TIME States

Florida Woman Slaps 72-Year-Old Who Denied Her Facebook Request

The alleged assailant has been charged with aggravated battery

Police arrested a Florida woman accused of slapping a 72-year-old woman who declined her friend request on Facebook.

Rachel Anne Hayes, 27, became upset when the 72-year-old said that her Facebook name was inappropriate and would only accept her friend request if she changed her name, according to the Tampa Bay Times. (What name she uses on the social media site has not been released by authorities.)

The two women began to argue over the matter, and Hayes eventually left the elderly woman’s home. But Hayes then returned, and when the two fought again outside her door, Hayes allegedly slapped the woman who turned down her friend request several times.

Police charged Hayes with aggravated battery on an elderly person, a felony.

[Tampa Bay Times]

Read next: Why a Facebook ‘Sympathize’ Button Is a Terrible Idea

TIME Military

Taking the Crisis Out of ISIS

George H.W. Bush is supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
Navy photo / Robert Burck An F-18 leaves it carrier for a bombing run against ISIS targets.

Pentagon reports some good news from the front

After four months of stalemate in the U.S.-led air war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria, the U.S. military finally expressed measured optimism Thursday over the course of the campaign.

“We’re seeing initial successes in this fight,” Army Lieut. General James Terry told reporters at the Pentagon. “My assessment is that Daesh has been halted in transitioning to the defense and is attempting to hold what they currently have.”

The Pentagon has begun referring to ISIS—which is also know as ISIL, for the Islamic State in the Levant—as Daesh, after prodding from its allies.

In Arabic, Daesh and ISIL sound alike, although “daesh” literally means “to crush underneath the foot,” Terry said. “Our partners, at least the ones that I work with, ask us to use that, because they feel that if you use ISIL, that you legitimize a self-declared caliphate, and they feel pretty strongly that we should not be doing that.”

ISIS forces still control roughly a third of Iraq and Syria. Regaining major territory in both nations won’t be possible until local ground forces can be assembled and trained to take the fight to the Islamic militants in the major cities they now hold. The launch of any such single counter-offensive is months away, and will take years to drive ISIS from all the cities, Pentagon officials believe.

Later Thursday, the Pentagon’s top spokesman said air strikes over the last month have killed senior ISIS officials. “Since mid-November, targeted coalition airstrikes successfully killed multiple [ISIS] senior and mid-level leaders,” Rear Admiral John Kirby said. The Wall Street Journal reported that three senior leaders had been killed.

“We believe that the loss of these key leaders degrades [ISIS’s] ability to command and control current operations against Iraqi Security Forces, including Kurdish and other local forces in Iraq,” Kirby added in a statement. The U.S. and its allies have conducted 1,361 air strikes since August, with 86% of those carried out by U.S. warplanes (the U.S. has carried out 97% of the strikes in Syria this month, Reuters reports).

The Pentagon statements didn’t occur in a vacuum. Last week, lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee expressed ire at the slow pace of the war against ISIS. “Does the United States have some other strategic plan other than arming these [Syrian] folks that aren’t going to show up till 2016, dropping bombs, that are marginal whether they’ve been successful, and helping with military aid to some of these coalition countries?” Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, asked Brett McGurk, the Obama Administration’s anti-ISIS envoy.

“It was designed,” McGurk said, “to be a long-term program.”

Read next: U.S. Kills 3 ISIS Leaders in Iraq Strikes, Officials Say

TIME Cuba

What Washington’s Policy Shift Means for Cuba’s Awful Internet Service

Cuba Internet
Adalberto Roque—AFP/Getty Images A Cuban uses an illegal Wi-Fi connection to surf the internet, on November 28, 2014, in Havana.

Part of the new deal involves efforts to literally bring Cuba up to speed

The United States’ trade embargo against Cuba began on Oct. 19, 1960. That’s almost exactly nine years to the day before the first link was established on what would eventually evolve into the Internet. Since then, the global web has exploded in complexity and content — but Cuba has largely been left behind, with access that’s slow, censored and available only to few.

A new change in U.S. policy announced this week, however, stands to change all that.

About a quarter of Cubans have Internet access, according to the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency that oversees global communications. One in four may seem decent, especially compared to other isolated nations like North Korea, where its netizens are its most elite. But it turns out that 25% figure doesn’t tell the whole picture.

Most connected Cubans only have access to a Balkanized, government-approved version of the Internet, more akin to a heavily restricted web portal than the open browser you and I use. Freedom House describes the typical Cuban connectivity experience as “a tightly controlled government-filtered intranet, which consists of a national email system, a Cuban encyclopedia, a pool of educational materials and open-access journals, Cuban websites, and foreign websites that are supportive of the Cuban government.”

Maps of undersea communications cables tell the story of Cuba’s Internet another way. Only one major submarine cable connects Cuba’s telecommunications networks to the outside world: ALBA-1, owned by a state-run Venezuelan telecom and connecting southeastern Cuba to Venezuela and Jamaica. That cable could be in pretty bad shape, says Fulton Armstrong, a research fellow at American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies, but Armstrong added that he couldn’t verify that first hand.

Tellingly, cables that connect the southeastern U.S. to Central, South and Latin America completely bypass the island nation:

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From an engineering perspective, it makes perfect sense to have routed those cables through Cuba. But geopolitics got in the way: the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba meant American companies couldn’t lay pipe into the island, leaving it off the grid as neighbors got online. Cuba has for decades been a member of Soviet/Russian satellite service Intersputnik, but the country didn’t get Internet access until the American telecom provider Sprint set up shop in 1996. Sprint provided a dedicated line connecting the Cuban state Internet provider to Sprint’s U.S. network at 64kbps — just a bit faster than dial-up when running full throttle.

Sprint was able to set up that line thanks to 1992’s Cuban Democracy Act, which authorized American companies “to provide efficient and adequate telecommunications services” between the U.S. and Cuba.” The idea was to ensure that Cubans wouldn’t be entirely cut off from notions of free speech and democracy. But Cuba’s web censorship, combined with its slow speed and high cost, means the Internet hasn’t had a massive impact on its society.

“Only foreign nationals and Castro can afford [Cuba’s Internet],” says Larry Press, a researcher and blogger who covers technology in Cuba. In lieu of the Internet, he says, Cubans buy and sell USB drives loaded with media like American movies and TV shows on the secondary market. New drives with fresh content pop up weekly, Press says. He isn’t sure where the drives come from, but one theory he relayed is that the Cuban government could be allowing them as a means to profit from them. Some Cubans also use illicit Wi-Fi networks to share information locally, but those networks aren’t connected to the wider Internet.

Nevertheless, Cuba’s Internet could be about to get a whole lot better. President Barack Obama unexpectedly announced a new chapter in U.S.-Cuban relations Wednesday, and part of that deal involves new efforts to literally bring Cuba up to speed. Under the policy change, American companies will be able to not only sell some hardware and software to Cuban customers, but they could be encouraged to make investments in infrastructure, too, whether that means building undersea cables or rolling out mobile broadband across the country. Cuba’s Internet, Press says, is a “greenfield,” meaning whatever networks are built won’t be encumbered by pre-existing infrastructure, because so little of it exists. That means Cuba could bypass older, slower technologies and leapfrog right to ultra-fast fiber, for example, provided the will and the funds are there.

“I hope they consider a wide range of infrastructure ownership and control models, looking toward Europe, China, Singapore, South Korea, Google (free DSL or paid fiber), et cetera,” says Press. American University’s Armstrong, meanwhile, says bringing faster Internet to Cuba will “take some time,” with the speed depending on “how fast [the telecoms] and the Cubans negotiate deals and get them off the ground.”

The White House said its new policy will help Cubans communicate more freely, which could accelerate societal change in the Communist country. But it remains to be seen just how much Cuban officials will be willing to open up. China, in particular, has proven that it’s possible to have a flourishing technology sector while still keeping a tight lid on what citizens search for, say and do online. Still, if Congress approves normalizing trade ties with Cuba, that could give Washington economic leverage to make sure Cuba keeps its Internet open. And there’s a chance, however small, that would mean changes offline, too.

“With greater opening and exposure of the Cubans to American culture, music, movies and way of life, I think there might be more demand for greater freedom, which might then encourage the government to loosen up its practices,” says Sanja Kelly, project director at Freedom on the Net, Freedom House’s Internet freedom project. However, she cautioned that Cuba’s fate remains in its leaders’ hands: “[Cuba’s] future will ultimately depend on the government’s willingness to change its repressive practices.”

Read next: How Venezuela’s collapse helped thaw Cuban-American relations

TIME Law

Illinois Woman Files Trademark Application for ‘I Can’t Breathe’

The woman is not related to Eric Garner

An Illinois woman has filed an application to trademark Eric Garner’s dying words, “I can’t breathe” for use on hoodies and T-shirts.

Catherine Crump, 57, applied last Saturday for legal registration of the phrase that has become a rallying cry at protests across the country and has even been printed on t-shirts worn by celebrities like LeBron James.

Garner, an unarmed black man, died after being aggressively subdued by police officers in July. Video footage of his death shows Garner saying, “I can’t breathe” as a policeman grips him in an apparent chokehold. The words became a symbol of protests that began when a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who tackled Garner. The officer, Daniel Pantaleo, has denied the move was a chokehold.

In her trademark application, Crump says she has been using the phrase commercially since August 18, one month after Eric Garner’s death. She told the Smoking Gun that she had not consulted with Eric Garner’s family before filing for the trademark but that she is not seeking to profit use of the phrase.

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TIME weather

Christmas Eve Storm to Bring Chaos to East Coast, Midwest

Some regions can expect a white Christmas, but most will get rain

The weather outside really is going to be frightful this Christmas.

A major storm is predicted to hit the East Coast and Midwest beginning Dec. 23 and building to a climax on Christmas Eve. While snow may accumulate from Wisconsin to Western Pennsylvania, regions to the east can expect heavy rain and thunderstorms.

Strong winds will bring turbulent flying conditions and treacherous driving conditions along the Interstate-95 corridor. AccuWeather recommends bringing forward Christmas travel to Monday or Tuesday to avoid getting stuck on the road or in an airport.

But if you’ve no place to go… you’ll probably be alright.

[AccuWeather]

TIME technology

Most American Kids Are Now Growing Up In a Home Without a Landline

The domination of mobile technology continues

Bad news for Luddites and nostalgics: for the first time ever, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the majority of American children live in homes without landlines.

According to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), 52.1 percent of all children — more than 38 million children — were living in a home with only cell phones, which is a five percentage point increase from the second half of 2013, reports Market Watch. Around 103 million adults — or 43.1 percent — had only wireless phones in their homes.

The decline in landlines could also spell trouble for the CDC. The survey was conducted because the NHIS tracks how many households are using cell phones and how many are using landlines, in order to determine how the CDC carries out its telephone surveys. According to the co-author of the report, Stephen Blumberg, associate director for science in the division of health interview statistics at the National Center for Health Statistics, mobile phones present a challenge when conducting surveys by telephone. Blumberg noted that mobile numbers cannot be electronically dialed, unlike landlines, which increases the “manpower” needed to conduct surveys. What’s more, cell phone numbers are not registered and it’s nearly impossible to determine which individual owns which number.

[Market Watch]

TIME Veterans

Army Says Captains Can Now Retire With Full Benefits

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Travels To Mideast
Mark Wilson—Getty Images U.S. troops listen to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speak during a visit to Baghdad International Airport on Dec. 9, 2014, in Baghdad

The officers were initially forced to retire with the benefits associated with sergeants

A change in U.S. Army policy this week means that captains being forced into retirement will be granted the full benefits associated with their ranks, instead of retiring with the benefits granted to sergeants as they initially would have had to.

Lawmakers who advocated for the added benefits said the policy change would give 120 soldiers an additional $1 million each over their lifetimes, the New York Times reported.

Since the officers served as captains for less than the required eight years for full benefits, they had been told they would be given benefits consummate with their previous enlisted rank.

“We fought and sacrificed and did well,” said Captain Tawanna Jamison, who is based at Fort Bragg, N.C. “This change restores honor and treats us right.”

The Army also notified 44 officers less than two years away from reaching the 20-year tenure required to receive full benefits that they would be allowed to keep their jobs instead of being forced to retire.

[NYT]

TIME Transportation

Uber Stops Its Operations in Portland for at Least Three Months

Uber At $40 Billion Valuation Would Eclipse Twitter And Hertz
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images The Uber Technologies Inc. logo is displayed on the window of a vehicle after dropping off a passenger at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014.

Under a deal, Portland will legalize ride-sharing by Apr. 9, otherwise Uber can begin operating again

Portlanders won’t be able to call an Uber car for the next three and a half months while the city makes changes to its regulations. The ridesharing app arrived illegally in the Oregon city two weeks ago but has agreed to suspend its services until the city alters its laws.

Under their agreement with the city, if the changes are not in place by April 9, 2015, Uber can begin operating again, according to a post on the company’s site.

“Uber is dedicated to curating and continuing a valuable and constructive relationship with Portland’s lawmakers, working to create a regulatory framework that works for everyone,” the company said in the statement.

Portland filed a lawsuit and cease-and-desist order against Uber when it launched earlier this month. Before the suit had been filed, the city threatened fines of $1,500 against Uber, and up to $2,250 for the driver, each time a fare was picked up. With more than 10,000 rides being delivered in Portland during the weeks it functioned, according to the company, breaking the law was looking like a costly option.

Portland’s Mayor Charlie Hales said in a statement that he had created a new task force that would decide on regulations for accessibility, pricing, background checks on drivers, insurance requirements and other concerns.

TIME Crime

Investigators Say Arsonists Responsible for Massive L.A. Fire

The damage was estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars

Federal investigators believe a fire that took down an entire apartment complex in downtown Los Angeles last week was set on purpose.

It took 250 firefighters an hour and a half to put out the blaze at the Da Vinci apartment complex after responding to an initial call at 1:09 a.m. on Dec. 10.

Local authorities will likely launch an arson investigation, the Los Angeles Times reports. Authorities say they are searching for two unidentified witnesses who were on the scene at the Da Vinci apartment complex, where the fire took 250 firefighters an hour and a half to put out. A surveillance video caught one man walking down the street near the building before the fire began, and the other was seen on news footage trying to get through a construction fence and move toward the building once the fire was burning.

Investigators said they determined that arson was likely given how quickly the complex burned. The fire consumed half the building before the firefighters arrived, despite the fact that the fire station was just a few hundred yards away, and the damage was estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars.

[Los Angeles Times]

TIME Law

Nebraska and Oklahoma Are Trying to Kill Colorado’s Buzz

By suing over Colorado's legalization of marijuana

Two neighbors of Colorado filed suit against the state on Thursday, claiming its legalization of marijuana has pushed some of the drug over state lines and asking the Supreme Court to strike the law down.

Attorneys general in Nebraska and Oklahoma allege that Colorado’s legalization violates the Supremacy clause of the constitution, which specifies that federal law takes precedence over state law. “Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining Plaintiff States’ own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems,” the suit alleges, according to the Denver Post.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said at a news conference that pot from Colorado has been turning up at Nebraska’s border, which has led to an increase in arrest and prosecutions. “Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost,” Bruning said, according to the Omaha World-Herald, adding that “federal law undisputedly prohibits the production and sale of marijuana.”

Kevin A. Sabet, President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a bipartisan organization made up of mental and public health professionals, supports the lawsuit. “We support this action by the attorneys general of Oklahoma and Nebraska because Colorado’s decisions regarding marijuana are not without consequences to neighboring states, and indeed all Americans,” Sabet said said. “The legalization of marijuana is clearly in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and is not implemented in a vacuum.” Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM, seeks a “middle road between incarceration and legalization” in dealing with pot offenses.

Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers said in a statement that he plans to defend the state’s marijuana laws in court. “It appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado,” he said. “We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court.”

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