Nation & World News

‘Walkie-Talkie’ Tower Roasts Competition For UK’s Worst Building

By Emma Bowman on September 2nd, 2015 | Last updated: September 3, 2015 at 11:03 am

It came as no surprise when a cartoonish, bulging skyscraper in London’s financial district known as the “Walkie-Talkie” won this year’s award for the U.K.’s worst new building.

After a unanimous vote by a panel of architectural critics at Building Design Magazine, the building officially known as 20 Fenchurch Street took the 2015 Carbunkle Cup. A spoof on the prestigious Stirling Prize awarded to great architecture, the Carbuncle is instead handed to architectural blunders.

Since its completion last spring, the Walkie-Talkie has attracted a lot of heat. Literally.

The bulbous 37-story building has managed to melt cars and alter weather patterns, earning its place as the top blemish of London’s skyline. The concave facade reflected enough sunlight to melt parts of a nearby Jaguar and proved hot enough to fry an egg, soon earning itself another nickname: the “Walkie-Scorchie.” Shade structure was later added to the building’s side to diffuse the sun rays.

Beyond roasting vehicles, reports The Guardian, the parabolic design has “blown away” Londoners with its chaotic wind patterns.

“It’s been accused of almost blowing pedestrians into the road and whisking food trolleys away this summer. The phenomenon has prompted the planners to introduce tougher guidelines and insist on independent wind studies.”

The skyscraper, designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly, is a joint development project by property groups Land Securities and Canary Wharf Group.

“This isn’t the first time that a building designed by architect Rafael Vinoly has been the focus of such heated attention,” NPR’s Mark Memmott reported in 2013. “In 2010, there were reports of melted cups, singed hair and other unusual events near the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas — another Vinoly building.”

Ike Ijeh, architecture critic for Building Design, called the Fenchurch Street tower a disaster to London and thinks that city planners are as much to blame as Vinoly.

“If anything summarises what makes a building a Carbuncle, this is it,” Ijeh writes in a post for Building Design.

A nondescript YMCA building and a faux-gothic University of Cambridge building also made for stiff competition in this year’s contest. Last year’s Woolwich Central housing and supermarket development took the Carbuncle for its “oppressive” military-like features.

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Former NFL Player Lawrence Phillips Charged With Murder

By Bill Chappell on September 2nd, 2015 | Last updated: September 2, 2015 at 6:03 pm

He was already serving a lengthy prison sentence; now onetime St. Louis Rams running back Lawrence Phillips is being charged with murder in the death of his cellmate. Phillips was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend and other charges in 2006.

The new charges against Phillips, 40, stem from the death of his fellow inmate at the Kern Valley State Prison in California this past spring. Officials are accusing Phillips of strangling Damion Soward, 37.

The AP reports, “Phillips is serving a sentence of more than 31 years. He was convicted of choking his girlfriend and later of driving his car into three teens after a pickup football game.”

Phillips played in the NFL for three seasons; he had been a first-round pick out of the University of Nebraska.

During his college career at Nebraska, Phillips was an integral part of two national championship teams, in 1994 and 1995. But he also embroiled the school in controversy over its handling of his off-field behavior. When Phillips became an NFL player in 1996, he was on probation for assaulting his ex-girlfriend.

During his NFL career, Phillips ran for 1,453 yards. Perhaps his most important role in the league was as a catalyst that led the St. Louis Rams to trade another running back, Jerome Bettis, to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In addition to the Rams, Phillips played for the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers.

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5 Chinese Military Ships Spotted Off Alaska’s Coast

By Bill Chappell on September 2nd, 2015 | Last updated: September 3, 2015 at 6:04 am

In what reportedly is a first, five ships from China’s navy have been spotted in the Bering Sea, operating in international waters off the Alaskan coast, Pentagon officials tell The Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper reports:

“The officials said they have been aware in recent days that three Chinese combat ships, a replenishment vessel and an amphibious ship were in the vicinity after observing them moving toward the Aleutian Islands, which are split between U.S. and Russian control.

“They said the Chinese ships were still in the area, but declined to specify when the vessels were first spotted or how far they were from the coast of Alaska, where President Barack Obama is winding up a three-day visit.”

The U.S. officials also tell the Journal that the military ships aren’t seen as behaving in a threatening way.

The reported Chinese activity is seen as the latest sign of China’s ambitions to project its influence beyond its territorial waters.

NPR’s Tom Bowman offers this analysis:

“China expert David Finkelstein with the Center for Naval Analyses, a think tank that does a lot of work with the Pentagon, has likened China to America in the early 1900s when Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House: a growing power that wants to be considered a player on the world stage. Roosevelt famously sent the U.S. Navy’s ‘great white fleet’ on a worldwide tour to drive home this point.”

The sighting also comes on the same day Beijing is hosting a large military parade and celebration to mark the end of World War II. As part of those events, Chinese President Xi Jinping is hosting leaders from a number of neighboring countries.

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Here’s What We Know About The Kentucky Clerk Refusing Marriage Licenses

By Eyder Peralta on September 2nd, 2015 | Last updated: September 2, 2015 at 7:04 pm

Defying legal decisions that go all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Ky.., clerk, continued to deny marriage licenses on Wednesday in protest of same-sex marriage.

As Kentucky Public Radio’s Ryland Barton reports, Davis, who has become a divisive figure in the national debate on same-sex marriage, has been summoned to a federal court on Thursday for a hearing on whether to hold her in contempt.

With that, here’s what we know about Davis:

She’s A Born-Again Christian: The Associated Press reports that Davis’ life changed in a church about four years ago.

The preacher, according to the AP, was speaking about the book of Galatians, and Davis repented for her sins and “pledged the rest of her life to the service of the Lord.”

In a statement, Davis explained that she decided to go to church that day to honor the dying wish of her mother-in-law.

“There I heard a message of grace and forgiveness and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ,” she wrote. “I am not perfect. No one is. But I am forgiven and I love my Lord and must be obedient to Him and to the Word of God.”

— She Has Cited Her Religious Views For Her Stance: Davis has said her religious beliefs have driven her to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses.

In court, she testified that she prayed and fasted before making the decision to defy the highest court of the land.

“It wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment decision,” she testified, according to The Courier-Journal. “It was thought out, and I sought God on it.”

The newspaper reports:

“On the stand … Davis described herself as an Apostolic Christian who believes marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman under the Bible — ‘God’s holy word’ — and said she contemplated her policy for months beforehand.

“She choked back tears at times as she argued that issuing licenses under her name would violate her religious beliefs, even if a deputy clerk performs the task in her stead.

” ‘If I say they are authorized, I’m saying I agree with it, and I can’t,’ Davis said.”

Davis Has Been Divorced Three Times: According to marriage licenses obtained by BuzzFeed, Davis has been married four times — twice to the same man.

She first married at age 18 in 1984. She later married Joe Davis in 1996. She married a third time in 2007 and then married Davis again in 2009.

Her marriage record has been used by critics to point out what they see as Davis’ hypocrisy. During a tense standoff with a gay couple on Tuesday, one man pointedly asked her what was the longest she had been with one partner.

In response, Davis’ attorney said that Davis acknowledged she had made “major mistakes” in the past.

“She’s regretful and sorrowful,” her attorney Mat Staver said, according to the AP. “That life she led before is not the life she lives now. She asked for and received forgiveness and grace. That’s why she has such a strong conscience.”

— She Was Elected To Her Position: Davis, a Democrat, won a 2014 election for Rowan County clerk handily — 53 percent to 46 percent.

Davis took the keys of the office from her mother, Jean Bailey, who held the position for 37 years.

The night Davis won, she gave an interview to The Morehead News.

“My words can never express the appreciation but I promise to each and every one that I will be the very best working clerk that I can be and will be a good steward of their tax dollars and follow the statutes of this office to the letter,” Davis said.

— She Can’t Be Fired: Because Davis is an elected official and is accountable to the voters, she can’t be fired from her job.

According to a report by the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, Davis would have to be removed by the legislature. According to the Kentucky constitution, she would have to be impeached by the state’s House of Representatives and tried by the state’s Senate.

As the Research Commission points out, “because it is a reversal of the inherent power of the people in a democratic society to choose those who govern, it is a power rarely exercised.”

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McDonald’s: You Deserve A Hash Brown All Day

By Laura Wagner on September 2nd, 2015 | Last updated: September 2, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Starting Oct. 6, Egg McMuffins, hotcakes, hash browns and more will be available all day at McDonald’s.

On Tuesday, the company officially approved the decision to offer breakfast items all day at its more than 14,000 U.S. locations, which generally stopped selling the menu items around 10:30 or 11 a.m. The restaurant giant has been testing the all-day breakfast plan at select locations in the U.S. since this spring, and based on the results, franchises voted in favor of expanding the offering.

McDonald’s USA President Mike Andres is optimistic the expansion could revitalize McDonald’s drooping sales.

“This is the consumers’ idea. This is what they want us to do,” Andres said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “That’s why I think this could be the catalyst for our turnaround.”

McDonald’s says that 25 percent of its U.S. sales are from breakfast items, and the extended time window for breakfast menu items could mean an uptick in sales. The new strategy, however, required some not-insignificant infrastructural adjustments to accommodate the change.

The Journal reports:

“McDonald’s restaurants are built to produce lunch and dinner items using the same equipment that makes breakfast but not at the same time, so operators needed to add or change equipment and processes.

“Operators needed separate grills to ensure that raw eggs don’t come into contact with burgers. The task force identified a small model for eggs that sits on rolling carts, which carry utensils used just for eggs and can be moved for the best fit in each McDonald’s kitchen.

“Operators also needed new toasters, because existing units can only be adjusted to warm either hamburger buns or muffins, which toast at different temperatures. Now, most restaurants are being outfitted with two toasters connected together that can toast both buns and muffins at the same time.

“Altogether, the investment can range from $500 to $5,000 per restaurant, depending on what equipment franchisees already have, a McDonald’s spokeswoman said. Many franchisees have already installed the new equipment.”

Although the nationwide all-day breakfast rollout is still more than a month away, McDonald’s has already tweeted directly at more than 100,000 Twitter users who expressed an interest in all-day breakfast.

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U.S. Attorney General: ‘This Violence Against All Of Us’ Must End

By Carrie Johnson on September 2nd, 2015 | Last updated: September 2, 2015 at 4:03 pm

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has strongly condemned shootings of law enforcement officers in Texas and Illinois and issued an unequivocal message of support for police.

“We have had four more guardians slain, and frankly our hearts are broken,” the attorney general said Wednesday in remarks to a fair housing conference in Washington, D.C. “I offer the families of these officers my condolences, and I ask that all of us come together and keep them in our prayers.”

Lynch, the first black woman to serve as the nation’s top federal law enforcement officer, pointed out that she spent “virtually my entire career” working closely with agents, officers and investigators.

“I know these men and women have volunteered to take on the most challenging and important jobs that we have here,” she said. “They do this for us; they move us aside and they run into danger for us. And so please again keep them in your prayers.”

Earlier this week, President Obama called the widow of a Harris County, Texas, sheriff’s deputy killed while he was pumping gas. The president said targeting of police officers is “totally unacceptable,” according to White House officials who provided a read-out of the call.

In recent days, current and former law enforcement officials had pressed top administration officials to speak out on violence against police. And some advocacy groups have called on the executive branch and Congress to make murder of law enforcement officers a hate crime.

Lynch used her remarks at the housing conference to decry a wider spate of violence in recent months, from the slaying of two Virginia reporters on live television to the deaths of five service members in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the killing of nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.

“This violence against all of us, regardless of what uniform any of us wear, has to end,” Lynch said.

She said federal and local law enforcement officials would meet in Detroit later this month to discuss ways to reduce violence.

“The Department of Justice stands ready to support law enforcement around this country as they continue to fight every day to protect the communities that they serve and of which they are a vital part,” Lynch added. “And we also stand with every community member, police and civilian alike, as they all work towards a safer community for us all.”

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Obama Secures Enough Support For Iran Deal In Congress

By Brakkton Booker on September 2nd, 2015 | Last updated: September 2, 2015 at 9:03 pm

Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced Wednesday that she will support the Iran nuclear agreement, giving the White House the final vote needed to protect the accord from a Republican-led effort to defeat the measure.

With her endorsement, Mikulski became the crucial 34th vote needed to sustain President Obama’s expected veto should Congress pass a measure to block the agreement.

In a statement, Mikulski says:

“No deal is perfect, especially one negotiated with the Iranian regime. I have concluded that this [agreement] is the best option available to block Iran from having a nuclear bomb. For these reasons, I will vote in favor of this deal. However, Congress must also reaffirm our commitment to the safety and security of Israel.”

Congress is set to vote on a resolution of disapproval when it returns from the summer recess later this month.

Mikulski’s support comes a day after two other Democratic holdouts, Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, announced they were backing the measure.

Only two Senate Democrats have announced they will not support the deal: New York’s Chuck Schumer and New Jersey’s Bob Menendez.

No Senate Republicans have expressed support for the Iran deal.

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Baltimore Judge Lets Charges Against Officers Stand In Freddie Gray Case

By Eyder Peralta on September 2nd, 2015 | Last updated: September 2, 2015 at 8:03 pm

Update at 11:52 a.m. ET. Judge Denies Two Key Motions:

A judge in Baltimore handed prosecutors two pretrial victories on Wednesday in relation to the Freddie Gray case, a 25-year-old man who died after suffering injuries in police custody.

NPR’s Jennifer Ludden reports that the judge rejected a motion to dismiss charges against six police officers who were allegedly involved in Gray’s arrest and death. And the judge also dismissed a motion that sought to remove Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby from the case.

Later in the day, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams also ordered separate trials for the officers.

Wednesday was the first day of hearings on the case. It’s been a day marked by protests and tension in a city that saw days of protests and one night of riots following Gray’s death.

Our Original Post Continues:

A court in Baltimore will begin hearings today on the death of a 25-year-old black man.

Six police officers have been charged in the arrest and the subsequent death of Freddie Gray.

NPR’s Jennifer Ludden filed this report for our Newscast unit:

“Riots erupted last April after Gray died of a severe spinal injury. That happened while Gray was being transported in the back of a police van.

“The driver is charged with second degree murder, three others with manslaughter, and two more officers with lesser charges.

“Today’s hearing will consider pre-trial motions calling for the case to be dismissed, and for the state’s attorney to be recused. At issue is also whether the six officers will face trial next month together, or separately. Next week, another hearing will consider whether to move the trial out of Baltimore.”

The Baltimore Sun reports that activists staged protests at the courthouse and across the city as the hearings began.

“Our message is pretty obvious. Do not drop the charges. No change in venue. Do not recuse Marilyn Mosby,” Sharon Black, of the Baltimore People’s Power Assembly, told the Sun.

Mosby is the Baltimore state’s attorney who catapulted into the national spotlight after she announced charges against the officer at a dramatic and emotional press conference.

The Gray case resulted in one night of riots and days of peaceful protests in Baltimore.

In May, the Justice Department, prompted by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, opened a civil rights investigation into the Baltimore Police Department.

Update at 11:44 a.m. ET. Judge Denies Motion To Dismiss Charges:

The AP just moved this alert:

“Judge denies motion to dismiss charges against 6 police officers in death of black man.”

NPR’s Jennifer Ludden reports that the judge also denied a motion to remove the state’s attorney from the case.

Update at 10:07 a.m. ET. One Protester Arrested:

NPR’s Evie Stone, who is in Baltimore, reports that protesters outside the hearing marched through downtown Baltimore.

Some protesters blocked a street and the helicopter above called for their dispersal. One of them was arrested, Evie reports.

Evie says she saw police put a taser on the protester’s back, but she was not sure if it had been deployed. Police put the protester in a police van and eventually moved him to an ambulance.

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For Second Day, Stranded Migrants Camp Out At Train Station In Budapest

By Eyder Peralta on September 2nd, 2015 | Last updated: September 2, 2015 at 11:03 am

For a second day, thousands of stranded migrants, including refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, have camped out at the main train station in Budapest.

As we’ve reported, the Hungarian government was allowing the migrants to leave without a passport check, but on Tuesday migrants were barred from boarding trains that were headed toward Western Europe.

Reporting from the Keleti Railway Station in Budapest, Joanna Kakissis tells our Newscast unit that the train station has become the latest flashpoint in this migrant crisis. She filed this report:

“Malek Hibab is a Syrian computer technician and father of two who’s camped outside the Keleti train station. He’s got money to buy a ticket bound for Munich. And he needs to get there to claim asylum — and bring his children from Syria.

“He doesn’t want handouts, he says, weeping. Just safe passage.

” ‘No need money, no need anything,’ he says. ‘My children now in danger — big danger.’

“None of the refugees and migrants want to stay in Hungary. And Hungary doesn’t want them.

“The Hungarian government allowed them to travel on Monday, then abruptly reversed course, saying it’s now enforcing European Union border rules.”

The Guardian reports that the closure was prompted, at least in part, by pressure from other European Union members trying to cope with the mass influx of migrants.

The paper reports that on Wednesday, the migrants protested outside the station.

“Freedom, freedom,” they chanted.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports that migrants continue to pour into Greece.

The BBC adds:

“Some 2,000 people, mostly from the Middle East, remain stranded outside a railway station in Hungary after police stopped them travelling through the EU.

“The EU’s border control agency, Frontex, says 23,000 migrants arrived in Greece last week alone — an increase of 50% on the previous week.”

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Kentucky Marriage License Dispute ‘Up To Courts,’ Governor Says

By Bill Chappell on September 1st, 2015 | Last updated: September 2, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Kentucky’s Gov. Steve Beshear says he’s powerless to stop Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis from refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples — something she has done for consecutive days, flouting rulings from federal courts that include the Supreme Court and prompting a motion to hold her in contempt of court.

“I have no legal authority to relieve her of her statutory duty by executive order or to remove her from office,” Beshear says, issuing a statement in which he also says he won’t call a special session to give the state Legislature a chance to rewrite Kentucky’s statute about county clerks’ power.

As Eyder noted for the Two-Way Tuesday morning, when Davis was asked by same-sex-marriage advocates Tuesday under what authority was she allowed to refuse a request for a marriage license, she replied, “under God’s authority.”

In the latest legal development, plaintiff April Miller, who along with Karen Roberts was denied a marriage license Tuesday morning, filed a motion in district court to hold Davis in contempt. The motion, which the ACLU of Kentucky filed on Miller’s behalf, calls for Judge David L. Bunning “to impose financial penalties sufficiently serious and increasingly onerous to compel Davis’ immediate compliance without further delay.”

The plaintiffs do not want Davis jailed, the motion says.

“She was ordered back to court on Thursday, to determine whether she will be held in contempt for her actions,” Kentucky Public Radio’s Ryland Barton reports for All Things Considered.

Davis issued her own statement Tuesday — here’s a section, from member station WFPL:

“I never imagined a day like this would come, where I would be asked to violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage. To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience. I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will.”

Acknowledging that there are “obviously strong feelings on both sides of this issue,” Beshear says, “the United States Supreme Court has spoken and same-sex marriage is now legal in Kentucky and the rest of the United States.”

But he adds that Kentucky’s Legislature “has placed the authority to issue marriage licenses squarely on county clerks by statute,” leaving the governor’s office with no power in the matter.

After the Supreme Court ruled this summer that same-sex couples have the right to marry, Davis repeatedly filed for a stay that would allow her to refuse marriage licenses to such couples. But with each filing, she was turned away by federal district and appeals courts — including, on Monday, by the Supreme Court.

“The future of the Rowan County clerk is now in the hands of the courts,” Beshear said Tuesday. Explaining his decision not to call a special session, the governor added:

“The General Assembly will convene in four months and can make any statutory changes it deems necessary at that time. I see no need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money calling a special session of the General Assembly when 117 of 120 county clerks are doing their jobs.”

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