TIME indycar

Aleshin Hospitalized After Fontana IndyCar Crash

Mikhail Aleshin
Mikhail Aleshin of Russia drives on track during practice for the IndyCar Honda Indy 200 race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, on Aug. 2, 2014 Tom E. Puskar—AP

Rookie IndyCar driver Mikhail Aleshin was hospitalized in serious but stable condition on Friday night

(FONTANA, Calif.) — Rookie IndyCar driver Mikhail Aleshin was hospitalized in serious but stable condition Friday night after a frightening crash in the final practice session for the series season finale.

Aleshin was taken away from the Fontana track in an ambulance and airlifted to nearby Loma Linda University Medical Center. The Russian driver has broken ribs and a broken right collarbone along with a concussion and chest injuries, an IndyCar spokesperson said.

At least three drivers played a role in the crash in Turn 4, which had a gaping hole in the catch fencing and a wheel wrapped in the fence after Aleshin’s car violently flew up against it.

Aleshin, who drives for Sam Schmidt, spun when he went below the white line in the turn. He slid back up the track and collided with Charlie Kimball in a shower of sparks and smoke, sending Aleshin’s car flying into the catch fence while spinning.

Kimball improbably escaped serious injury, walking away from his ravaged car. Debris was strewn all over the track as safety personnel gathered around the wreck of Aleshin, who was removed on a stretcher.

Aleshin is the first Russian driver in IndyCar history, joining a team with title contender Simon Pagenaud this year after a career in open-wheel racing in Europe. He is 15th in the overall points standings with seven top-10 finishes this season, including a career-best fifth-place finish at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis in May.

The 27-year-old Aleshin also had several run-ins with Sebastien Bourdais earlier in the season, and he was involved in an unusual crash with Juan Pablo Montoya in Toronto.

Montoya was stalled in a tire barrier when Aleshin spun into the back of his car. Aleshin then slid under Montoya, leaving tire marks on Aleshin’s helmet and requiring a tow truck to lift Montoya’s car off Aleshin.

The two-mile Fontana track is a fast, high-banked oval with well-worn, bumpy and occasionally dusty asphalt, providing a challenge even for veteran drivers. Helio Castroneves won the pole for Saturday’s race with an average speed of more than 218 mph in his qualifying lap Friday, when temperatures reached 100 degrees in Fontana.

Although IndyCar racing on ovals can be spectacular, the risk factor is high. Dan Wheldon was killed in a 15-car accident in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas, another high-banked oval.

The IndyCar series finale is scheduled for Saturday night. Aleshin was eighth in qualifying earlier Friday, easily the best finish by a rookie.

TIME Lesotho

Lesotho Military Says It Has Disarmed Police

Observers fear another coup

(JOHANNESBURG) — Lesotho’s military seized two police stations Saturday as gunfire rang out in the capital of the mountainous kingdom. The country’s prime minister said the actions amounted to a coup, though an army spokesman said the soldiers were only securing the country.

Political tensions have been high in the tiny kingdom that is completely surrounded by South Africa since June when there was a power struggle after Prime Minister Thomas Thabane suspended parliament to dodge a vote of no confidence. At the time, South Africa warned against simmering conflict.

“We are calling on the commander of the armed forces to return to the barracks and allow the democratically elected government to return to its business,” Clayson Monyela, spokesman for South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operations, said Saturday.

He said actions by Lesotho’s military bore the hallmarks of a coup d’etat, but added, “The situation in Lesotho is still unfolding. No one has claimed to take over government … so we are monitoring that … our interest is to see it resolved through peaceful means.”

The military’s actions forced the prime minister to go into hiding, said Monyela. However, the prime minister had earlier told BBC that he is in South Africa visiting his daughter and would return to Lesotho Sunday. Calls to the prime minister’s spokesman and office were not answered.

Monyela said the 15-nation regional group, the Southern African Development Community, will intervene and they are trying to bring all players to the table for talks at this time.

When asked if South Africa would send military, Monyela said that wasn’t under consideration at this time.

“We prefer peaceful resolution to any crisis, particularly if it’s a political crisis … Such things become last resorts,” he said.

Lesotho’s defense forces spokesman Ntlele Ntoi played down the events.

“As we speak now, the situation in Lesotho, in the capital, is back to normal. It’s business as usual,” he told The Associated Press.

The military had gathered intelligence that the police were going to arm factions participating in a demonstration planned for Monday by one of the coalition parties, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, he said. The military disarmed police in the capital, Maseru, to avoid bloodshed, Ntoi said.

An exchange of gunfire between the military, youths and police injured one soldier and four policemen, he said.

“The arms have been removed and they are in military custody. The military has returned to the barracks,” Ntoi said, denying reports of any coup attempt. “We are not in a position now or in the future to stage a coup. All we do is to carry out our mandate to secure our country and property.”

He said that the military did not know if the march will still take place Monday.

Ntoi said he had heard reports that radio stations had been down for a few hours. He said he could not say if they were down for technical problems or because of the military.

But Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane told South Africa’s eNCA television that the military actions amounted to a coup. He said he did not give permission for the action and that something like this should not be happening in a democratic state. He is going to meet with South African officials, and expects South Africa to help his government restore law and order, he said.

Bernard Ntlhoaea, a guard at the U.S. Embassy in Maseru, confirmed that gunfire was heard in the capital early Saturday.

“The military has been moving around from 3 o’clock in the morning, occupying police stations in Maseru and moving around to other districts,” said Ntlhoaea. He said the military was armed and he saw at least one armored personnel carrier on the streets.

The landlocked country’s first coalition government was formed in 2012 after competitive elections that ousted the 14-year incumbent Pakalitha Mosisili, who peacefully stepped down from power. The coalition has since been fragile.

Lesotho has seen unrest in its past and has seen a number of military coups since gaining independence from Britain in 1966.

The constitutional government was restored in 1993, after seven years of military rule. Violent protests and a military mutiny in 1998 came after a contentious election prompted intervention by South African military forces. Political stability returned after constitutional reforms, and parliamentary elections were peacefully held in 2002.

South Africa’s Democratic Alliance Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said “today’s events come after heightened political tensions in June this year, which led to the country’s parliament being suspended, as a result of a breakdown of the coalition government.”

Lesotho’s military seized two police stations Saturday as gunfire rang out in the capital of the mountainous kingdom. The country’s prime minister said the actions amounted to a coup, though an army spokesman said the soldiers were only securing the country.

Political tensions have been high in the tiny kingdom that is completely surrounded by South Africa since June when there was a power struggle after Prime Minister Thomas Thabane suspended parliament to dodge a vote of no confidence. At the time, South Africa warned against simmering conflict.

“We are calling on the commander of the armed forces to return to the barracks and allow the democratically elected government to return to its business,” Clayson Monyela, spokesman for South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Co-operations, said Saturday.

He said actions by Lesotho’s military bore the hallmarks of a coup d’etat, but added, “The situation inLesotho is still unfolding. No one has claimed to take over government … so we are monitoring that … our interest is to see it resolved through peaceful means.”

The military’s actions forced the prime minister to go into hiding, said Monyela. However, the prime minister had earlier told BBC that he is in South Africa visiting his daughter and would return to LesothoSunday. Calls to the prime minister’s spokesman and office were not answered.

Monyela said the 15-nation regional group, the Southern African Development Community, will intervene and they are trying to bring all players to the table for talks at this time.

When asked if South Africa would send military, Monyela said that wasn’t under consideration at this time.

“We prefer peaceful resolution to any crisis, particularly if it’s a political crisis … Such things become last resorts,” he said.

Lesotho’s defense forces spokesman Ntlele Ntoi played down the events.

“As we speak now, the situation in Lesotho, in the capital, is back to normal. It’s business as usual,” he told The Associated Press.

The military had gathered intelligence that the police were going to arm factions participating in a demonstration planned for Monday by one of the coalition parties, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, he said. The military disarmed police in the capital, Maseru, to avoid bloodshed, Ntoi said.

An exchange of gunfire between the military, youths and police injured one soldier and four policemen, he said.

“The arms have been removed and they are in military custody. The military has returned to the barracks,” Ntoi said, denying reports of any coup attempt. “We are not in a position now or in the future to stage a coup. All we do is to carry out our mandate to secure our country and property.”

He said that the military did not know if the march will still take place Monday.

Ntoi said he had heard reports that radio stations had been down for a few hours. He said he could not say if they were down for technical problems or because of the military.

But Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane told South Africa’s eNCA television that the military actions amounted to a coup. He said he did not give permission for the action and that something like this should not be happening in a democratic state. He is going to meet with South African officials, and expects South Africa to help his government restore law and order, he said.

Bernard Ntlhoaea, a guard at the U.S. Embassy in Maseru, confirmed that gunfire was heard in the capital early Saturday.

“The military has been moving around from 3 o’clock in the morning, occupying police stations in Maseru and moving around to other districts,” said Ntlhoaea. He said the military was armed and he saw at least one armored personnel carrier on the streets.

The landlocked country’s first coalition government was formed in 2012 after competitive elections that ousted the 14-year incumbent Pakalitha Mosisili, who peacefully stepped down from power. The coalition has since been fragile.

Lesotho has seen unrest in its past and has seen a number of military coups since gaining independence from Britain in 1966.

The constitutional government was restored in 1993, after seven years of military rule. Violent protests and a military mutiny in 1998 came after a contentious election prompted intervention by South African military forces. Political stability returned after constitutional reforms, and parliamentary elections were peacefully held in 2002.

South Africa’s Democratic Alliance Parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane said “today’s events come after heightened political tensions in June this year, which led to the country’s parliament being suspended, as a result of a breakdown of the coalition government.”

TIME

Federal Judge Halts Key Part of Texas Abortion Law

Abortion rights activists protest outside a U.S. federal court in Austin
Abortion rights activists protest outside a U.S. federal court in Austin, Aug. 4, 2014. Jon Herskovitz—Reuters

(AUSTIN, Texas) — A federal judge Friday threw out new Texas abortion restrictions that would have effectively closed more than a dozen clinics in the state.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel sided with clinics that sued over one of the most disputed measures of a sweeping anti-abortion bill signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2013. The ruling stops new restrictions that would have left seven abortion facilities in Texas by Sept. 1. There are currently 19 abortion providers in the state, according to groups challenging the law.

“The overall effect of the provisions is to create an impermissible obstacle as applied to all women seeking a previability abortion,” Yeakel wrote in his 21-page ruling.

The trial in Texas was the latest battle over tough new abortion restrictions sweeping across the U.S. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who is the favorite to become governor next year, was expected to appeal.

The law would have required abortion facilities in Texas to meet hospital-level operating standards, which supporters say will protect women’s health.

Clinics called it a backdoor effort to outlaw abortions, which has been a constitutional right since the Roe v. Wade ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973.

The more stringent Texas requirements — such as mandatory operating rooms and air filtration systems — would have effectively shuttered 18 licensed abortion clinics in Texas. Some already no longer offer abortions after another part of the 2013 bill required doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Similar laws about admitting privileges have been blocked by federal courts in Mississippi, Kansas and Wisconsin.

Attorneys for the state denied that women would be burdened by fewer abortion facilities, saying nearly 9 in 10 women in Texas would still live within 150 miles of a provider. Critics say that still leaves nearly a million Texas women embarking on drives longer than three hours to get an abortion.

Opposition to the Texas law was so visible that Democrat Wendy Davis launched her campaign for governor behind the celebrity she achieved through a nearly 13-hour filibuster last summer that temporarily blocked the bill in the state Senate.

Her opponent in November is Abbott.

TIME

49ers Linebacker Aldon Smith Suspended by NFL

(SANTA CLARA, Calif.) — San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith has been suspended for nine games by the NFL after a series of off-field legal issues.

A statement Friday from the league said Smith had violated the NFL’s substance abuse and personal conduct policies.

Smith won’t be eligible to return until Nov. 10, the day after the 49ers’ game against the New Orleans Saints.

“Our organization has known this decision would come and we have prepared for it as a team,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. “Aldon has taken responsibility for his actions and has continued to show growth personally and professionally. We will continue to support him, but it is time to put this matter behind us and focus on the season ahead.”

The 24-year-old Smith, one of the NFL’s top pass rushers, missed five games last season to undergo treatment at an in-patient facility following his DUI arrest Sept. 20.

Just before training camp began last month, the 24-year-old Smith was sentenced to serve three years of probation and to spend 11 days with a work crew after he pleaded no contest to drunken driving and weapons charges.

He has repeatedly said he has been sober since his DUI arrest last September. Smith played in a 27-7 home loss to the Colts on Sept. 22, two days after he was arrested and jailed on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession. After the game, he publicly apologized for his behavior and later announced he would leave for treatment.

While the Niners went on a five-game winning streak without him, Smith’s menacing presence was sorely missed. The team still picked up his 2015 contract option this spring.

In his latest run-in with the law, Smith was arrested April 13 at Los Angeles International Airport. Police said Smith was randomly selected for a secondary screening and became uncooperative with the process, telling a TSA agent that he had a bomb. No charges were filed.

In November, he pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon, stemming from a June 2012 party at his home. Investigators said several shots were fired, two partygoers were injured and Smith was stabbed. In the subsequent investigation, prosecutors say detectives found five unregistered, illegal weapons in Smith’s house.

Last season, Smith finished with 8 1/2 sacks and 34 tackles in 11 games with eight starts. He was initially worked back in slowly, but demonstrated he had stayed in shape while away.

Selected seventh overall in the 2011 draft out of Missouri, Smith had a franchise-record 19 1/2 sacks during the 2012 season for the 49ers, who lost to Baltimore in the Super Bowl after that season.

TIME

Stock Market Closes at Record High

The Standard & Poor’s 500 is ending the week at a record high after a day of quiet trading.

Chip maker Avago Technologies jumped nearly 8 percent after reporting earnings that beat analysts’ estimates.

The latest reports on the U.S. economy were mixed. Consumer sentiment improved in August, while spending fell and income growth slowed in July.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose six points, or 0.3 percent, to finish at 2,003.37, an all-time high, Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 18 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,098. The Nasdaq composite rose 22 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,580.

Bond prices barely budged. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held at 2.34 percent.

TIME

Stewart Says Ward’s Death Will Affect Him Forever

(HAMPTON, Ga.) — Speaking quietly and with a trembling voice, NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart said Friday that the death of Kevin Ward Jr. will “affect my life forever” as he returned to the track for the first time since his car struck and killed the fellow driver during a sprint-car race in New York three weeks ago.

“I’ve taken the last couple of weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way,” Stewart said. “It’s given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted. I miss my team, my teammates and I miss being back in the race car and I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.”

Stewart said he could not answer questions about the incident — it remains under police investigation — and he left the news conference after reading a short statement. Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood said it was “100 percent” Stewart’s decision to race and that his 43-year-old driver was “emotional” but ready to go on Sunday night in Atlanta.

The three-time NASCAR champion has not raced since his car hit Ward at an Aug. 9 sprint car event in upstate New York. Stewart pulled out of the race at Watkins Glen the next morning, then skipped races at Michigan and Bristol Motor Speedway.

Stewart, who was described by police as “visibly shaken” the night of Ward’s death, has been in seclusion ever since. Stewart’s only comment since the crash was a statement the day after the crash in which he said “there aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.”

“Tony has sent the family flowers and a card around the services, aside from that, he has been very respectful of their time to grieve,” Frood said. “It is very important to Tony to spend time with the family … but is being respectful.”

Ward had climbed from his car after it had spun while racing for position with Stewart. The 20-year-old walked down onto the racing surface waving his arms in an apparent attempt to confront Stewart.

Authorities said the first car to pass Ward had to swerve to miss hitting him. The front of Stewart’s car then appeared to clear Ward, but Ward was struck by the right rear tire and hurtled through the air. He died of blunt force trauma.

Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero has said investigators did not have any evidence to support criminal intent by Stewart. Povero said Thursday the investigation is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, the NASCAR superstar will move forward with his career and attempt to salvage his season.

NASCAR released a statement saying that Stewart was eligible to return because he “has received all necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities.” NASCAR said it would have no further comment until President Mike Helton speaks Friday afternoon.

Stewart, who has 48 career Cup wins in 542 starts, is one of the biggest stars in the garage. His peers have been protective of him as questions emerged in the aftermath of the crash, and it pained them that Stewart was grieving in private and had cut off communication with so many of them.

“Great to have Smoke back at the track,” tweeted Watkins Glen winner AJ Allmendinger.

“Glad to have my boss and my friend back at the track this weekend. #14 #SmokeWillRise,” said Tony Gibson, Danica Patrick’s crew chief at SHR.

NASCAR rules state a driver must attempt to either qualify or race the car in every points-paying event to be eligible for Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, unless a waiver is granted. There was no immediate word if NASCAR would grant that waiver.

Since Ward’s death, NASCAR has announced a rule that prohibits drivers from exiting from a crashed or disabled vehicle — unless it is on fire — until safety personnel arrive. Last week, Denny Hamlin crashed while leading at Bristol and stayed in his car until safety personnel arrived.

But Hamlin then exited his vehicle and angrily tossed a safety device at Kevin Harvick as he passed by moments later. He was not penalized.

TIME Military

U.S. Delivers Military Aid to Lebanese Army

(BEIRUT) — The United States has delivered an emergency shipment of weapons to Lebanon’s military, officials said Friday, part of a broader regional effort to combat the growing threat posed by Islamic extremists.

The Lebanese government requested the weapons after militants from Syria attacked the Lebanese border town of Arsal earlier this month, killing and kidnapping soldiers and police in the most serious spillover of violence into the tiny country from the neighboring civil war.

Photographs surfaced online Friday purporting to show the beheading of a Lebanese soldier who was seized during the Arsal incursion. The pictures were posted on a militant website and on Twitter by supporters of the Islamic State extremist group, but have not been confirmed by the Lebanese army.

The new weapons were displayed at a Beirut air base on Friday after arriving overnight. A sample of the weapons — mortars, M16-A4 assault rifles and anti-tank missiles — were placed on a white satin-covered table with camouflage netting.

“This is just the latest in a series of deliveries that have arrived in the last 36 hours,” U.S. ambassador David Hale said at the event. Hale said the U.S. had so far delivered 480 anti-tank guided missiles, over 1,500 M16-A4 rifles, and mortars. “More mortars, grenade launchers, machine guns, and anti-tank weapons will be arriving,” he said.

After Hale spoke, a U.S. military aircraft that landed at the air base was opened to reveal wooden boxes full of weaponry. “This aircraft is full, chock-full!” said Antonio Banchs, defense attache to the U.S. embassy, as he surveyed the goods.

The weapons shipment is part of a region-wide response — which is still taking shape — to the rapid advances of the Islamic State extremist group, which has seized vast swaths of Syria and Iraq and threatens several U.S. allies.

The U.S. has said it would bolster Kurdish forces with new weapons as they try to fend off advances by the Islamic State militants into their largely-autonomous region of northern Iraq. The U.S. is also now conducting airstrikes to push back the extremists in northern and western Iraq, its first direct military involvement in the country since troops withdrew at the end of 2011.

The U.S. is also mulling airstrikes in Syria, after long refusing to intervene in the three-year-old conflict, which is now a complex civil war.

Lebanese Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk warned Thursday that Arsal was still a “time-bomb ready to explode anytime.”

Before retreating earlier this month toward Syrian territory, the militants, including fighters of the Islamic State group, took with them some 28 captured Lebanese soldiers and police.

On Friday, they posted photos purporting to show one of them, Sergeant Ali Sayid, beheaded. The photos sparked a protest in northern Lebanon by families of the kidnapped soldiers.

Weeks earlier, a video of Sayid emerged in which he announced his defection from the Lebanese army to join the ranks of the Islamic State group. However, he appeared to have spoken under duress.

The Islamic State group has used violence, and images of violence, to strike fear into their rivals.

The Lebanese army had no comment, saying it was still investigating the photographs.

TIME Israel-Palestinian conflict

Palestinian Leader Says Hamas Caused Prolonged War

(RAMALLAH, West Bank) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has accused Hamas of needlessly extending fighting in the Gaza Strip, causing a high death toll.

Abbas told Palestine TV in remarks broadcast Friday that “it was possible for us to avoid all of that, 2,000 martyrs, 10,000 injured, 50,000 houses (damaged or destroyed).”

Israel and Hamas militants fought for 50 days before reaching a truce on Tuesday.

More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, including hundreds of civilians. Seventy one people on the Israeli side, including six civilians, were killed.

Several Egyptian mediated cease-fire attempts failed. Hamas eventually accepted almost the same truce offered at the beginning.

Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority runs the West Bank, formed a unity government backed by Hamas earlier this year. Abbas questioned the future of that arrangement in the interview.

TIME United Kingdom

Britain Raises Terror Threat Level

(LONDON) — Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May says the country has raised the terror threat level from substantial to severe, but says there is no specific threat.

The threat level means that a terrorist attack is considered “highly likely,” but May insisted Friday there is no information to suggest an attack is imminent. She says higher threat level is related to developments in Iraq and Syria.

Severe is the second-highest threat level.

May says the decision by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center is made on the basis of intelligence and is independent of government.

Britain has repeatedly expressed concern about British nationals traveling to the Middle East and returning to wage attacks in the U.K.

TIME Libya

Libyan Interim Government Submits Resignation

(TRIPOLI, Libya) — Libya’s interim government submitted its resignation to the newly elected parliament on Friday, raising the possibility that a more inclusive government will be formed, while militias in the capital accepted a U.N. call for a cease-fire.

The Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, said early Friday that it had submitted its resignation on Wednesday. It said in statement that it hopes the parliament chooses “a new government that represents all Libyan factions without exclusion.”

Al-Thinni’s government was at odds with militants who have taken over the capital, Tripoli. In stepping down, it has opened a door for a political solution to Libya’s violent divisions.

Militia Spokesman Ahmed Hadiya said in a statement to the media late Thursday that his group will “cooperate with the world.”

Hadiya’s coalition has sought to cement its control over the capital by reviving the outgoing, Islamist-led parliament, which disputes the legitimacy of the newly elected parliament.

Libya is witnessing the worst bout of violence since the toppling down of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

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