Nation & World News

University Of Illinois Fires Football Coach Over Handling Of Player Injuries

By Bill Chappell on August 28th, 2015 | Last updated: August 28, 2015 at 6:03 pm

One week before the school’s football season starts, the University of Illinois has fired head coach Tim Beckman, saying a review had found “efforts to deter injury reporting and influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and continue playing despite injuries.”

Illini Director of Athletics Mike Thomas fired Beckman on Friday. A school statement says the decision was made “in the best interests of student-athletes.”

The school also says that in some cases, football players “were treated inappropriately with respect to whether they could remain on scholarship during the spring semester of their senior year if they weren’t on the team.”

“I expect my coaches to protect players and foster their success on and off the field,” Thomas said.

In Beckman’s absence, Bill Cubit, who had been hired by Beckman as the offensive coordinator, will lead the team as the interim head coach. Friday afternoon, Cubit said he had spoken to Beckman and thanked him for bringing him to the school.

Beckman, 50, had been the head coach at Illinois for three years. The school says he “will not receive the $3.1 million remaining on the last two years of his original five-year contract or the $743,000 called for if his contract had been bought out.”

In three seasons at Illinois, Beckman’s record was 12-25 overall, and 4-20 in Big Ten Conference games. Last season, the Illini went 6-7 and went to the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl.

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Secret Nazi Treasure Train May Have Been Found, Polish Official Says

By Scott Neuman on August 28th, 2015 | Last updated: August 28, 2015 at 5:03 pm

It has all the makings of an Indiana Jones sequel: In the final days of World War II as the Soviet army closed in on the Third Reich from the east, a train full of gold, gems and other Nazi loot was hidden in a secret underground tunnel near the present-day Polish city of Walbrzych. Seventy years later, a deathbed confession may provide the key clue to finding it.

In an extraordinary news conference Friday, Poland’s Deputy Culture Minister Piotr Zuchowski said authorities were led to a spot by an unnamed individual and that images obtained from ground-penetrating radar have left him “99 percent convinced” that the treasure train has been located.

Zuchowski called it an “exceptional” discovery, according to The Telegraph.

“The train is 100 meters long and is protected,” he said.

“The fact that it is armored indicates it has a special cargo,” he said, but added: “We do not know what is inside the train. … Probably military equipment but also possibly jewelry, works of art and archive documents.”

The BBC reports that Zuchowski said the information about the train’s location came “in a deathbed confession from a person involved in concealing it.”

He also issued an appeal “for any further investigations to be put on hold until we have finished the necessary official procedures relating to securing the site.”

As the Daily Beast notes:

“The buzz began this month when two unidentified men, a Pole and a German, claimed to have found the storied train. They contacted authorities in Wałbrzych via a law firm, but refused to reveal the train’s exact location until they were guaranteed 10 percent of the value of what’s inside.

“The news struck a chord with many others who have long sought to find the train. With its complex network underground of tunnels designed by the Nazis, the surrounding hills of Lower Silesia have plenty of space to hide a train—even one 100 meters long.”

Although Zuchowski would not reveal the location of the find, he said he “personally hoped that it would bring to light looted art and Nazi archives,” the BBC reports, adding that he “also reiterated warnings to treasure hunters that it may be booby-trapped.”

The mayor of Walbrzych, Zygmunt Nowaczyk, said the find was “within our administrative boundaries” but that “I cannot of course reveal the exact place.”

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Virginia Governor: ‘Clearly Too Many Guns In the Wrong Hands’

By Eyder Peralta on August 28th, 2015 | Last updated: August 29, 2015 at 5:04 am

“There are too many guns in America, and there’s clearly too many guns in the wrong hands.”

That’s what Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said to reporters in front of the WDBJ building in Roanoke, Va.

The governor, who promised to introduce gun-control legislation, was speaking two days after a gunman killed two journalists from that station during a live broadcast.

McAuliffe said gun-control legislation that requires background checks is “common sense” and is “right thing for Virginia and the right thing for the nation.”

During the news conference, reporters noted that Vester Lee Flanagan, the man who killed WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and photojournalist Adam Ward, bought his gun legally.

McAuliffe responded by saying that no legislation could stop all violence.

“If we could have background checks and one individual next week, next month or next year is prohibited from buying a firearm and we save a life, then it’s worth doing it,” McAuliffe said.

Guns and Ammo magazine ranks Virginia the 24th best state for gun owners. The magazine took into account, among other things, laws that regulate concealed weapons and semi-automatic firearms.

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U.S. Appeals Court Overturns Decision That NSA Metadata Collection Was Illegal

By Eyder Peralta on August 28th, 2015 | Last updated: August 29, 2015 at 5:04 am

A three-judge panel for a U.S. appeals court has thrown out a lower-court decision that sought to stop the NSA from continuing to collect metadata on phone calls made by Americans.

The lower court ruling had found that the practice was unconstitutional.

In some ways, this decision is much less important now that Congress has passed a law that changes the way metadata is collected by the government. If you remember, after a fierce battle, both houses of Congress voted in favor of a law that lets phone companies keep that database but still allows the government to query it for specific data.

The three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia still decided to take on the case, because that new program doesn’t begin until 180 days after the date that law was enacted (June 2, 2015).

Until then, and as a result of this decision, the NSA is allowed to continue with its metadata collection program.

The court reversed a decision by Judge Richard Leon and sent it back to him for further proceedings.

This court did not make its decision on Constitutional terms; instead, it ruled that the plaintiffs did not have standing to receive a preliminary injunction. The court sent the case back to Judge Leon to see if the plaintiffs could cobble up more evidence showing they are being directly targeted by the bulk collection program.

The complication there is the U.S. government has in the past refused to turn over that evidence, claiming it is secret.

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George W. Bush: I Will Never Forget ‘Misery And Ruin’ Of Katrina

By Scott Neuman on August 28th, 2015 | Last updated: August 28, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Updated at 2:40 p.m. ET

Former President George W. Bush, whose legacy was marred by the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, visited New Orleans today to mark the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.

Bush and his wife, Laura, arrived Friday morning at Warren Easton Charter High School, where they met with students as well as New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Kathleen Blanco, who was Louisiana’s governor when Katrina hit in August 2005.

In a speech at the school, the former president said he will never forget the images of “misery and ruin” from Katrina. He said New Orleans was a city where “the levies gave out but … [the] people never gave up.”

As KOIN reports, the choice of Warren Easton is symbolic. The school, which Laura Bush raised money to help save, fought to stay open despite being badly flooded. When it reopened in 2006 “nearly every student who attended was considered homeless because they lived in trailers sent to hurricane victims by the Federal Emergency Management Agency or slept on couches,” the television station says.

“Because of the success schools like this have achieved, it gives a message to Americans that New Orleans is back, and better than ever,” George W. Bush told students and teachers at the school.

U.S. News & World Report writes: “Katrina … illustrated the perils that presidents face when they fail to deal with such calamities in a timely and efficient way, as George W. Bush discovered a decade ago. Strange as it may seem at this time of instant communication and the 24-hour news cycle, Bush didn’t pay attention to the biggest news story of the moment because he was on vacation and allowed himself to get isolated from the country.”

Bush’s visit comes a day after President Obama told a crowd in the city that the disaster was largely man-made and was an example of “a failure of government to look after its own citizens.”

Bush, in his 2010 memoir, Decision Points, acknowledged the damage that the response to Katrina had done to his legacy: “in a national catastrophe the easiest person to blame is the president” and “Katrina presented a political opportunity that some critics exploited for years.”

“I should have recognized the deficiencies sooner and intervened faster,” Bush wrote. “The problem was not that I made the wrong decisions; it was that I took too long to decide.”

Michael Brown, who was director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the storm in 2005, wrote an op-ed appearing in Politico on Thursday, titled “Stop Blaming Me for Hurricane Katrina.”

In it, Brown said he wanted to step down from the job in the spring of 2005, but was persuaded by White House Chief of Staff Andy Card to stay through that year’s hurricane season.

Brown says the federal government did not have the authority to unilaterally order the evacuation of New Orleans ahead of Katrina and describes indecision by then-Gov. Blanco and then-New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin:

“Prior to Katrina making landfall, I asked then-National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield to forcefully explain on a secure video conference call with Blanco and Nagin the catastrophe they were potentially facing if they failed to evacuate at least two or three days prior to landfall,” Brown writes. “When that didn’t work, I called President Bush at the ranch and implored him to call Mayor Nagin and encourage him to evacuate his city. The president called; the mayor dallied.”

But in an interview with WDSU in New Orleans, Blanco had a different take on the events a decade ago.

“If FEMA had been able to deliver the buses that Mike Brown told me he had the ability to get instantly, … I kind of boil it down to this, if the buses had run on time, the trauma would not have existed,” she said.

“The first time when I got the president’s help, they didn’t really want to help, but I had to embarrass them to help, kind of had to threaten to go to war on the White House, you know,” Blanco said. “I got 4 billion (dollars) from that threat, and then I had the audacity to come back, you know, about a year later and say you know ‘boys and girls, we need another 3 billion,’ you know, to get the job done.”

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CEO Of Cheating Website Ashley Madison, Noel Biderman, Has Stepped Down

By Eyder Peralta on August 28th, 2015 | Last updated: August 28, 2015 at 12:03 pm

In the wake of a massive hacking, the founder and CEO of the cheating website Ashley Madison has stepped down.

Noel Biderman had been at the center of controversy after hackers released information on 33 million people who had used to the site to try to cheat on their spouses.

In a statement, Ashley Madison’s parent company, Avid Life Media, said the company would be led by its existing senior management team until a new CEO was appointed.

“This change is in the best interest of the company and allows us to continue to provide support to our members and dedicated employees,” the company said.

Aside from putting its members in a precarious situation with their spouses, the hack also revealed that the company was engaging in questionable behavior.

For example, it charged customers to remove all their data from its servers, but the hack revealed the information was still on company servers.

Yesterday, Gizmodo reported that for all intents and purposes the men on the site were never likely to interact with the women they were looking to have affairs with.

Gizmodo found that 20.2 million men checked messages on the site but only 1,492 women did. What’s more, many of the 5.5 million female profiles on the site were fake and about 10,000 of them were likely created by someone using email addresses. The implication? That the company’s own employees were creating fake profiles that identified as female.

When they released the data, the hackers had taken issue with what they alleged was a company ripping off its customers.

In its statement today, Avid Life media said a criminal investigation into the hacking was ongoing.

“We are actively cooperating with international law enforcement in an effort to bring those responsible for the theft of proprietary member and business information to justice,” the company said.

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Usain Bolt Jokes That American Justin Gaitlin Paid Cameraman To Take Him Down

By Eyder Peralta on August 28th, 2015 | Last updated: August 28, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Usain Bolt has addressed Thursday’s encounter with a mobile cameraman on a Segway.

If you missed it, a cameraman lost control and ran into the elite runner just after he won the 200-meter final during the 15th IAAF World Championships in Beijing.

Bolt blamed the Americans, specifically one of his biggest rivals: American sprinter Justin Gatlin. Per The New York Times, Bolt joked:

” ‘He took me out,’ Bolt said later, uninjured and smiling. ‘The rumor I’m trying to start right now is that Justin Gatlin paid him off.’

“Gatlin’s deadpan response: ‘I want my money back. He didn’t complete the job.’ ”

Bolt also didn’t take issue with cameraman. The BBC reports:

“He … told reporters: ‘Accidents happen. I have a few cuts but it is nothing that I have never done to myself in training. I will be all right.’ ”

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Defrocked Archbishop Dies Awaiting Trial On Sex Abuse Charges

By Scott Neuman on August 28th, 2015 | Last updated: August 28, 2015 at 10:03 am

Former Polish Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski — the highest-ranking church official to be caught up in the clergy sex abuse scandal — has died at age 67, a month after his Vatican trial was delayed due to his health.

Wesolowski was found dead at his Vatican residence on Friday, the Holy See said in a statement. Catholic News Service (CNS) quotes officials from the Vatican police as saying that the initial assessment was that the death is from natural causes. An autopsy is scheduled to verify the report.

Vatican spokesman Ciro Benedettini said Wesolowski’s body was found early Friday by a priest who lives in the building.

The Guardian describes the death of Wesolowski as “a significant blow to Pope Francis’s efforts to tackle child sex abuse within the Catholic church.”

In an unprecedented move last year, Wesolowski was placed under house arrest in the Vatican for allegedly paying for sex with children during his tenure as the papal ambassador to Dominican Republic. The National Catholic Reporter says he was also accused of possessing child pornography.

He was recalled to Rome from his post as the Vatican’s chief diplomat in Santo Domingo in August 2013 and defrocked in June of last year.

The Reporter says:

“The Vatican later publicly acknowledged his removal, but came under criticism when the former diplomat was spotted walking freely around Rome. While Wesolowski was later said to be under house arrest at a Vatican apartment, reports as recent as this month indicated he had been essentially free to roam the city-state.

“His case also ignited a global debate over which of three countries — the Dominican Republic, Poland, or the Vatican — would have jurisdiction to try the diplomat. Poland originally sought Wesolowski’s extradition, which was refused by Vatican authorities.”

According to CNS:

“Wesolowski was to be the first person to be tried by a Vatican criminal court on sex abuse charges. The first session of the trial had been scheduled for July 11, but was postponed when he was taken to the hospital the day before after suffering ‘a collapse,’ Father Benedettini said. He remained in the hospital until July 17.

“The Vatican court had not announced a date for the continuation of the trial …”

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Number Of Refugees Found Dead In Austrian Truck Rises To 71

By Eyder Peralta on August 28th, 2015 | Last updated: August 28, 2015 at 10:03 am

We have two big, sad stories concerning the rush of migrants trying to make it to Europe from conflict-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa: First, Austrian authorities said the number of people found dead in a food delivery truck, some of whom are believed to be refugees from Syria, has risen to 71.

As we reported, the people are thought to have suffocated. The truck was abandoned along Austria’s A4 autobahn.

The Associated Press reports:

“Hans Peter Doskozil, chief of police in Austria’s eastern Burgenland province where the tragedy occurred, gave both the death toll and the cause of death Friday at a news conference in the city of Einsenstadt.

“He also said Hungarian police detained seven suspects in the case overnight and early Friday, then arrested three of them. He said two of the suspects are Bulgarians, while the third has Hungarian identity papers.

“He said a Syrian travel document was found among the bodies, which suggests that at least some of the 59 men, eight women and four children who died were fleeing the violence in that nation.”

Reporting from Spain, Lauren Frayer tells our Newscast unit that two boats carrying hundreds of migrants capsized off the coast of Libya. Lauren filed this report:

“Hundreds of people are feared dead. The two boats were carrying up to 500 people in all. Both capsized off Libya’s coast.

“Officials say about 200 people were rescued alive — and brought back to Libya. But many more may have been below deck, and unable to escape when their boats turned over. At least 100 bodies have been brought ashore to a Libyan hospital.

“The victims are Syrians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and sub-Saharan Africans. Hundreds of migrants have already died this week — in the hold of another boat, and in the back of a truck in Austria.”

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New Tesla Breaks Consumer Reports’ Ratings Scale, Bolsters Company’s Stock

By Bill Chappell on August 27th, 2015 | Last updated: August 27, 2015 at 9:03 pm

With a rare mix of blazing speed, safety and energy efficiency, the new Tesla Model S P85D left the folks at Consumer Reports grasping for ways to properly rate the car, after it scored a 103 — out of 100. “It kind of broke the system,” says Jake Fisher, director of the magazine’s auto test division.

Listing the all-electric car’s attributes, including its improved handling and stopping power, Fisher says, “We’re seeing numbers that we haven’t seen before. So this kind of blew out the system. We’re giving it a score of 100.”

That final rating came after the product testing organization adjusted its metrics a bit (but it says it won’t now grade all other cars on the P85D’s curve). It posted the results online Thursday — and in a rare move, Consumer Reports didn’t require a subscription to see the Tesla ratings (that move very likely played a part in the company’s trouble with its Web servers).

In a video discussion of the Model S P85D, Fisher says, “We’re not used to seeing large cars go 0-60 in 3.5 seconds. We’re not used to seeing large cars that get an equivalent of 87 miles per gallon, and are that fast. So it really blows apart a lot of things.”

Consumer Reports’ experts note that the score doesn’t mean the car has achieved perfection — for one thing, there’s the $127,820 price tag of the tested model. That makes it the most expensive car that the magazine has ever tested. And then there’s the base model’s estimated range of about 250 miles on a single charge.

But the magazine’s autos editor, Mark Rechtin, also notes that the Tesla is impressive for its quickness in applying power to the road — and pushing its occupants back in their seats.

“This car goes from 0 to 1.02 G’s in less than a quarter of a second,” Rechtin says, “which is almost as fast as the human brain can react.”

That rush of speed happens silently, Rechtin added. He said, “The only other way that you can feel that, in a legal setting, is to basically jump out of an airplane.”

We’ll note that those speeds reflect a car outfitted with the “Insane” driving mode. The quicker “Ludicrous” mode gets to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, according to Tesla.

The glowing review generated intense interest in the car Thursday (as of this writing, the Consumer Reports website has crashed); it also propelled Tesla’s stock to an 8 percent gain, to a close of $242.99 on the Nasdaq market. That’s quite a bounce for a stock that, at the opening of Monday’s trading session, could be had (briefly) for $202.

On the performance of Tesla’s stock, The Wall Street Journal notes, “at midday, Tesla’s market value stood at $31.7 billion, up $2.5 billion from Wednesday’s close.”

In its first years in the auto market, Tesla has focused on high-priced cars. The Model S cost more than $50,000 when it was introduced, and the new Model S P85D has a base price of $104,500. But earlier this year, the company announced plans to produce a more affordable car called the Model 3, with a list price of $35,000.

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