TIME natural disaster

14 Dead in Washington State Mudslide, With 176 Still Missing

Search-and-rescue teams are waiting for the ground to stabilize after a weekend mudslide in Washington State that has killed at least 14 people and left another 176 unaccounted for as of Tuesday morning. Gov. Jay Inslee has instituted a state of emergency

Updated: March 24, 2014, 10:05 pm. E.T.

Fourteen people have been confirmed dead in a devastating mudslide that struck a small riverside neighborhood in Washington State on Saturday morning. Authorities said Monday that 176 people were still missing or unaccounted for, a huge increase of prior estimates that 18 people were missing, though that number may include duplicates.

Snohomish County emergency management director John Pennington emphasized that not all of the missing were necessarily injured or killed. The larger number is from a combined list of names reported missing in the wake of the mudslide from various sources.

Screams and cries for help could be heard by rescue teams beneath the wreckage on Saturday evening, but the mud was so thick that the searchers had to turn back. On Sunday, no sounds were heard among the sludge-covered debris.

“We didn’t see or hear any signs of life out there today,” said Snohomish County Fire District 21 chief Travis Hots. Still, Hots said crews were in a “search-and-rescue mode. It has not gone to a recovery mode at this time.”

The operation was discontinued at nightfall because of dangerous conditions. Rescue workers had already sunk down to their armpits into the mud and had to be pulled to safety.

The massive slide, destroying about 30 homes, occurred at about 11 a.m. Saturday.

“In three seconds everything got washed away,” a witness who was driving on a highway when the mudslide happened told the Seattle Times. “Darkness covering the whole roadway and one house right in the middle of the street.”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee described the scene as “a square mile of devastation” after flying over the area on Sunday, and declared a state of emergency. Residents have been advised to evacuate the area, as debris from the slide has dammed up the north fork of the Stillaguamish River, threatening severe flooding if the water, rising roughly a foot every half hour, bursts through the blockage.

[The Seattle Times, CBC, ABC]

The article has been updated to include the latest developments on Monday evening.

TIME NSA Spying

Report: NSA Spied on Chinese Telecoms Giant

US President Barack Obama and his Chines
US President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao hold a press conference in the East Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on Jan. 19, 2011. Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden reveals documents showing that U.S. secretly infiltrated Chinese telecoms firm Huawei to investigate its links to China's government, in an escalation of the 'digital cold war' between U.S. and China

A National Security Agency program spied on the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to investigate its links to the Chinese government and to gain access to company servers used by its clients around the world, according to newly leaked documents.

The latest revelations from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, provided to the New York Times and German magazine Der Spiegel, show that while U.S. government officials openly suspected Huawei of collaborating with Chinese intelligence, the NSA was covertly infiltrating the company’s servers.

The operation, codenamed “Shotgiant,”aimed to find a link between the company and China’s People’s Liberation Army, as well as ensure that the NSA could infiltrate clients of Huawai—the largest telecoms firm in the world–around the world, including targets in Iran and Pakistan.

Cybersecurity has been a key sticking point in diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China, but they generally focus on U.S. suspicions that the Chinese government and Chinese-based hackers are infiltrating U.S. government and company networks. Accusations that Huawei gives the government access to corporate and government secrets on its servers have hampered its ability to enter the U.S. market.

American officials say the NSA spying is for national security purposes only.

“We do not give intelligence we collect to U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line,” White House spokesperson Caitlin M. Hayden told the Times. “Many countries cannot say the same.”

[NYT]

TIME medication

Study: Powerful Painkillers Increasingly Prescribed In ERs

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Getty Images

Prescriptions for narcotic painkillers, or opiates, in emergency departments rose 49 percent between 2001 and 2010, according to a new study. The finding raises concerns over the risks of addiction and misuse

Emergency departments in America are increasingly prescribing strong painkilling drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin amid rising use of the medications nationally.

Prescriptions for narcotic painkillers, or opiates, in emergency departments rose 49 percent between 2001 and 2010, according to a study published in this month’s issue of Academic Emergency Medicine.

Doctors have increasingly prescribed the potent painkillers in part because of a movement to improve pain management, according to CBS. But doctors are also increasingly incentivized to please patients—some hospitals offer pay incentives linked to patient satisfaction–and may prescribe the medication to patients who ask for it.

The rising use of narcotic painkillers has prompted concerns over the risks of addiction and misuse. Roughly 15,000 Americans die annually from overdosing, and some 12 million people abuse the medication, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

[CBS News]

TIME Gay Rights

Michigan Gay Marriages Suspended

APTOPIX Gay Marriage Michigan
Elizabeth Patten, left, holds up the first marriage ticket to marry her partner Johnnie Terry in front of the Washtenaw County Clerks office in Ann Arbor, Mich., March 22, 2014, prior to the postponement of same-sex marriages by a federal appeals court. Patrick Record—AP

An appeals court postponed gay marriages in Michigan following a judge's previous ruling that struck down the state's same-sex marriage ban. Earlier, Michigan county clerks opened their offices to issue the state’s first marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples

Updated 5:34 PM ET

A federal appeals court in Cincinnati has postponed same-sex marriages in Michigan at least until Wednesday, a day after a lower court judge’s ruling that struck down the state’s gay marriage ban, The Associated Press reported.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it put out the order Saturday because it needed additional time to examine Michigan’s appeal of federal Judge Bernard Friedman’s Friday decision that reversed the same-sex marriage ban.

Earlier, Michigan county clerks opened their offices Saturday to issue the state’s first marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples following Friedman’s ruling.

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum issued a marriage license to Glenna DeJong, 53, and Marsha Caspar, 52, at 8 a.m., the first same-sex couple to marry in Michigan, the Detroit Free Press reports. At least three county clerk offices opened on Saturday, and reportedly issued hundreds of marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed an emergency request late Friday for a stay pending an appeal.

Friedman struck down Michigan’s ban on Friday and did not allow for a waiting period to give the state time to appeal or implement the ruling, paving the way for the state to be the 18th in the country to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

[AP, Detroit Free Press]

TIME March Madness 2014

No One Won Warren Buffett’s $1 Billion Bracket Challenge

Exclusive Portraits Of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chief Executive Officer Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., Oct. 22, 2013. Scott Eells—Bloomberg/Getty Images

A group backed by Warren Buffett planned to hand out $1 billion for a perfect bracket but Friday's upsets eliminated all contestants. However, the Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket is still offering $100,000 each to the top twenty performing brackets

It’s over already.

The group offering $1 billion for the perfect March Madness bracket said late Friday that no potential winners remain after two major upsets busted almost every submitted bracket.

The contest by Quicken Loans, backed by Warren Buffet, said that 99 percent of brackets were eliminated on Friday after Dayton beat Ohio State and Mercer beat Duke in the college basketball tournament.

The final three brackets were eliminated after only 25 games when Memphis defeated George Washington Friday evening, the Associated Press reports.

The Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket is still offering $100,000 each to the top twenty performing brackets.

“That’s still a heck of a payday for filing out a bracket,” Jay Farmer, president and chief marketing officer of Quicken Loans, said in a statement.

TIME

Judge Approves $218 Million JPMorgan Settlement for Bank’s Role in Bernard Madoff Ponzi Scheme

Bernard Madoff, founder of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Secu
Bernard Madoff is led out from Federal court Mar. 10, 2009 in New York. Jin Lee—Bloomberg/Getty Images

This class-action settlement worth $218 million is just a sliver of the more than $2 billion the bank has agreed to pay for its role in the Ponzi scheme. The judge said the deal provides “substantial and immediate” benefits to Madoff's victims

A New York federal judge approved Friday JPMorgan Chase’s $218 million class-action settlement over its role in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

Judge Colleen McMahon said the deal with Madoff’s customers meets the standards for final approval and provides “substantial and immediate” benefits to his victims. The judge also awarded $18 million in legal fees to the law firms representing the plaintiffs.

JPMorgan, Madoff’s primary bank for more than 20 years, has agreed to pay a total of $2.25 billion to Madoff-related cases, including a $1.7 billion civil settlement with the U.S. government and $325 million settlement with Irving Picard, the trustee liquidating Madoff’s former company, Reuters reports.

Madoff, who lost an estimated $17.3 billion of customers’ investments, is serving a 150-year prison term.

[Reuters]

TIME

Michigan’s Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down by Federal Judge

April DeBoer, Jayne Rowse
In this March 5, 2013, file photo, April DeBoer, left, and Jayne Rowse pose at their home in Hazel Park, Mich. The two nurses who've been partners for eight years claimed the ban violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution. Paul Sancy—AP

A federal has judge struck down Michigan’s gay marriage ban that was approved by voters in 2004. The decision paves the way for same-sex unions in the state barring an emergency hold on the judge's ruling

A federal judge Friday struck down Michigan’s ban on gay and lesbian marriage, paving the way for the state to become the 18th in the nation to allow same-sex matrimony, the Detroit News reports.

Judge Bernard Friedman did not allow for a waiting period to give the state time to appeal or implement the ruling, and couples are expected to receive marriage licenses from county clerks offices as soon as they open Monday morning.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said he would file an emergency request for a stay pending an appeal. During the trial, the state called for the judge to respect the decision of voters in 2004 approving the ban.

The judiciary has overturned gay marriage bans in four other states since December—Texas, Utah, Oklahoma and Virgian—but appeals have put each of those cases on hold, according to the AP. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

[Detroit News]

TIME Football

A Setback for Redskin Potatoes Won’t Hurt The Washington Redskins

The rejection of a trademark for a brand deeming the name "redskin" derogatory doesn't mean much for the football team

The United States government said the word “redskin” is derogatory this week. But that doesn’t mean the Washington Redskins have to worry about Uncle Sam tearing down their name from FedExField.

The latest development in the years-long war over whether the capital’s football team sports an offensive name came Monday, when the U.S. Patent Office rejected the trademark of Washington Redskin Potatoes, partly because of the inclusion of the term “redskin.” The patent office made a similar move against a pork rinds distributor late last year, and Monday’s judgement gave hope to Native American groups who have long railed against Redskins owner Dan Snyder and his team’s name.

“It is heartening to see this latest step in the right direction,” Oneida Indian Nation spokesman Ray Halbritter said in a statement. “We hope that the Washington NFL team will heed the clear calls for change and place itself on the right side of history by changing the team’s disparaging name.”

They shouldn’t hold their breath. Snyder has long refused to budge on the issue, and legal experts said the rejection of the two trademark applications won’t have a major impact on an ongoing fight over the team name.

“The crux of the [issue] is whether the term ‘redskin’ was disparaging in the ’60s and ’70s when the team acquired most of these registrations,” New York copyright attorney Kristen McCallion said. “One’s current views of the mark, whether it’s disparaging or not, are largely irrelevant with respect solely to [the current fight].”

While the Oneida Indian Nation has waged a public relations battle against Snyder and the NFL in recent months, another group has revisited a decades-old legal dispute against the team. In 1999, the Patent Office’s Trademark Appeal Board revoked the Washington Redskins’ registration for being disparaging, but a federal court reversed that decision in 2003, saying the plaintiffs failed to provide adequate proof of disparagement. In 2012 a group of five Native Americans filed a petition to the trademark appeal board to have the team’s trademarks cancelled for using a disparaging term. That petition is currently pending.

Even if they prevail, McCallion said, revoking the team’s trademark registration wouldn’t have a huge impact on the team or the name. The team could still sell merchandise and use the name, although some of the legal protection afforded by a registered trademark would be lost.

“If they lost federal registration that would hurt their branding,” said Patricia Rehfield, a Maryland-based copyright attorney.

Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie said in a statement that “no matter what the ruling is this year, we expect no change that will impact the Redskins.”

“Even a negative ruling will have no effect at all on the team’s use of the Redskins name and logo,” he said. “That’s how the process works given our right to appeal.”

TIME cities

Occupy Activist Gets $4.5M From Oakland Over Police Attack

The Iraq War veteran says he sustained serious brain damage after his skull was fractured by a lead-filled beanbag fired by Oakland police during street protests in 2011. The 26-year-old temporarily lost his ability to speak and says he still suffers from memory loss

An Iraq War veteran who took part in a large Occupy movement street protest in Oakland, Calif., in 2011 has won a $4.5 million settlement from the city due to injuries he sustained from a non-lethal crowd-control weapon fired by police.

Scott Olsen, 26, a two-tour Iraq veteran and former Marine, suffered permanent brain damage, his attorneys said, after a lead-filled beanbag struck him in the head and fractured his skull on Oct. 25, 2011. Video of the incident—which included the police lobbing a flashbang hand grenade at a group of fellow demonstrators who rushed to Olsen’s aid–went viral, becoming a symbol of what some felt was police brutality in response to the protests.

“I’m grateful this is over,” Olsen told the East Bay Express. His attorneys announced the settlement Friday.

“It’s been very difficult to think about or plan for a future during this lawsuit,” Olsen said.

Olsen, who has regained the ability to speak and perform basic tasks since the incident but says he still suffers from memory loss and difficulty concentrating, said his medical bills are now more than $200,000.

Neither the mayor’s office nor the city attorney immediately commented to local media outlets.

[East Bay Express]

TIME fire

New Jersey Motel Fire Kills 4, Injures 8

Firefighters work to put out a fire at Mariner's Cove Inn in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., March 21, 2014.
Firefighters work to put out a fire at Mariner's Cove Inn in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., March 21, 2014. Tom Spader—The Asbury Park Press/AP

Several people who had been missing were all accounted for Friday evening following a fire that whipped through a Jersey shore motel. The motel housed victims of Hurricane Sandy whose houses remain uninhabitable 17 months after the storm

Four people were killed and eight others injured on Friday during a fire at a New Jersey motel.

Although several people had remained missing Friday afternoon, all were accounted for by the evening, the Associated Press reports. The fire broke out early Friday morning at the Mariner’s Cove Motor Inn in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J, the Star-Ledger reports. The motel housed victims of Hurricane Sandy whose houses remain uninhabitable 17 months after the storm.

Occupants sustained injuries from smoke inhalation and leaping from the second floor of the mote, Point Pleasant Beach Police Capt. Robert Dikun told the Star-Ledger. About 50 volunteer firefighters from at least eight companies responded to the fire, which started at about 5:30 a.m. and was under control about an hour-and-a-half later despite strong winds and the motel’s wooden structure. Officials at the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office said more than 20 people were staying in the motel Thursday night, according to various local reports, although the records were burned so an exact count is unclear. Firefighters saved one woman on the second floor who stayed in her shower while the rest of her room burned.

While the cause of the fire is not yet known, authorities said a smoking lounge at the corner of the second floor is the focus of the investigation.

[Star-Ledger]

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