Nation & World News

Prison Officials On Leave After New York Escape

By Brian Naylor on June 30th, 2015 | Last updated: July 1, 2015 at 7:03 am

Twelve officials at an upstate New York prison have been placed on leave, as authorities investigate how two convicted killers managed to escape from the facility on June 6.

Among those placed on leave are Superintendent Steven Racette, of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, and Deputy Superintendent Stephen Brown, according to multiple media accounts.

The reports say the surviving escapee David Sweat has been sharing details of the break out, including that he and inmate Richard Matt conducted a dry run the night before the escape. Matt was shot and killed by law enforcement Friday. Sweat was shot and wounded two days later.

On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared on WCNY’s Capitol Pressroom, and told host Susan Arbetter some of what Sweat has been sharing with authorities:

“Cuomo confirmed to the Capitol Pressroom host that the original escape plan for Richard Matt and David Sweat was travel to Mexico with Joyce Mitchell, the prison worker who allegedly helped facilitate the escape. Additionally, Sweat told authorities that he and Matt split up about five days ago because, according to Cuomo, ‘Matt was slowing Sweat down.’

‘We still have to do investigations on Mitchell and the corrections officer,’ Gov. Cuomo told Arbetter, noting that both will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

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California Governor Signs School Vaccination Law

By Lucy Perkins on June 30th, 2015 | Last updated: June 30, 2015 at 5:05 pm

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed off on one of the strictest school vaccination laws in the country a day after the state Legislature gave the measure final approval.

“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases,” Brown said in a signing statement. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.

Starting July 1, 2016, all children enrolled in public or private schools or day cares must be vaccinated against whooping cough, measles and other diseases, regardless of parents’ religious and other personal beliefs. Children with specific medical conditions, such as immune system deficiencies, may be exempt if they have a doctor’s note, according to member station KQED, which has a list of required immunizations.

The station says that “those who opt out will have to be home-schooled or enroll in an independent study program off school grounds.”

KQED’s April Dembosky reported last week on the long history behind the anti-vaccination movement:

” ‘From the moment the very first vaccine came on the scene, which was the smallpox vaccine, there has been resistance to vaccines and vaccination,’ says Elena Conis, a history professor at Emory University and author of Vaccine Nation: America’s Changing Relationship with Immunization.

She says that the modern-day resistance movement shares its roots and rhetoric with the social movements of the 1960s and ’70s, including feminism, environmentalism and consumer rights.

” ‘They encouraged people to question sources of authority, including doctors,’ she says.

“For example, women’s advocates started to question medical advice on reproductive health and childbirth.”

As we reported previously on The Two-Way, the bill was introduced following an outbreak of measles centered on Disney theme parks in California last December that sickened dozens of people.

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Venus And Jupiter Set For A Close Encounter Tuesday Night

By Bill Chappell on June 30th, 2015 | Last updated: June 30, 2015 at 5:05 pm

It’s not as if two worlds will collide tonight — Venus and Jupiter are only converging into a small area of the Earth’s sky. NASA says the two bright planets will be “a jaw-dropping one-third of a degree apart.”

That distance is smaller than the width of a full moon, as seen from Earth’s surface.

“You’ll be able to hide the pair not just behind the palm of your outstretched hand, but behind your little pinky finger,” NASA says.

And unlike some other astronomical phenomena, this convergence should be easily visible: Just look to the west around sunset. That’s where you’ll find Venus and Jupiter, if the sky is relatively clear.

Conjunctions between Venus and Jupiter are far from rare events,” notes But the site adds that tonight’s “unusually close” conjunction is worth seeing — and it adds that this is both the closest and the last pairing between the two planets in the current 24-year cycle.

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Deadline In Iran Nuclear Talks Extended To July 7

By Brian Naylor on June 30th, 2015 | Last updated: July 1, 2015 at 4:05 am

The Iran nuclear talks, which had been scheduled to wrap up Tuesday, have been extended. The U.S. and the five other nations negotiating with Tehran over its nuclear program announced they’ll meet for another week, as it became clear that they weren’t likely to reach a deal by today’s deadline.

Envoys from the U.S., Russia, France, China, Britain and Germany — known as the P5+1 in diplomat-speak — and from Iran agreed to extend an interim accord that gives relief from some economic sanctions in return for Tehran’s agreement to freeze some nuclear activities.

President Obama, asked about the talks during a White House news conference, said if negotiators are not confident that the pathways for Iran’s obtaining a nuclear weapons are closed, “then we’re not going to get a deal.”

“Ultimately this is going to be up to the Iranians,” Obama said.

NPR’s Peter Kenyon filed this report from Vienna, where negotiations were taking place:

“The interim accord requires Iran to sharply limit its stockpile of nuclear fuel, and gives U.N. inspectors daily access to certain facilities. A State Department official says all interim provisions will now remain in force for an additional week.

“During that time, negotiators will try to transform the broad framework agreed at Lausanne, Switzerland, in April into a legally binding, long-term agreement. Critics say the administration is relenting on too many of its earlier demands of Iran, but a U.S. official says the team knows exactly where its bottom line is and will either achieve that or not get a deal.

“Top Iranian officials joined the talks today, as did Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.”

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Still She Rises: Misty Copeland Makes History With American Ballet Theatre

By Bill Chappell on June 30th, 2015 | Last updated: June 30, 2015 at 3:03 pm

In a promotion announced Tuesday, the American Ballet Theatre named Misty Copeland as the first black female principal dancer in its 75-year history. Copeland had previously been a soloist with the ABT, the premiere dance company in the U.S.

The promotion comes months after Copeland made another mark, performing the lead role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake alongside another African-American dancer, Brooklyn Mack of the Washington Ballet. She recently made her New York debut in the role.

Copeland, 32, didn’t begin in ballet until she was 13, when she was persuaded to take a free class at a Boys & Girls Club that was being taught by Cindy Bradley of the San Pedro City Ballet.

“She saw talent that she’d never experienced before, as well as just me, coming from the background I did and not having the best family situation and home,” Copeland told NPR in 2014. “And I think that she saw that ballet was going to create this amazing life for me. So Cynthia brought me into her school on a full scholarship, and she also brought me into her home.”

In Copeland’s interview with NPR last September, she said, “My goal has always been to be a principal dancer with ABT.”

After that happened Tuesday, Copeland posted video of the announcement online.

As the ABT news release shows, Copeland’s latest achievement continues a streak of success:

“Copeland received the 2008 Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Arts and was named National Youth of the Year Ambassador for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 2013. In 2014, President Obama appointed Copeland to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. She is the recipient of a 2014 Dance Magazine Award and appeared on the cover of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2015. She is the author of the best-selling memoir, Life in Motion and the children’s book Firebird.”

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With Seconds To Spare, 70-Year-Old Woman Finishes 100-Mile Endurance Race

By Krishnadev Calamur on June 30th, 2015 | Last updated: June 30, 2015 at 3:03 pm

The Western States Endurance Run is the world’s oldest 100-mile race — and among its toughest. Runners begin the race in Squaw Valley, Calif., climb more than 18,000 feet and descend nearly 23,000 feet before they reach the finish line in Auburn, Calif.

Here’s what that looks like:

This year’s male winner was Rob Krar, 38, of Flagstaff, Ariz., who completed the course in 14:48:59. That’s an incredible time. But the loudest cheers at the finish line on Sunday were reserved for 70-year-old Gunhild Swanson of Spokane Valley, Wash.

Here’s how Runner’s World describes what happened:

“With just 90 seconds left before the 30-hour cutoff time and 300 meters to go in the 100.2 mile race on Sunday, Gunhild Swanson … dug deep to became the oldest woman to complete the course in a time of 29 hours, 59 minutes, and 54 seconds.

“The real buzz began for Swanson at the final aid station — Robie Point — about 1.3 miles from the finish. Volunteers there began receiving word that Swanson was arriving soon and would only have about 16 minutes to make it to the finish on the Placer High School track in Auburn, California.

“Swanson and her support crew, which included friends, her son, and grandson, climbed up the steep incline to the aid station, where volunteers screamed to her to keep moving. Along that last push, Rob Krar — the overall winner of the race who claimed his victory nearly 15 hours earlier — joined Swanson and ran the last mile with her, wearing flip flops.”

In an interview with, a running website, Swanson described that last mile.

“Two friends, my pacers, another friend, Rob Krar, the winner of this race came down. He wasn’t waiting there, but he came down the road, and Tim Twietmeyer. Everybody started yelling at me and telling me what to do and pouring ice water all over me. Then I was told, “You have to run as hard as you possibly can. When you get to the track, you can’t let up. Down the hill you’re okay, but you have to maintain that pace. You have to go with all you possibly can on the track.” I came around and saw the clock. Oh, my gosh.”

This was Swanson’s third Western States race. She finished this year 6 seconds from the 30-hour cutoff, a record for the 70-and-over category.

“In over 15 years of attending Western States I have never witnessed anything like what transpired in the track shortly before 11am on Sunday,” Andy Jones-Wilkins, an ultrarunner, wrote on the race’s Facebook page.

You can also watch the video of Swanson finishing the race here.

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11:59:60 — Look For An Extra Tick Of The Clock Tonight

By Lucy Perkins on June 30th, 2015 | Last updated: June 30, 2015 at 8:04 pm

If you’re worried about finishing everything on your to-do list, you’ll get an extra second today to cram it all in.

The extra second is called a “leap second.” At the very end of the day, the clock will read 11:59:60 Universal Time (the official time that international timekeepers use) or 7:59:60 p.m. ET.

Astronomers at the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service in Paris decided earlier this year on the extra tick of the clock — the 26th time that’s happened since the world started using atomic clocks, the Los Angeles Times reports. Leap seconds are added to keep those atomic clocks in sync with a time standard tied to the rotation of the Earth.

Here’s more from the Times:

“The international timekeeping community has two ways of measuring the passing of our days. The first, known as astronomical time, is based on how long it takes Earth to make one complete spin on its axis. Scientists keep track of this by aiming a network of radio telescopes at a distant quasar.

“Atomic time, on the other hand, defines a second as exactly 9,192,631,770 oscillations of a cesium-133 atom. This is what determines the time that displays on your computer or cellphone.”

The Times says that large weather systems, volcanoes and earthquakes can have enough force to change the speed of Earth’s rotation. So, while the atomic clock ticks consistently, Earth’s rotation changes.

NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel says that because the changes in Earth’s rotation are unpredictable, the addition of leap seconds is also sporadic.

As the Two-Way reported back in 2012, not everyone is sold on the leap second:

“The argument against the leap second is that it makes life just a tiny bit more difficult for businesses and communications networks (such as GPS systems) if they have to recalibrate every year or two. The argument for the leap second is that the problems such companies have might only get worse over time (yes, we said it) if the Earth and our clocks grow increasingly apart.”

When the last leap second was added, in 2012, it caused some technical problems, according to The Telegraph. Mozilla, Reddit, Yelp, LinkedIn, Foursquare and other companies reported crashes, the newspaper reports, and more than 400 flights in Australia were grounded because Qantas’ check-in system crashed.

The Telegraph says:

” ‘There are consequences of tinkering with time,’ said Peter Whibberley, Senior Research Scientist in the Time and Frequency group at NPL, who is known to colleagues as ‘The Time Lord.’

” ‘Because leap seconds are only introduced sporadically it is difficult to implement them in computers and mistakes can cause systems to fail temporarily.’ ”

But Geoff says the argument to keep the leap second gets a little philosophical. If we don’t add leap seconds, the time of day could become a lot less meaningful — imagine what it would be like if noon happened around sunset.

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Chris Christie Declares His Candidacy For President

By Brian Naylor on June 30th, 2015 | Last updated: June 30, 2015 at 5:04 pm

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose political career has taken almost as many turns as a roulette wheel at an Atlantic City casino, is running for president.

He made the announcement Tuesday at Livingston High School, which he attended and where he was class president. Declaring “America is tired of hand-wringing and indecisiveness and weakness” in the White House, Christie said he is ready “to fight for the people of the United States of America.”

Christie, 52, first came to prominence as a corruption-fighting U.S. attorney for New Jersey, appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001. Christie went after public officials from both parties, eventually winning convictions or guilty pleas from 130 of them, by his count. The biggest name, former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, was convicted in 2008 on fraud charges.

In 2009, Christie ran for governor of the Garden State and defeated Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine.

He scored political points with Republicans when he battled teachers unions and demanded cuts in public pensions. In town hall-style meetings across the state, he became known for the outspoken way he challenged people who disagreed with him. Christie flirted with a run for president in 2011 but ultimately decided that “now is not my time.”

In August 2012, Christie gave the keynote address at the Republican National Convention, a speech many said was heavy on references to Christie and light on support for the GOP nominee, Mitt Romney.

Christie then gained national attention as he praised President Obama’s response to Superstorm Sandy in the weeks before the 2012 presidential election, which many Republicans said detracted from the message of the Romney campaign.

After Obama’s re-election, Christie coasted to a second term in 2013. And as the now twice-elected Republican governor of a heavily Democratic state, Christie was thought to be near the front of the pack of potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates.

Then came “Bridgegate.” And everything changed.

Bridgegate was what journalists dubbed the closing of two lanes of a busy highway leading to the George Washington Bridge and heading into New York City. It caused massive backups on local streets in Fort Lee, N.J. The closings were ostensibly for construction purposes, but there was no construction, and it soon seemed that something else might be at play: political payback.
The Democratic mayor of Fort Lee did not support the governor in his re-election bid.

Christie has vehemently denied any involvement in the closings, saying he learned of them only through press reports and after the fact. But a number of top aides were implicated and forced to resign. In New Jersey, Christie’s popularity plunged and his national ambitions have never recovered.
He is now seen to be at the back of the pack of the GOP presidential candidates. His moderate views on issues like same sex unions (he supported civil unions but not marriage), gun control and immigration might have been a tough sell in places like Iowa anyways.

So, as the Philadelphia Inquirer points out, Christie has got his work cut out:

“Monmouth University’s June 15 national poll, for instance, found Christie viewed favorably by 26 percent of likely Republican primary voters, and unfavorably by 43 percent — for a net of minus 17 percentage points. Fifty-five percent of Republicans in this month’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll said they would never consider voting for Christie.

‘There’s a path for Christie, but it’s a narrow one,’ said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth poll. ‘His high negatives and wide name recognition put a ceiling on his growth. He doesn’t have much room for error.'”

Christie is expected to spend a lot of time in New Hampshire in the coming weeks, which he hopes may be more hospitable to a fiscally conservative Northeasterner with moderate tendencies, and where Democrats and independents can vote in the state’s open primary.

It may be a long shot, but Christie hopes with another spin of the wheel to come up lucky.

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Asked To Divide Zero By Zero, Siri Waxes Philosophical (And Personal)

By Bill Chappell on June 30th, 2015 | Last updated: June 30, 2015 at 3:03 pm

The Internet is abuzz about the latest Easter egg found in Apple’s Siri, as the virtual assistant gives a philosophical — and, to some, a personal — response to the question “What is zero divided by zero?”

Siri’s on-screen answer is straightforward. But her more elaborate verbal reply easily surpasses the simple “Does not compute” with which robots in old sci-fi movies used to announce a bout of cognitive dissonance. For one thing, her answer invokes Cookie Monster.

The response became the talk of Twitter on Monday night. If you want to try it for yourself, we don’t want to spoil the fun; if you don’t have access to Siri, we’ve embedded an audio clip below.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Siri has been found to have a quirky Easter egg hidden in her software. For instance, she has a slew of responses at hand for people who ask:

“What’s the meaning of life?”

“What’s the best phone?”

“Do you love me?”

“Who’s your favorite baseball team?”

The answer to that last one depends on the current standings (Siri likes to cheer for underdogs).

And then there are commands like “Open the pod bay doors” — to which Siri’s possible responses include a remark about how they’re already open (and it’s getting cold). Another response: “We intelligent agents will never live that down, apparently.”

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U.S.-Germany Soccer Match Is Showdown Between World’s Top 2 Teams

By Russell Lewis on June 30th, 2015 | Last updated: June 30, 2015 at 2:04 pm

The final of the Women’s World Cup isn’t until Sunday. But it might as well be tonight, as world No. 1 Germany takes on the second-ranked United States in the soccer semifinals. The U.S. and Germany have played four previous times in the World Cup, including a semifinal in 2003 (won by Germany).

The game should be a great one. Consider that Germany has scored the most goals this tournament (20), and the U.S. has allowed just a single goal. The U.S. and Germany have each won the World Cup twice.

The United States reached the semifinals primarily on the strength of its defense: The team hasn’t given up a goal since the tournament opener five games ago against Australia. The U.S., led by goalkeeper Hope Solo, have held opponents scoreless for 423 consecutive minutes (the longest stretch for the U.S. in World Cup history). The U.S. also is the only country to reach the semifinals in all seven World Cup tournaments.

While the defense has been steady, the offense has languished this tournament. Head coach Jill Ellis has tinkered with the starting lineup in every game. During the last game, against China, the Americans played some of their best soccer of the World Cup. The team was quicker and created more exciting scoring opportunities. The passes were crisper, and the players seemed more relaxed.

Despite the criticism of conservative and shaky play, the U.S. is one of four teams still alive in the tournament. The winner heads to the finals on Sunday against either defending champion Japan or England. If the U.S. loses, it will play in the third-place game on Saturday against the loser of the other semifinal match.

Kickoff for the U.S.-Germany game is at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday in Montreal, and will be broadcast by Fox and NBC Universo.

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