TIME Japan

Japanese Heat Wave Leaves 15 Dead, Thousands Hospitalized

Summer Heat Continues Across Japan
People walk under strong sunshine on July 25, 2014, in Osaka, Japan The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images

Even so, temperatures have not yet surpassed last summer, the hottest in the country's history

At least 15 people have died as a heat wave sweeps over Japan, bringing temperatures above 35°C (95°F) and sending an additional 8,000 people to the hospital with symptoms of heatstroke, Agence France-Presse reports.

By midafternoon on Tuesday, the mercury had climbed above 32°C (90°F) in Kumagaya, a famously hot city about 70 km (45 miles) northwest of Tokyo. In the capital, things were only marginally cooler.

This is not, however, anything especially new. Last summer marked Japan’s hottest on record, with temperatures reaching 41°C (106°F) in some parts of the archipelago.

[AFP]

TIME Mali

Doomed Air Algérie Flight Asked to Turn Back Before Crash

French military helicopters fly above the crash site of Air Algerie flight AH5017 near the northern Mali town of Gossi
French military helicopters fly above the crash site of Air Algérie Flight 5017 near the northern Mali town of Gossi on July 24, 2014 Souley Mane Ag Anara—Reuters

Air Algérie Flight 5017, which went down in Mali, was the third airliner to suffer a disastrous crash in a week

Shortly before ground controllers lost contact with Air Algérie Flight 5017, the airliner’s crew requested to abandon its journey to Algiers and head back to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, eyeing foul weather on the radar.

The plane crashed in a remote corner of Mali shortly thereafter, killing all 118 passengers and crew members on board.

Its black-box flight recorders arrived in Paris on Monday, Agence France-Presse reports, offering investigators insight into the July 24 tragedy — the third airline disaster in just over a week, coming after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine and the unsuccessful landing of TransAsia Airways Flight 222 in Taiwan.

Authorities had previously known that the Air Algérie plane requested a change of route but not a return to its point of origin.

[AFP]

TIME States

Family of Georgia Teen Found Dead at School Files New Lawsuit

Kendrick Johnson rally in Atlanta, Georgia
Jacquelyn Johnson, center, and her husband Kenneth, right, speak at a rally on behalf of their dead son Kendrick Johnson at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Dec. 11, 2013 Erik S. Lesser—EPA

They insist that the death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was murder, and that its aftermath has been a comprehensive cover-up

The family of a Georgia teenager found dead in his high school gymnasium last year has sued school officials, accusing them of ignoring patterns of harassment that some believe culminated in his murder.

On Jan. 11, 2013, a group of students at Lowndes High School in the south Georgia town of Valdosta discovered the body of Kendrick Johnson rolled up in an exercise mat in the school gymnasium. His death, local police investigators determined, was an accident — he had climbed into the center of the mat to fetch a shoe and got stuck — but his parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, were not convinced.

They have filed two lawsuits against the school system in the past three months, CNN reports, both claiming that the relevant authorities willfully ignored a string of incidents in which white students antagonized Kendrick, who was black. The most recent, filed this week, points directly at Lowndes High School’s principal, Jay Floyd, as well as Lowndes County’s Board of Education and its superintendent.

Because of their indifference, the suit says, Kendrick was “violently assaulted, severely injured, suffered great physical pain and mental anguish, and subjected to insult and loss of life.”

His parents insist that his death was a homicide, and its aftermath a conspiratorial cover-up. After local authorities officially dismissed this claim, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson solicited the services of an independent pathologist, who identified “unexplained apparent nonaccidental blunt force trauma” to their son’s neck. When that pathologist, Dr. Bill Anderson, opened up Kendrick’s body for a second autopsy, he discovered its organs were missing, and it had been stuffed with newspaper.

Coroners typically remove organs during the initial autopsy but are expected to replace them; Kendrick’s parents complained they were not consulted.

Federal agencies launched an official investigation last fall, but the process of justice has been torpid. An anonymous email sent in January listing four students responsible for Kendrick’s death is not credible, authorities say.

[CNN]

TIME Television

Sarah Palin Has Launched Her Own Internet Television Network

The former vice-presidential candidate envisions The Sarah Palin Channel to function as a "community," she tells viewers in a video clip on the homepage

+ READ ARTICLE

Sarah Palin has never been uncomfortable with her status as one of America’s most watchable celebrities, which she’s enjoyed since first joining John McCain’s presidential campaign as a virtually unknown former governor of Alaska six years ago next month. She gave us a memoir, she gave us another memoir, she landed a spot at Fox News. “She was hot and got ratings,” network president Roger Ailes told the Associated Press.

Now, she’ll be the star of her own internet television network, Variety reports, after The Sarah Palin Channel launched Sunday night.

In an introductory video posted on the network’s website, Palin digs at the status quo of information and politics in the U.S., and while she doesn’t ever directly address the perimeters of party lines, there is obvious reason to suspect that she’s gunning for a conservative audience.

“We’ll go directly to the root of the problems confronting America,” she says in the clip. “We’ll talk about the issues that the mainstream media won’t talk about. We’ll look at the ideas that I think Washington doesn’t want you to hear.”

The 50-year-old describes the network as a “community” where, for a subscription fee of either $9.95 a month or $99.95 a year, users can post footage to the site, send Palin their own questions and, should they so desire, read a blog curated by Bristol Palin, her 24-year-old daughter.

Palin’s not the first candidate to lose an election and then embrace the media. Aug. 1 marks the ninth anniversary of the launch of Current TV, Al Gore’s since-folded television network, which Al Jazeera bought last year.

 

TIME apps

For a Few Hours, Uber Riders Could Learn Their Client Rating

An Uber app is seen on an iPhone in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Dec. 19, 2013.
An Uber app is seen on an iPhone in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Dec. 19, 2013. Lucy Nicholson—Reuters

The app's software team quickly repaired the glitch, and passenger rankings were once again controversially private

Uber, as Valleywag’s Sam Biddle writes, “doesn’t care about being hated.” After all, the taxi service application earned a cool $18.2 billion valuation last month, in spite of a gallery of controversial corporate practices that has prompted critics of Silicon Valley to make a litany of accusations. Uber incommensurately raises prices during peak hours, holidays and weather emergencies. Uber sabotages its competition. Uber ranks its customers.

It ranks its customers, yes. At the end of a ride, the application asks the passenger to give his or her driver a ranking on a five star system; the drivers, as the internet has only recently learned, are asked the same of their clients. The underlying logic is obvious and not really anything new — if your credit score is bad, a bank is going to hesitate before doing business with you — but users were nonetheless kind of perturbed, given the secrecy surrounding the passenger rankings. (“Uber Anxiety,” New York Magazine calls it.)

On Sunday, however, a software engineer named Aaron Landy posted to Medium step-by-step instructions on how a client can find his or her aggregate score, via some very simple skullduggery on the app’s mobile website. Uber’s programming team naturally caught wind of this and quickly swooped in to patch things up, but not before a number of Uber riders sought revelation.

By early Monday morning, one user’s attempts to learn his worth in the eyes of the benevolent transit god proved futile.

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 2.39.06 PM

Uber is, however, exploring ways of sharing passenger ratings in future versions of the app, or so they say. Meanwhile, the company expands — they celebrated the launch of service in Hong Kong and mainland China in the last few weeks — with the habit of incurring the wrath of local taxi drivers in each new territory.

TIME Television

When Peter Met Homer: A First Look at the Family GuySimpsons Crossover

Stewie Griffin watches Bart Simpson make a prank phone call in a preview of the upcoming crossover episode between Family Guy and The Simpsons Electronic Entertainment Expo—YouTube

The two shows have had a cordial rivalry for years, and the upcoming episode is highly anticipated — but some critics feel it's an unnecessary commercial gimmick

A five-minute preview of the eagerly awaited crossover episode between The Simpsons and Family Guy aired at Comic-Con 2014 in San Diego on Sunday.

The below clip of the episode, which will air as the premiere of Family Guy’s 13th season in late September, isn’t really enough to gauge how the hour-long special will turn out. The Griffins will somehow end up in Springfield; Peter Griffin and Homer Simpson will get along — they bond over donuts and beer — and then predictably won’t; Stewie will fawn over Bart’s antics.

But there’s room for optimism. Say what you will about their crassness and so on, but it is difficult to deny that both shows are blessed with some bright writers. We see this in the divergent evolution of the two series over time. Both began as routine caricatures of your Middle American family (a slovenly patriarch, a housewife who act and talks like just another frustrated shrew, et al) and over the years have matured into distinct pillars of popular culture.

For all the complexity The Simpsons’ humor has acquired — and the show is indeed better for it — it remains at its core a story about family. “The chief asset of The Simpsons,” Dennis Perkins wrote for AV Club after the premiere of its 25th season last September, “is the Simpsons themselves.” Its medium is cartoon, giving it license to be, well, cartoonish, imbuing it with a humor never found by laugh-track-dependent family sitcoms like Everybody Loves Raymond and All in the Family.

Family Guy, meanwhile, has become a delightfully bizarre and sometimes self-indulgent irreverent pantomime that can border on nihilism. As South Park famously mocked in a 2006 episode, the plot doesn’t matter as long as anyone and everyone is lampooned along the way, and the jokes are solid. And they are, most of the time.

And so the crossover will likely rely on the consciously self-referential comedy that has helped both series avoid staleness in relatively old age. (The Simpsons aired in 1989 and Family Guy a decade later; the former is the longest-running sitcom and animated series in American history.) Jokes come from the fact that the characters, after years on the air, are apparently now aware that they exist on animated television programs. Case in point: Peter’s attempt to buy a farm in season 11; the farm will later become a family-run meth lab.

“Somebody from Fox was supposed to call ahead,” he says. “They usually take care of it and I just go ahead and do stuff.”

The metacomic method, which has also helped sustain the more or less civil rivalry between the two shows over the years, can work well as a self-defense mechanism. Fox first announced the crossover episode last summer; many critics have since called it just another commercial gimmick. Brian, the Griffins’ dog (who is also an alcoholic and a repeatedly failed writer, if you want an example of how soon the show can go dark on you) appears to have read their concerns.

“This Springfield place seems nice. We should visit here again,” Lois Griffin says in the preview clip for the episode. “I don’t know, Lois,” Brian responds. “It kind of feels like a one-shot deal.”

 

TIME

BuzzFeed Fires Editor Over Plagiarism

US-MEDIA-IT-INTERNET
The logo of news website BuzzFeed is seen on a computer screen in Washington on March 25, 2014. Nicholas Kamm—AFP/Getty Images

Updated 11:20 a.m. ET

The popular social news site BuzzFeed announced the firing of an editor late Friday night after allegations of plagiarism surfaced online this week.

Benny Johnson was the site’s first “viral politics editor.” In a note to readers, the site’s editor said that a review of more than 500 posts authored by Johnson revealed 41 instances of plagiarism.

“Benny is a friend, colleague and, at his best, a creative force, but we had no choice other than letting him go,” wrote editor-in-chief Ben Smith.

Johnson apologized in a message sent on Twitter Saturday morning.

In one case, Johnson borrowed portions of text from a U.S. News & World Report story by journalist Rick Newman on the depravity of life in North Korea. In another, he used the exact phrasing of a five-year-old response on Yahoo! Answers on the German bombing of London during World War II.

Johnson, 28, came to BuzzFeed’s Washington bureau in December 2012 from Glenn Beck’s online publication, The Blaze.

TIME Companies

Walmart’s Head of U.S. Operations Will Step Down After Slump in Sales

A sign lists the current Walmart stock price at a Walmart Supercenter in Bentonville
A sign lists the current Walmart stock price at the Walmart Supercenter in Bentonville, Ark., on June 5, 2014 Rick Wilking — Reuters

His replacement has quickly ascended the ranks of the company's operations in Asia in recent years

Walmart announced on Thursday that Bill Simon, the president of its operations in the U.S., will leave the company next month after four years of leadership marked most recently by a decline in sales. Greg Foran, the New Zealand–born executive who just last month assumed his role as head of Walmart Asia, will take over from Simon from Aug. 9.

“Being asked to lead the Walmart U.S. business is a privilege that I don’t take lightly,” Foran said in a company statement. “I am excited to get started. The needs of our customers are changing dramatically, and we have an enormous opportunity to serve them in new and different ways.”

Foran will assume office at a time of uncertainty for the corporation, with five quarters of falling sales in the rearview mirror despite a recent surge in U.S. consumer confidence. A market analyst told Reuters that Walmart CEO Doug McMillon “wanted new blood” in the company to facilitate its efforts in online retail and general rebranding. Foran has been a rising star in Walmart: he left his position as Woolworths’ head of supermarkets in 2011 to take the reins of Walmart’s fledgling China project and was promoted to oversee the company’s expansion in Asia.

TIME justice

Execution Gone Awry Prompts Concern Over Dubious Lethal-Injection Drugs

Arizona Execution Drugs
With the state prison in the background, about a dozen death-penalty opponents pray as they await the execution of Joseph Wood in Florence, Ariz., on July 23, 2014 Associated Press

Many states won't disclose how they obtain the chemicals used in lethal injections, bringing into question the constitutionality of recent executions

There are just over 3,000 prisoners on death row in the U.S., and 32 states where their execution remains a legal course of action. The decision to implement capital punishment in these states is generally accepted as constitutional, so long as its procedure is in line with the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel-and-unusual punishment.

The execution of Arizona inmate Joseph R. Wood III on Wednesday took nearly two hours to complete, over much of which Wood “gasped and struggled to breathe,” according to a statement released by his defense team. Of the 26 state-sponsored executions committed in the U.S. so far this year, Wood’s was the third to seemingly go awry due to the use of largely experimental lethal chemicals, prompting outrage from those who cite these incidents as evidence that capital punishment is not constitutionally viable given the apparent suffering of its recipients.

“His two-hour struggle to death goes beyond cruel and unusual. It’s torment. It’s something you’d see in third-world and uncivilized societies,” Arizona state senator Ed Ableser told TIME on Wednesday night. “It’s embarrassing to see that our state once again is in the news for everything that is wrong that happens in our government.”

The execution should have lasted no more than 15 minutes; when it became clear to witnesses that Wood’s death would be prolonged, his attorneys unsuccessfully filed an emergency appeal to end the proceedings, the final of several attempts to save his life. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court had approved the execution after a lower court ruled that Arizona, in refusing to declare how it had obtained the lethal chemicals to be used in the injection, may have violated Wood’s First Amendment rights.

In Woods’ execution, the state used a combination of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone — the same cocktail used by the state of Ohio in the execution of Dennis McGuire in January, in which the inmate floundered and wheezed on a gurney for nearly half an hour before the state pronounced him dead.

In a statement released after Wood’s death, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said she was “concerned by the length of time” it took for the injection to kill him, and that she has instructed the state’s Department of Corrections to investigate the matter thoroughly.

It’s still not certain whether Woods indeed suffered pain — state officials have insisted that he was comatose throughout the process — but in any case, his prolonged death draws further attention to the efficacy of the lethal chemicals used for capital punishment in the U.S., one of the world’s last developed nations to still punish its worst criminals with death.

States have been struggling to devise new lethal chemicals to be used in capital punishment since 2011, when U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies ceased to manufacture and sell sodium thiopental, an anesthetic compound that has traditionally been essential to America’s execution cocktails. It has been a process of trial and error, of learning from mistakes. The mistakes are those execution attempts that do not transpire according to plan — typically marked by a death that comes more slowly and viscerally than anticipated.

In recent months, the hesitation of certain states to disclose information about the new chemicals has fueled a public skepticism over the exact physiological effects of these drugs on those to whom they’re administered.

“It’s time for Arizona and the other states still using lethal injection to admit that this experiment with unreliable drugs is a failure,” Cassandra Stubbs, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project, said in a statement released after Wood’s death. “Instead of hiding lethal injection under layers of foolish secrecy, these states need to show us where the drugs are coming from. Until they can give assurances that the drugs will work as intended, they must stop future executions.”

Nearly a third of all executions involving the sedative used to kill Wood “have had extremely troubling problems,” according to a report released last month by the Death Penalty Information Center.

“Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror — a bungled execution,” defense attorney Dale Baich told the press. “The public should hold its officials responsible and demand to make this process more transparent.”

TIME Civil Rights

Cop in ‘Chokehold’ Death Had Civil Suits Filed Against Him

Vigil Held For Staten Island Man Who Died After Illegal Police Chokehold
Richard Watkins (5) attends a vigil for Eric Garner near where he died after he was taken into police custody in Staten Island last Thursday on July 22, 2014 in New York City. Spencer Platt—Getty Images

The City of New York has already doled out a $30,000 settlement on Officer Daniel Pantaleo's behalf

New York Police Department officer Daniel Pantaleo, who allegedly used what has been termed a chokehold on the now deceased 43-year-old Eric Garner in Staten Island last week, previously had civil rights lawsuits brought against him over two separate incidents, the Staten Island Advance reports.

In the first suit, two men, Darren Collins and Tommy Rice — both in their forties and African-American — claim to have been publicly strip-searched by Pantaleo and a cadre of other officers two years ago, after Pantaleo said he saw crack cocaine and heroin on the backseat of their car. In the second, Rylawn Walker charged Pantaleo and another cop with falsely arresting him, then incarcerating him for a period of 24 hours.

The City of New York doled out a $30,000 settlement to the two plaintiffs in the first lawsuit. Walker’s remains open.

With video of Officer Pantaleo grappling with Garner going viral over the last week, the NYPD’s decision to strip the officer of his gun and assign him to desk duty for the time being has failed to quell public concern. While it remains unclear what role the hold may have played in Garner’s death, many New Yorkers, including activist-pastor Rev. Al Sharpton, are calling for greater accountability.

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