y Wednesday, officials had determined Schler did not run the marathon in downtown St. Louis either year. She is believed to have slipped onto the course after the last checkpoint in an attempt to fool race officials into believing she ran the entire 26.2 miles. Officials said that Schler did not register any times on the route, and that a review of last year’s marathon photos failed to turn up images of her on the course.”

Nancy Lieberman, president of GO! St. Louis, told The Associated Press today that race officials had questions about Schler’s performance immediately after the race. Here’s more:

“Contrary to marathon guidelines, Schler had a bib and number on her leg and covered by a shirt. Schler later admitted she removed the timing strip from the bib each of the past two years to explain why her seven interval times were not registered, Lieberman said. U.S. Track and Field officials on the course also never saw Schler among competitors, and certainly not among the leaders.”

Lieberman told the AP she spoke with Schler on Wednesday and described the conversation as “nondescript.”

“Most people, quite frankly, would be defensive, but say, ‘Yes, I really did (run the race),'” she told the AP. “I explained I would have to contact Boston and let them know (about the questioned qualifying time), and she wanted to know how she could find out if she can run Boston. That was pretty much the end of the conversation.”

KSDK, a local television station, has video of Schler crossing the finishing line. In it, she does not appear to be pleased as one might be if (s)he won a race.

The actual winner was Andrea Karl, a doctoral candidate at Washington University in St. Louis, who finished with a time of 2:54:28.

Schler’s is not the first person to cheat at a marathon. Perhaps the most famous deception was carried out by Rosie Ruiz, who pretended to win the 1980 Boston Marathon by joining the runners a mile from the finish line.

More recently, the New Yorker reported on the story of Kip Litton, a Michigan dentist, who apparently cheated in a slew of races across the country.

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WATCH: Chimps In Uganda Look Both Ways Before Crossing Fri, 17 Apr 2015 19:25:00 +0000 A 29-month study of chimpanzees in Uganda's Kibale National Park reveals that many have learned a valuable survival skill — to look both ways before crossing a busy highway.]]>

Call it Darwinian evolution in action: A troop of wild chimpanzees in Uganda has learned a valuable survival skill — to look before crossing.

In a video published by New Scientist, one chimp can be seen pausing at the edge of the road and then backtracking to retrieve a smaller companion. What appears to be the alpha male waits on the far side of the road as the smallest in the group looks several times to each side before cautiously committing to a hasty crossing.

New Scientist says:

“In a 29-month survey, researchers observed and recorded 20 instances of wild chimps crossing a busy road in Sebitoli, in the northern part of Uganda’s Kibale National Park. They watched 122 chimps cross the highway used by 90 vehicles an hour, many speeding at 70 to 100 kilometres an hour.

“It’s the first report on how chimpanzees behave crossing a very busy asphalt road, says Marie Cibot of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. ‘We’ve described chimpanzee behaviour facing a dangerous situation never described before,’ she says, pointing out that earlier studies looked at narrower, unpaved and less busy roads.”

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Why A Blockbuster Of A Trade Deal With Asia Matters Fri, 17 Apr 2015 19:19:00 +0000 Congress is giving President Obama new powers to help seal the deal on an ambitious Asia-Pacific free trade agreement, a move that angers many Democrats and unions.]]>

It has been a decade in the making, but when completed, it will be a free trade agreement to beat all others — representing 40 percent of the world’s economy.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, agreement would bring together the economies of the U.S., Japan, Australia and nine other Pacific Rim nations, allowing the free trade of everything from agriculture to automobiles and textiles to pharmaceuticals.

President Obama said Friday that the deal is critical for the U.S. market.

“Ninety-five percent of the world’s markets are outside our borders. The fastest growing markets, the most populous markets, are going to be in Asia,” he noted.

Negotiations over the trade agreement are in the final, toughest stages. Analysts say the sticking points are now between the U.S. and Japan, the two largest economies in the TPP. Both sides are trying to protect key sectors — for Japan, it’s agriculture; for the U.S., it’s automobiles.

Those negotiations got a new shot of life Thursday when congressional leaders agreed to give President Obama the authority to “fast track” the deal through Congress.

The move overcomes a significant hurdle in the talks because President Obama will be able to complete the deal without the details being picked apart by Congress.

Under the agreement reached Thursday, lawmakers would have the opportunity to give the TPP an up-or-down vote, but they cannot alter terms of the final agreement reached between the U.S., Japan, Australia and other countries around the Pacific Rim.

However, if the final agreement doesn’t meet standards laid out by Congress on the environment, human rights or labor issues, a 60-vote majority could shut off the fast track trade rules and open the deal to amendments, according to The New York Times.

Japan and the U.S. are due to have Cabinet-level meeting over the trade deal next week, according to The Associated Press. Japan’s economy minister, Akira Amari, told reporters, “We are pretty sure our talks won’t break down.”

Agreeing to give President Obama the authority to fast-track the deal marks a shift on the political landscape. Many Republicans are behind the bill to give the president more power. As NPR reported earlier, the trade deal is vigorously supported by the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups.

But many Democrats oppose giving the president fast-track authority, known formally as the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), saying negotiations over the Asia-Pacific trade deal are held in secret and that there would be no way to amend the details. There are also deep-seated concerns that U.S. corporations would invest in foreign factories and then ship goods back to America.

President Obama on Friday acknowledged the concern about the free trade agreement, particularly among Democrats, because people have memories about outsourcing and job loss.

Still, Obama said, “If we do not help to shape the rules so that our businesses and our workers can compete in those markets, then China will set up rules that advantage Chinese workers and Chinese businesses.”

China is not part of the TPP.

The agreement giving the president fast-track authority comes less than a month after Beijing humiliated the U.S. and Japan by persuading dozens of countries, including key American allies, to join a regional infrastructure bank over objections by Washington, according to The Wall Street Journal.

It also gives new significance to an upcoming visit to Washington by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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