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Dispatches

News | The Red Sox win the World Series for the third time in 10 years and more headlines from the past two weeks

Issue: "American bounty," Nov. 30, 2013

Wednesday, Oct. 30

Associated Press/Photo by David J. Phillip

Sox win again

One year after a 93-loss season, the newly managed Red Sox roared back to win the team’s third World Series title in 10 years. The Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals in six games, each game a battle between two iron-clad pitching staffs. Boston’s David Ortiz also hit the ball just about every time he came to bat, ending the Series with a .688 batting average.

Sebelius testifies

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified at the first of several congressional hearings on the disastrous rollout of Obamacare. Sebelius issued an apology for problems people experienced trying to sign up for insurance through the federal insurance exchanges. Sebelius has said the agency is hoping to get the site working normally by Nov. 30.

Communion crackdown 

Human rights groups said a Christian received 80 lashes in Iran for drinking communion wine, and three other Christians were sentenced to lashes for the same crime. Drinking alcohol is not illegal for non-Muslims in Iran, but Behzad Taalipasand, who received the lashes, is a convert from Islam. The punishment underscored a continuing crackdown on house churches in Iran, despite new president Hassan Rouhani’s promises to respect human rights.

Thursday, Oct. 31

Associated Press/Photo by Shiho Fukada

Stop-and-frisk win 

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked a lower judge’s ruling that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy was unconstitutional, and in a rare decision removed the lower judge from the case. The appeals court said that District Judge Shira Scheindlin had “run afoul of the code of conduct” governing judges “by a series of interviews and public statements” she gave after her ruling that showed a bias against the city. Judge Scheindlin declared stop-and-frisk unconstitutional because the policy tended to target minorities. The policy allows officers to stop and frisk anyone who looks suspicious. Despite the win for stop-and-frisk, the policy’s future does not look promising. The new mayor-elect of New York, Democrat Bill de Blasio, opposes the policy and will probably drop the appeal. 

Friday, Nov. 1

David McNew/Getty Images

Airport attack

A passenger shot and killed a TSA agent at a pre-security checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport and injured two other agents. Federal officers shot the suspect, Paul Ciancia, 23, of Los Angeles, and he remains in critical condition. Ciancia has no history of mental illness but sent worrisome text messages to his father in Pennsylvania shortly before the shooting. His father alerted police, who contacted police in Los Angeles, who arrived at Ciancia’s home soon after he had left for the airport.

Drone kill 

A U.S. drone killed the head of Pakistan’s Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, who had been tied to the attack on a CIA outpost in Afghanistan that killed seven Americans. The strike was a long-sought victory for U.S. intelligence but also added strain to relations with Pakistan. Mehsud had been preparing to enter peace talks with the Pakistani government. 

Abortion ruling 

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated most of Texas’ new abortion restrictions after a district judge had tossed them out. The ruling revived the law that requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The appeals court did toss out the law requiring doctors to abide by FDA regulations in prescribing the abortion drug regimen RU-486. The rulings were temporary, until the court hears the case in full later.

Saturday, Nov. 2

Richie Incognito
Associated Press/Photo by G. Newman Lowrance
Richie Incognito

Bully ball 

The NFL announced that it was suspending Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito after allegations that he harassed rookie offensive tackle Jonathan Martin and called him a racial slur. On Sunday Martin turned over texts and voice mails from Incognito to the league. Veteran players including Incognito also allegedly forced Martin to pay thousands of dollars for the veterans to travel to Las Vegas. Martin eventually had an emotional breakdown and went on the injury list. Various NFL players have vented to the press that Martin should have handled the bullying privately. “What people want to call bullying is something that is never going away from football,” wrote former Dolphins player Lydon Murtha. “This is a game of high testosterone, with men hammering their bodies on a daily basis. You are taught to be an aggressive person, and you typically do not make it to the NFL if you are a passive person.” The NFL is investigating the allegations.

Monday, Nov. 4

Naghmeh Abedini
Adelle M. Banks/RNS
Naghmeh Abedini

Dangerous move

American Iranian Pastor Saeed Abedini was moved from the frying pan to the fire; Iran had imprisoned Abedini in the notorious Evin prison, but moved him Nov. 4 to the dangerous Rajai Shahr prison, populated with murderers who often kill fellow prisoners. “This prison is where prisoners are sent to disappear,” said Ann Buwalda of the Jubilee Campaign. “I am more concerned now about his safety than at any other time during his imprisonment,” said Abedini’s wife, Naghmeh, in a statement. “He is truly defenseless in this prison. … I am grateful for everything our government has done in the past, but now during this most dangerous and uncertain time I once again call on our government–including President Obama–to fight for Saeed’s life and his freedom, to fight for this U.S. citizen.”

Abortion ruling, II 

The Supreme Court, after initially granting its first case on abortion regulations since 2007, declined to hear arguments on Oklahoma’s regulation of the abortion drug RU-486 and let the lower court ruling striking the regulation stand. The court simply said the case was “improvidently granted,” with no further explanation. The justices may be looking for a broader case to address the proliferation of new state abortion regulations. 

Tuesday, Nov. 5

Terry McAuliffe
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Terry McAuliffe

Election Day

In Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe won the governorship in an unexpected nail-biter with Republican Ken Cuccinelli. The Republican Party had largely abandoned Cuccinelli in terms of resources, and McAuliffe outspent him 2-to-1. Cuccinelli asserted that the failure of Obamacare’s launch brought him within striking distance of McAuliffe. In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie floated to reelection by a wide margin over Democratic state Senator Barbara Buono. Christie won big in one demographic typically difficult for Republicans: Hispanics. Christie may only serve a couple years of his new term if he decides to run for president in 2016. 

From India to Mars 

India’s space agency launched its first satellite with Mars as its destination, and with a much smaller price tag than similar NASA missions. The project has a budget of $73 million, compared to NASA’s $671 million Mars satellite set to launch in late November. If successful–the journey will take 10 months–India would be the first Asian country to reach Mars. China and Japan’s attempts to reach Mars have failed.

Thursday, Nov. 7

President Obama
Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci
President Obama

So sorry

President Barack Obama apologized that many Americans had lost their insurance policies after his repeated promise that they wouldn’t under his healthcare law. “I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me,” he said in an interview with NBC News. In 2009 Obama had said, “If you like your healthcare plan, you’ll be able to keep your healthcare plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.” Obama said his staff was looking into administrative options for helping those who had lost insurance and couldn’t afford the available policies. 

Navy crimes 

Navy officials revealed that a massive internal bribery case continues to expand in scope, as they arrested a third senior Navy official and opened a probe into two admirals. The case centers around a Navy contractor, Glenn Davis Marine, whose Malaysian CEO Leonard Glenn Francis allegedly bribed Navy officials with prostitutes and money. In exchange, officials allegedly helped Francis hold onto his contracts, and overpaid him in millions of dollars. According to prosecutors, several Navy moles may have leaked classified information to Francis so he could avoid investigators. 

Friday, Nov. 8

Yasser Arafat
Associated Press/Photo by Brennan Linsley
Yasser Arafat

Middle East murder mystery 

Swiss scientists investigating the 2004 death of former Palestinian National Authority President Yasser Arafat concluded that he died of radiation poisoning, likely by ingesting the radioactive substance polonium. A Soviet team confirmed that Arafat died “by toxic substance.” Arafat’s body was exhumed earlier this year so investigators could determine whether he was poisoned. It had been believed that Arafat died from an illness.

The question now is, Who poisoned him? Palestinian leaders point to Israel. Palestinian investigator Tawfik Tirawi called Israel “the first, fundamental, and only suspect in the assassination of Yasser Arafat.” Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, denied Israeli involvement: “Let me state as simply as I can: Israel did not kill Arafat.”

Saturday & Sunday, Nov. 9-10

Associated Press/Photo by Jean-Christophe Bott

Talking to Iran

Nuclear talks between Iran and the major world powers fell apart in Geneva after the United States had shown optimism that an accord was within reach. Initial reports said that France had scuttled the deal, but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry disputed that account. He said Iran objected to a deal that the major powers including France had agreed on. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had criticized the talks even before any deal took shape. The negotiators plan to meet again to try to find an interim settlement. Separately, Iran said it would allow UN inspectors into two of its nuclear facilities.

Sunday delivery 

The cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service (USPS) plans to test Sunday delivery for Amazon packages in New York and Los Angeles in an effort to earn some money as e-commerce grows. USPS didn’t disclose the financial terms of its deal with Amazon, but package services are one profitable slice of its business. Earlier this year USPS had tried to cut back mail delivery service on Saturdays to save money, a proposal that Congress rejected. USPS lost almost $16 billion last year.

Monday, Nov. 11

Kim Jong Un
Kyodo/Associated Press
Kim Jong Un

Korean killings 

North Korea publicly executed 80 people for minor offenses, according to a South Korean newspaper and a North Korean defectors’ group. The charges ranged from watching South Korean videos to possessing a Bible. One report said thousands of North Koreans were forced into a stadium to witness the brutal machine gun executions. The executions were evidence that young Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is no less brutal than his father, Kim Jong Il. 

Very few served 

As anticipated, the first enrollment numbers for the federal healthcare insurance exchanges were meager due to the dysfunctional website healthcare.gov. Only about 40,000 people have enrolled, according to federal officials, less than a 10th of the number officials had projected at this point. That number doesn’t give a picture of who actually bought insurance, because it includes users who simply put insurance plans in their online shopping carts. Meanwhile, more than 3.5 million Americans have reportedly had their insurance plans cancelled due to Obamacare mandates. The exchanges, which launched Oct. 1, cover 36 states and exist for individuals buying their own insurance. 

Tuesday, Nov. 12

Associated Press/Photo by Susan Walsh

US and American 

After suing to block the merger between US Airways and American Airlines in August, the Justice Department said it had reached a settlement and would allow the merger to go forward. Under the agreement the newly merged airlines will have to give up some of their flight slots at major cities like Boston, Dallas, New York, and Chicago, which could result in fewer flights to smaller communities. The Justice Department said the slots would allow in more competition and flights from smaller carriers like Southwest Airlines and JetBlue. The merger comes as American is emerging from bankruptcy, and is part of a pattern of consolidation in the airline industry. 

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