Nation & World News

University Of Virginia Apologizes To Student Who Says She Was Gang-Raped

By Eyder Peralta on November 26th, 2014 | Last updated: November 26, 2014 at 1:59 pm

The University of Virginia publicly apologized on Tuesday to a student who told Rolling Stone magazine that she was gang-raped during a fraternity party in 2012.

As we reported, the magazine’s harrowing account led to protests and a university ban on fraternities until January.

Sandy Hausman, of NPR member station WVTF, filed this report for our Newscast Unit:

“University President Teresa Sullivan expressed rage after reading of an alleged rape by seven fraternity members in 2012. Critics say their alleged victim, known only as Jackie, was discouraged from pressing charges to protect UVA’s reputation, and now Sullivan says her first concern is student safety.

” ‘If we can’t deliver on this fundamental duty, then we — all of us — will have failed. Jackie’s experience shouldn’t have happened, and nothing like it should ever happen again,’ Sullivan said.

“She’s asked police to investigate. The school’s governing board is preparing to debate a policy of zero tolerance for sexual assault along with a crackdown on underage drinking at fraternities.”

The New York Times reports that at the emergency meeting, police asked anyone who had information about the incident detailed in the Rolling Stone piece to come forward.

The newspaper adds:

” ‘There were bystanders,’ said the police chief, Timothy J. Longo Sr., who is also in charge of an investigation of the death of a university sophomore, Hannah Graham, who disappeared in September. ‘I hope that those bystanders have the moral courage to come forward and help us with that investigation.’

“Sexual assault on campuses ‘points to an entrenched cultural problem in student life,’ said Dr. Sullivan, who said news of the sexual assault had left her numb. ‘Now is the time, and this is the generation of students when it must stop,’ she added. Protesters lined the room and were also outside the campus building where the meeting was held.”

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Messy Winter Storm Snarls Thanksgiving Travel

By Eyder Peralta on November 26th, 2014 | Last updated: November 26, 2014 at 9:59 pm

A big winter storm spinning its way across the East Coast of the United States is expected to wreak havoc on Thanksgiving Day travel plans.

The National Weather Service says that travelers from the Carolinas all the way up to New England could see significant snow, and the entire East Coast will see some kind of precipitation.

Weather.com reports:

“As of late Tuesday, a cold front has stalled off the Southeastern Coast, dumping as much as 5.5 inches of rain in Daytona Beach and 7.61 inches of rain in Port St. John, Florida. In addition, low pressure has begun to spin up along the tail end of the front over the Gulf of Mexico.

“That low will quickly intensify as it moves north-northeastward overnight into Wednesday, most likely staying just off the Eastern Seaboard. This is a classic track for a significant East Coast storm.

“However, as is often the case, key questions remain about the exact outcome from this storm system — and the small details could make a big difference for your travel plans, especially if you will be driving in the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast on Wednesday or Wednesday night.”

Depending on the track, some cities like New York, Boston, and Portland, Maine, could see up to 12 inches of snow. Some places at higher elevations could see up to a foot of snow.

Update at 12:27 p.m. ET. Cancellations Begin:

By early afternoon, Flight Aware, a website that tracks air traffic, was reporting that more than 1,000 flights had been canceled so far.

Airports in New York and Philadelphia appeared to be the hardest-hit.

Update at 9:20 p.m. ET

More than 4,500 flights have been delayed across the country today, Flight Aware reports, while more than 80 flights each out of Newark, Philadelphia and LaGuardia airports have been canceled.

That represents more than 10 percent of the flights scheduled to leave those airports today, a level of cancellations also hit by smaller airports in Maine, Connecticut and Vermont.

Even at some airports with few cancellations, things still have been messy. O’Hare airport in Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth airport, both major cross-country hubs, have seen more than 200 delayed flights, while a third of flights out of Baltimore’s airport have been delayed.

The Associated Press checked in with a few travelers:

“Dan Albert hoped to beat the snow as he, his wife and 15-year-old daughter refueled their SUV Wednesday morning along I-81 in Hagerstown, Maryland, about halfway between their Greensboro, North Carolina, home and their Thanksgiving destination in Mahwah, New Jersey.

” ‘Traffic was fine last night, no problems at all, but today’s going to be a real booger,’ Albert said. But he added: ‘Got to see the folks. We only get to see them once a year. Got to muscle through it, right?’

“At a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike, tired families grabbed large cups of coffee and breakfasts of pizza and fried chicken before heading back to the slushy road.

“Abdullah Masud, a lawyer who lives in Kuwait, was heading from Boston to Washington with a cousin.

” ‘We were originally planning on leaving Wednesday morning, but when we heard about the snowstorm we changed our mind and left Tuesday night. But I don’t think it made that much of a difference,’ he said, noting the heavy traffic.”

The storm systems producing snow — more than six inches in spots — in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Eastern Seaboard states should move on by Thursday evening, the National Weather Service says.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Long Beach, Calif., set a record high at 87 degrees.

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A Calmer Night In Ferguson, Mo., Amid Increased National Guard Presence

By Krishnadev Calamur on November 26th, 2014 | Last updated: November 26, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Updated, 6 p.m. ET

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon rejected a call today to appoint a special prosecutor in the Michael Brown case, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported.

That’s a bad decision, says Mae Quinn. A law professor at the city’s Washington University, Quinn told the Post Dispatch that she felt officer Darren Wilson received preferential treatment:

” ‘It seems clear from the beginning of the proceedings that the prosecution quite unusually adopted a defense stance, injecting the idea of justified homicide into the process well before Wilson testified,’ Quinn said. ‘Prosecutors also served as quasi-witnesses by essentially testifying about facts outside of the existing record and vouching for police processes.’ ”

Police arrested a few more protesters during the day today, after about 200 protesters marched on St. Louis City Hall. Meanwhile, protests against the grand jury decision not to prosecute Wilson in Brown’s shooting death spread overseas, as a large crowd marched through London and demonstrated outside the U.S. embassy, Agence France-Presse reports.

Original Post:

Police in Ferguson, Mo., made 44 arrests after another night of protests — these much calmer than the unrest that erupted after a grand jury declined Monday to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Many of the protesters say they are angry that Wilson, who is white, was not charged in the shooting of Brown, who was black.

Crystal Johnson was among those gathered in front of the Ferguson Police Department. She stood quietly a few feet from a line of police officers.

“It’s just a sad situation. Our justice system — it just fails us all the time,” she said. “So, if I didn’t get out here and march and protest, it could happen to my son.”

But, as NPR’s Cheryl Corley reports, the protests later turned ugly. Vandals damaged storefronts and a police car was set on fire.

Still, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said it was a better night.

“We saw some protesters out there that were really out there for the right reason,” he said. “Unfortunately, there seems to be a few people that are bent on preventing this from happening in the most ideal way that it possibly could.”

In some places, officers were pelted with rocks, bottles and other objects, Belmar said. He said 40 off the 44 arrests were for misdemeanors such as failure to disperse; four were felony arrests.

As we told you Tuesday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said the National Guard’s presence will be “ramped up significantly in Ferguson.” In all, 2,200 guardsmen were deployed in the region to keep the peace and protect property.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Tim Lloyd reports that Nixon has been criticized for his delay in deploying the National Guard. Critics said that after months of planning, the governor should have been better prepared to stop the looting and vandalism.

“Why a governor who has done that, who had taken those proactive steps on the front end, would hold the Guard back, is on the minds of every law-abiding Missouri citizen and taxpayer,” Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder said.

The decision came after violent protests Monday night during which demonstrators clashed with police and set buildings on fire; there were reports of heavy gunfire. Dozens of people were arrested.

President Obama, in remarks Tuesday, said he understands the frustrations of people who feel they aren’t treated fairly under the law, but added: “I have no sympathy at all for destroying your own communities.”

Here are some of the other headlines we’re seeing this morning:

— Protests fan out across the country.

— The Justice Department, NPR’s Carrie Johnson is reporting, is looking into whether there are wider patterns of discrimination within the Ferguson Police Department.

— And, in case you missed it Tuesday night, Wilson describes his confrontation with Brown in an interview with ABC.

We’ll be updating this post throughout the day with the latest developments.

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Protests Of Grand Jury Decision Fan Out Across The Country

By Krishnadev Calamur on November 26th, 2014 | Last updated: November 26, 2014 at 10:00 am

Updated at 6:54 a.m.

Public reaction to a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson has ranged from fire and looting close to where Wilson shot Michael Brown to peaceful protests nearby.

Other protests were held in large and small cities and college towns across America on Tuesday; photos from those scenes show a variety of demonstrators, tactics and responses.

In Los Angeles, The Associated Press reports, a small group of protesters flooded the U.S. 101 freeway Tuesday night, bringing traffic to a halt. Police chased them off and corralled them on an overpass. Most of the protests in the city were peaceful.

In Oakland, Calif., some protesters vandalized police cars and businesses. Fires were set on some streets, and protesters briefly shut down two freeways.

In New York City, protesters poured through Times Square and for the second night in a row blocked major roads and bridges.

Police Commissioner William Bratton told the AP that “as long as they remain nonviolent, and as long as they don’t engage in issues that cause fear or create vandalism, we will work with them to allow them to demonstrate.”

Protesters in Atlanta included several hundred students from Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University. They condemned CNN’s coverage of the protests in Ferguson and held other peaceful demonstrations, but police later said some protesters tried to block a freeway, broke windows and failed to disperse, and 21 were arrested.

A night after hundreds gathered outside the White House, protesters in Washington, D.C., blocked a major street as they moved through the city’s downtown and Chinatown neighborhoods. Protests were peaceful on both nights.

Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted this photo from Central Connecticut State University.

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Dog Follows Athletes Through Mud And Water, And Melts Hearts

By Bill Chappell on November 25th, 2014 | Last updated: November 26, 2014 at 8:00 am

After a stray dog in Ecuador met a team of Swedish adventure athletes, he grew so attached to the squad that he ran for miles and swam along to keep up with them. Now Arthur the dog is world-famous — and it all started with a meatball.

Sweden’s Peak Performance team was in Ecuador this month to compete in the Adventure Racing World Championship, in which athletes hike, kayak, and bike during a 430-mile endurance race through the Amazonian rain forest. It’s the kind of race where athletes try to keep moving day and night (see an example).

Just before starting one stage, the team’s Mikael Lindnord made friends with a dog, sharing a meatball with him. Lindnord thought that would be the end of it — but then the dog followed him, and essentially forced his way onto the team.

The rest of the story is told through photos of the Peak Performance group’s trek, as updates on their Facebook page show the four athletes making their way through mud and rough terrain, now joined by the dog they named Arthur. And when they had to use kayaks, Arthur swam alongside, refusing to be left behind.

Here’s how the team summed up that day:

“The organization gave the advice not to bring dog Arthur out on the last leg — a dog in the kayak didn’t seem like a great idea — and the team was going to follow this advice.

“Mike, Simon, Staffan and Karen put their kayaks down in the water and set off, but Arthur refused to be left and started swimming. This was too heartbreaking for the team, and Mikael helped Arthur up in the kayak. This led to standing ovations from everyone on the shore, seeing the five (!) team mates set off.”

Photos of the devoted dog swimming to stay with his new friends led one fan to call the moment “magical.”

The team says that after six days, they “crossed the finish line with 5 members instead of 4 as the 12th top team in the world.”

After some uncertainty, Lindnord managed to work out a way to bring his new best friend back to live with his family in Sweden: He and his teammates opened a Paypal account and mounted a Twitter campaign to raise money to bring Arthur home. They’ve also had him treated for a nasty wound to his back that he had suffered months before they met in him the rainforest.

A recent Facebook post thanking people for their help and good wishes — and telling them that Arthur was safe and sound in Sweden — led one fan to write, “Thank you for sharing this story with the world. We need to witness more happy endings and acts of compassion.”

When we contacted the Swedish team to ask how Arthur’s doing today, here’s what they said:

“Arthur is in the dog quarantine in Stockholm, where he has to be for 120 days before he can go home to Örnsköldsvik, where he will live with the Lindnord family. A team member visited him today and there will be more visits during these months — but Arthur also has to be given time to relax and adapt to his new settings!”

The team also says it has established the Arthur Foundation, to support stray dogs.

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Wilson Describes Confrontation With Brown In ABC Interview

By Bill Chappell on November 25th, 2014 | Last updated: November 25, 2014 at 9:59 pm

Adding his voice to the mounds of grand jury evidence released Monday night by St. Louis County, Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Mo., police officer who killed Michael Brown, told his side of the story in an interview Tuesday.

Wilson told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he has “a clean conscience” about the shooting; he also said he’s sorry for the loss of life. The shooting led to both violent protests and serious conversations about race and law enforcement.

Wilson says he wouldn’t have done anything differently, and that the way the incident played out had nothing to do with Brown’s race.

The interview adds personal perspective to the grand jury documents the Two-Way has divided into categories of witness testimony, Wilson’s testimony, and physical evidence.

Wilson says that after he had begun speaking to Brown, the 18-year-old shoved his door shut as the officer tried to get out. Wilson says they struggled, and that Brown threw the first punch. He says he also realized that Brown was “a very powerful man.”

As we reported earlier, “Wilson is 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighs about 210 pounds. Brown was an inch taller and weighed about 290 pounds.”

Wilson says that after Brown landed a solid punch to his head, his thoughts turned to “How do I survive?”

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to withstand another hit like that,” he tells Stephanopoulos.

You can watch the segment at the ABC News site; we’ve transcribed more of Wilson’s portion, below:

‘Get back or I’m going to shoot’

“I take it out, and I come up, I point it at him. And what I said is, I say, ‘Get back or I’m going to shoot you.’

“And then his response – immediately, he grabbed the top of my gun. And when he grabbed it, he said, ‘You’re too much of a ***** to shoot me.’

“And while he’s doing that, I can feel his hand trying to come over my hand and get inside the trigger guard, and try and shoot me with my own gun. And that’s when I pull the trigger for the first time…

“It didn’t go off.

“The gun was actually being jammed by his hand on top of the firearm. So I tried again — and again another click.

“And this time I’m like, this has, this has to work or otherwise I’m, you know, I’m going to be dead. He’s going to get this gun away from me, something’s going to happen and I’m going to be dead. So I pull a third time, and it finally goes off.”

‘Can I shoot this guy?’

Wilson then explains why he chased Michael Brown, and says Brown then turned around and began to charge at him.

“At that time I gave myself another mental check: Can I shoot this guy? You know, legally, can I?

“And the question I answered myself was, I have to. If I don’t, he will kill me if he gets to me.”

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Obama: ‘No Sympathy’ For Those Destroying Ferguson

By Bill Chappell on November 25th, 2014 | Last updated: November 25, 2014 at 7:59 pm

In a speech in which he said he understands the frustrations of people who feel they’re not treated fairly under the law, President Obama also stated, “I have no sympathy at all for destroying your own communities.”

The president had been scheduled to speak about immigration policy during his appearance at Chicago’s Copernicus Community Center. But he began his remarks by calling for calm in Ferguson, Mo., responding to the fiery unrest that has followed a grand jury’s decision not to charge police officer Darren Wilson over the killing of Michael Brown.

Obama said he had a message for anyone who wants to work toward improving the situation: “Your president will be right there with you.”

Echoing some of the points he made last night after the jury’s decision was announced, Obama said, “If any part of the American community doesn’t feel welcome, or treated fairly, that’s something that puts all of us at risk. We all have to be concerned.”

Obama also said, “Nothing of benefit results from destructive acts. I’ve never seen a civil rights law, or a health care bill, or an immigration bill result because a car got burned.”

He said of people who vote, mobilize and organize, “That’s how you actually move something forward.”

President Obama has ordered Attorney General Eric Holder to organize a series of meetings between police, community leaders and clergy.

The president discussed that plan Tuesday afternoon with Holder, who has ordered a separate federal inquiry into the Ferguson shooting. NPR’s Carrie Johnson reports that Holder plans to visit five pilot cities to create connections between the police and minorities.

Obama touched on that plan, saying many communities could benefit from it. “The problem is not just a Ferguson problem. It’s an American problem,” Obama said.

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Community Activists Question Timing Of Grand Jury Announcement

By Laura Sullivan on November 25th, 2014 | Last updated: November 25, 2014 at 9:00 pm

For weeks, Ferguson police and local leaders met with community groups and activists to work out a plan for the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

But any results of that effort quickly vanished following Monday night’s announcement as buildings burned and stores were looted.

Many activists who had attended the community meetings with local officials in preparation blamed both police and the county attorney’s office for fueling the unrest. They question the decision to announce the grand jury’s findings at night and without much warning.

“I put what happened last night directly at their feet,” said Montague Simmons, a leader of the Don’t Shoot Coalition, which represents 50 organizations involved in the protests.

“We knew what would happen if they released this at night,” Simmons says. “If they had given us notice, we could have been prepared and worked with our people.”

Simmons says his group planned and encouraged only nonviolent protests. But on the streets, there was too much confusion followed by rage. He says that with enough of a heads-up, the group could have planned peaceful protests and encouraged any outliers to join them.

But Simmons says police officials wouldn’t work with the group. He says they didn’t agree to any of the requests at the meetings, such as appearing less threatening during protests by leaving military tactical gear in the police station.

“They haven’t been willing to be engaged with us,” Simmons says. “There’s no rational explanation I can offer unless this is what they wanted to happen. They treated us like a threat, not a partner. This relationship is out of balance.”

The release of the grand jury decision appeared chaotic even to outsiders, as the timing shifted over several days and rumors circulated throughout the community. Previously, there were promises to Brown’s family to notify them of the decision before the announcement. That promise did not appear to have been kept.

Police staff answering the phones at the Ferguson Police Department said they were not accepting media calls or questions. Calls to the office of St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch were not returned.

“The lack of responsiveness and accountability that we have seen [since the release] is the same lack of responsiveness and accountability we’ve seen all along,” Simmons says.

Conflict experts say the anger and distrust will only continue unless the police engage with the activists, working with members of their own community. Those encouraging violence on Twitter appear to be from outside the area.

Michael Shank, a professor at George Mason University’s School for Conflict, Analysis and Resolution says Ferguson police erred early on by refusing not to use tactical, military-style weapons and gear when negotiating with protesters.

Shank, who has been following the unrest closely with colleagues and others on the ground, says releasing in the dark and after work defies explanation.

“They could have helped de-escalate this,” Shank says, adding that “8 p.m. in the evening is a great time to protest.”

Regardless of the timing, he says, things might have gone better had protesters and community leaders had been more involved.

“Saying to the community, we see you as an adversary, we see you as already guilty so we’re going to pre-empt this with the National Guard,” Shank says. “That was a poor play in terms of building trust in the community.”

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Missouri Governor Adds ‘Significantly’ To National Guard In Ferguson

By Bill Chappell on November 25th, 2014 | Last updated: November 25, 2014 at 6:00 pm

“The violence we saw in areas of Ferguson last night cannot be repeated,” Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said Tuesday, announcing that he is sending hundreds more members of the National Guard to the city that saw intense looting on Monday night.

“Last night, criminals intent on lawlessness and destruction terrorized this community,” Nixon said, “burning buildings, firing gunshots, vandalizing storefronts, and looting family businesses — many for the second time.”

Nixon said he’d just returned from West Florissant Avenue, a focal point of the unrest. He called the situation there “a heartbreaking sight,” with residents afraid to go outside.

As a result, Nixon said, the National Guard’s presence will be “ramped up significantly in Ferguson,” with hundreds of additional Guardsmen joining the more than 700 members of the National Guard who were on duty when St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson over the shooting death of Michael Brown, 18.

Altogether, Nixon said, there will be 2,200 National Guardsmen in the region. And they’ll be focusing on keeping the peace and protecting property, a difference from Monday, when the force was primarily deployed in Clayton, Mo., and to protect the police department in Ferguson.

Other officials also spoke at Tuesday’s announcement, with Missouri State Police Col. Ronald K. Replogle summarizing, “Last night was a disaster.”

On Tuesday, some Ferguson residents were uncertain whether a more public show of force would help the situation.

“People get scared; they act out,” Joseph Kirkwood tells NPR’s Elise Hu.

Nixon said that his goal wasn’t “to shut the place down” but to return Ferguson to a status where people feel safe walking down the street.

As we recently reported, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles announced Tuesday that despite the grand jury’s decision, no final decision has been made on whether Wilson will return to duty. He cited an internal investigation of the shooting.

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The Psychological Effects Of Seeing Police Everywhere In Ferguson

By Elise Hu on November 25th, 2014 | Last updated: November 26, 2014 at 9:59 am

After a night of unrest and violence, police are posted at every intersection in Ferguson, Mo. National Guard troops man camouflaged Humvees in strip mall parking lots. The governor ordered more. Is it making the community feel safer?

One thing’s for sure: It’s keeping people from moving about as they normally would during this holiday week.

The Target store at the end of West Florissant Avenue is virtually empty. At noon, not a single soul is in the checkout lanes. A pair of Croatian journalists are the only people in the attached Starbucks cafe. After the “worst night” of violence St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said he’s seen since the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, what’s remarkable about Ferguson on Tuesday is its stillness.

“People are scared, panicking,” Ferguson native Joseph Kirkwood says as he looks across the street at a burned-out beauty supply store, its roof collapsed like a piece of clothing. Like many locals we’ve spoken to today, he says he stayed inside with his family during the heaviest violence and looting.

“Violence like we saw last night cannot be repeated,” Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said Tuesday. He announced earlier he’s sending additional National Guard troops to Ferguson “to ensure people and property will be protected.”

But Kirkwood is uncertain all the extra law enforcement is making things better. “People get scared; they act out,” he says.

The intersection we’re standing at is partially blocked by police already because it marks the start of a 1.6-mile stretch of West Florissant Avenue that saw at least a dozen businesses burned down overnight.

On the other end of the blocked-off stretch is a parking lot turned law enforcement command center, where not only are there armored trucks and trailers for staging but also the patrol vehicles of a half-dozen jurisdictions at once: St. Louis County Police, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Ferguson Police, Bridgeton Police, Bellefontaine Neighbors Police.

The irony is as thick as smoke plumes unleashed on protesters during scuffles last night: A heavy police and National Guard presence is here to restore order and protect civilians after months of unrest that was arguably started by too many unpleasant encounters between police and civilians.

“They probably feel like they’re helping, but I don’t know,” St. Louis County resident Arnell Dotson says while looking out at the parking lot full of police vehicles.

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