Reuters FYI: Erudite juveniles asservate sagacity

For the second year in a row, the Scripps National Spelling Bee crowned not one, but two “co-champions” last night. Eighth-graders Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalamexhausted the list of so-called “championship words,” which the bee selects ahead of time for the best of the best. (Thankfully, the bee doesn’t force competitors to spell into the night, sudden-death, “Hunger Games”-style.) Venkatachalam’s winning word was “nunatak,” while Shivashankar’s was “scherenschnitte.” They are way, way smarter than we all are and could ever hope to be.

Bust out the spellcheck and read on for more news you may have missed:

Remember: Nothing good ever happens after 2 a.m.

Miami Beach bans the sale of alcohol outside after 2 a.m., a regulation some tourists are regarding as a terrible hardship.

Video: A robot that turns into a snake

This is the end of days.

A debate as old as time

Were dinosaurs cold- or warm-blooded? You know you’ve been wondering.

In defense of the courthouse wedding

Reuters Money experts examine the virtues of doing your nuptials on the cheap.


Civil Liberties

War On Drugs

  • Two DEA agents and a local cop drinking at a South Florida sports bar initially claimed they had been attacked by a pair of cooks in March, including one cook who hit an agent over the head with a concrete block. Turns out, the DEA fabricated their report.
  • Ross Ulbricht was convicted back in February on seven charges, all related to the operation of the site called Silk Road, which used Tor-enabled anonymity and the cryptocurrency bitcoin to allow people to buy and sell often illegal items in safety and security, with the site providing an escrow service between buyer and seller to ensure both were satisfied. He was sentenced today to life in prison.

Election 2016

  • Rand Paul’s libertarian and anti-interventionist positions help him with the general public, but not so much with the Republicans he needs to get the nomination.
  • Presidential hopeful Chris Christie continues to brag about using the USA PATRIOT Act to lock up a ‘dangerous terrorist’ – even though the FBI masterminded his entire plot.


Science & Technology

  • Apple, Inc. has acquired Metaio, a German company whose software melds the physical world and computer-generated elements into video displays for an ‘augmented reality’ experience, according to a corporate filing that surfaced on Thursday. The terms were not disclosed.
  • The Cheetah-Bot designed by a team in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has just become more life-like. In its latest development, the quadruped robot can now leap over obstacles much like a real cheetah, and it can do it autonomously.


  • The Senate Armed Services Committee has added a “China Sea Initiative” to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). SASC Chairman Senator John McCain inserted the initiative to offer support – in the form of training and weapons – to allied countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. No one can say how many of those weapons will fall into the hands of local radicals and rebels.
  • Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of Kazakhstan, is eager to bring Russia closer to its southern neighbors in Central Asia, by proposing to extend a new highway project that goes from China all across Kazakhstan up to St. Petersburg.


Middle East and Levant

The US tried to deploy a version of the Stuxnet computer virus to attack North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme five years ago but ultimately failed, according to people familiar with the covert campaign.

The operation began in tandem with the now-famous Stuxnet attack that sabotaged Iran’s nuclear programme in 2009 and 2010 by destroying a thousand or more centrifuges that were enriching uranium. Reuters and others have reported that the Iran attack was a joint effort by US and Israeli forces.

According to one US intelligence source, Stuxnet’s developers produced a related virus that would be activated when it encountered Korean-language settings on an infected machine.

i really don’t understand it why western media whenever they write up about North Korea they also have to slap on some ridiculous photo of Kim Jong Un, or if it’s with South Korea a picture of some kimchi. and this is the guardian too. c’mon guardian!

i don’t know, since this story involved the United States let’s slap on some ridiculous picture of Obama and hotdogs for good measure:

Afternoon Headlines for Friday, May 29, 2015


“Exclusive: Air France faces new safety probe after freighter takeoff scare”

“Air France faces its second safety investigation in as many weeks after pilots were forced to recover in mid-takeoff after entering the wrong data into the computer of a cargo jet, airline and safety officials said.”


“I.S. seizes control of airport in Libya’s Sirte: Tripoli government”

“The Islamic State jihadist group has seized control of the airport in the city of Sirte after forces of a Tripoli-based Libyan government withdrew, a spokesman said Friday.”


“U.S. warns G7 of global economy ‘accident’ without Greece deal”    

“U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew repeated warnings not to minimize the global stability risk of Greece sliding out of the euro zone, even if most of its debt is no longer held by commercial banks.”

Associated Press

“Cuba removed from U.S. terror list”

“The Obama administration on Friday formally removed Cuba from a U.S. terrorism blacklist as part of the process of normalizing relations between the Cold War foes.”


“U.S. says China has placed mobile artillery on reclaimed island”

“The United States said on Friday that China had placed mobile artillery weapons systems on a reclaimed island in the disputed South China Sea, a development that Republican Sen. John McCain called ‘disturbing and escalatory.’”

New York Times

“Palestinian soccer association drops effort to suspend Israel from FIFA”

“The Palestinians dropped their bid to suspend Israel from international soccer competition at the last minute Friday, and agreed to instead form a committee of the sport’s governing body, FIFA, to handle their complaints of racism and discrimination.”

Associated Press

“Sepp Blatter wins re-election as FIFA president”

“Sepp Blatter was re-elected as FIFA president for a fifth term on Friday, chosen to lead world soccer despite separate U.S. and Swiss criminal investigations into corruption.”


“Southeast Asia vows to rescue ‘boat people;’ Myanmar seizes migrant vessel”

“Southeast Asian nations agreed on Friday to intensify search and rescue efforts to help vulnerable “boat people” stranded in the region’s seas, as Myanmar said its navy had seized a vessel off its coast with more than 700 migrants aboard.”


“Exclusive: U.S. tried Stuxnet-style campaign against North Korea but failed – sources”

“The United States tried to deploy a version of the Stuxnet computer virus to attack North Korea’s nuclear weapons program five years ago but ultimately failed, according to people familiar with the covert campaign.”


“Valcke confirms Russia, Qatar will host 2018, 2022 World Cups”

“FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke on Friday confirmed Russia and Qatar will host the World Cups in 2018 and 2022 respectively, despite the on-going corruption scandal affecting football’s governing body.”

Anti-Islam stunt outside Phoenix mosque faces counter-protest

A crowd associated with anti-Islam protesters who collected for a attention grabbing rally ahead of the Islamic Neighborhood Center within Phoenix, Az, has confronted a much bigger group of counter-protesters promoting peacefulness. Police needed to intervene to split up the two rallies. READ MORE: RT LIVE Sign up for RT! Such as […]

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Twin car bombs at top Baghdad hotels kill 10, wound 30


Car bombs exploded in the parking lots of two luxury hotels in central Baghdad late on Thursday, killing at least 10 people and wounding 30.

The first bomb targeted the Babylon hotel, where government officials often hold meetings and news conferences.

A few minutes later, a second one exploded near the Cristal Grand Ishtar – the former Sheraton – in an area which also includes a club and is crowded on Thursday nights.

Both hotels are popular with wealthy Iraqis and Westerners, including journalists and aid workers.

Earlier this year, Iraqi authorities lifted a decade-old night-time curfew on Baghdad, in an attempt to restore a sense of normalcy to the capital as security forces battle Islamic State militants who have taken over large parts of the country.

But the rate of bombings in Baghdad has increased since then.

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In Yemen, at least 75 people killed in Saudi-led aerial onslaught


Thunderous airstrikes hit Yemen’s capital, a Red Sea naval port and a border province Wednesday, killing at least 75 people and injuring more than 100 others, officials and residents said. It was believed to be the largest single-day death toll of the 2-month-old Saudi-led aerial offensive.

Middle EastSaudi-led air campaign in Yemen drags on with little progressSee all related

Terrified civilians cowered at home or rushed into the streets as massive secondary explosions rocked a residential neighborhood in the capital, Sana, following a hit on a special forces base known as the Central Security camp. Like many of the military installations and weapons caches targeted by weeks of airstrikes, the base lay close to densely populated civilian areas.

The force of the explosions blew out the windows in a nearby hospital, showering some patients with broken glass, residents said. One eyewitness, Saleh Dowed, blamed the size of the blasts on stored ordnance ignited by the airstrikes. “The fire was enormous,” he said.

The Health Ministry said at least 40 people died and scores more were hurt in the strikes in Sana, which was overrun months ago by Shiite Muslim Houthi rebels. The Saudi-led campaign has yet to drive the insurgents from the capital or from strongholds in the strategic city of Aden in the south.

Other main targets included the port of Hodeida, home to the country’s biggest naval base, which had been in the hands of the rebels and elements of Yemen’s armed forces that took up the insurgent cause. More bombs hit the province of Hajjah, which borders Saudi Arabia. Taken together, at least 35 people died in those strikes, officials said.

The Saudi-led regional forces launched their offensive March 26 against the Shiite rebels, who at the time were advancing on Aden. Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi had sought haven in the city, but he and his government fled to Saudi Arabia in the face of the Houthi onslaught.

Saudi Arabia, which is dominated by Sunni Muslims, considers the rebels a proxy for largely Shiite Iran. The Tehran government denies arming the insurgents, but has been strident in its criticism of the Sunni coalition’s Yemen campaign.

Fighting and bombardments have killed some 2,000 people and imperiled thousands of others, by international estimates. Yemen, which formerly imported much of what it consumed, is now short of food, fuel, medicines and crucial commodities after two months of a blockade meant to keep out weapons destined for Houthi hands.

Special correspondent Al-Alayaa reported from Sana and Times staff writer King from Alexandria, Egypt.

Follow @laurakingLAT on Twitter for news out of the Middle East

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

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China Strategy Outline Confirms Trends on the Ground, US Says


ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY JET—The Chinese “white paper” on defense strategy—which said Beijing plans to shift its armed forces’ focus toward maritime warfare—confirmed trends the U.S. has been monitoring for some time, a senior U.S. defense official said.

“I don’t think there were any surprises for us in the latest white paper,” the official told reporters traveling to Hawaii with Defense Secretary Ash Carter. “The trends described in…