Good morning, here are our early stories:
And here are more early headlines:
U.S. Official Arrives In Central African Republic. (VOA)
Lack Of European-Made Drugs Slows Number Of U.S. Executions. (Guardian)
Russia Bailed Out Ukraine As Brotherly Gesture, Says Putin. (Wall Street Journal)
Fighting In South Sudan Spreads. (BBC)
Thai Protesters Stage Huge Downtown Picnic, Cause Havoc. (AP)
Majority Of California's Big Sur Fire Contained. (Los Angeles Times)
Georgia Grandmother Holds 1 Winning Mega Millions Lottery Ticket. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Donor Drops $3500 Diamond Ring Inside Salvation Army Red Kettle. (WBFS-TV)
There were 379,000 first-time claims for unemployment insurance filed last week, up 10,000 from the week before, the Employment and Training Administration reported Thursday.
This means the data on claims have now run counter to other economic indicators for two weeks in a row. While most other signs have recently been positive, the number of claims has jumped from 305,000 in the week ended Nov. 30 to 369,000 the next week and now 379,000.
Reuters says the news is "casting a shadow on the labor market." But the wire service adds that "claims data continue to be plagued by seasonal volatility. Other labor market indicators have pointed to a strengthening in job growth."
Bloomberg News says the spike may just reflect "fluctuation in the filings that typically occurs around the year-end holidays."
There's other economic news due later this morning, including the National Association of Realtors' report on sales of existing homes in November. We'll update with highlights.
Barbara J. King
Celebration: That's the theme I decided on for my final two Thursday posts of 2013. Last week I wrote about the spectrum of genders in the human world. It's only natural that this week I should return to my first love among blogging topics: animals and animal welfare.
It's not only the lives of animals themselves that I want to highlight, though. I can think of no better way to close out the year than to celebrate the people — so many of you, so many of us across the world — who rescue animals in danger, distress or need.
Here are four of my favorite examples from 2013.
4. Dolphin Happiness
Speaking of celebrating! When fishermen in Brazil free a dolphin from a plastic bag, the animal, rather than just swimming away, leaps into the air. I'm too cautious to describe the dolphin's action as thanking the fishermen, as some have. The dolphin is so young we can only hope he or she survived what seems to have been a separation from the mother. But at that moment of freedom? That's pure dolphin happiness we're seeing.
3. Injured Sea Turtle Release
A rehabilitated Olive Ridley sea turtle named Aceituna is released back into his natural habitat.
Aceituna had arrived at Cameroon's Limbe Wildlife Centre in extremely poor condition after he was confiscated by wildlife officials. As a result of being tied tightly by a rope prior to his arrival, Aceituna's back right flipper was completely rotten, causing pain and a general infection. Limbe's veterinary team successfully amputated the flipper in a complicated procedure and, following a long and carefully monitored rehabilitation period, Aceituna was released to swim free.
2. Dogs With New Homes
We all become rescuers when we adopt our pets from shelters or animal-welfare organizations. Here's a fun series of photographs on BuzzFeed of rescued dogs on the way to their new homes.
1. Frolicking German Dairy Cows
Rescued from a planned slaughter, it's wonderful to see how these former dairy cows respond with joyful emotion to release from their winter quarters. Don't miss this one! The narrative is as inspiring as the visuals.
Much work remains to be done, of course. I want to work toward a world where, for example, no chimpanzee is made to become a roller-skating actor in the movies, as chimpanzee Chance was in The Wolf of Wall Street, a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio that opens on Christmas day.
Yet we are making progress. In the wake of Blackfish, a documentary film showing the trauma to whales kept captive at SeaWorld and the risks to their trainers, high-profile music performers have pulled out of singing at SeaWorld's February concert series.
For the animals, times are changing for the better. May these positive changes continue and accelerate in 2014!
The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
- Kelvin Chan of The Associated Press reports that President Obama's half-brother Mark Obama Ndesandjo is publishing a memoir in February in which he writes that their father was violent, and recalls "alcohol-fueled beatings meted out by his father to his mother." Chan adds that the book, titled Cultures: My Odyssey of Self-Discovery, "recounts one incident in which his father held a knife to his mother's throat because she took out a restraining order against him." Ndesandjo published a semiautobiographical novel in 2009 that also depicted an abusive father. Asked about the novel in a CNN interview, Obama said, "it's no secret that my father was a troubled person. Anybody who has read my first book, Dreams from My Father, knows that, you know, he had an alcoholism problem, that he didn't treat his families very well. Obviously it's a sad part of my history and my background but it's not something I spend a lot of time brooding over." The brothers have only met a handful of times. Ndesandjo, 48, grew up in Kenya and now lives in Shenzen, China.
A Turkish court this week suspended the trial of a translator and publisher accused of "corrupting public morals" with a 2009 edition of the century-old French novel The Exploits of a Young Don Juan. Thought to have been written by the surrealist poet Guillaume Apollinaire and originally published in 1911 the novel describes the sexual awakening of a teenage boy. Publisher Irfan Sanci and translator Ismail Yerguz won't be tried for another three years because of a legal technicality, but Sanci told Agence France-Presse that, "this decision is like the Sword of Damocles over my head." Sanci's lawyer added, "They tell us not to commit a crime for three years. For them, publishing a book is a crime." Sanci says he plans to go forward with the book anyways.
"In despair we make children
In despair we strangle them
And feed our desperate offspring
With our own despair
So that they may multiply
By giving birth to ever more desperate children..."
- Monday saw the launch of yet another e-book subscription service. For a monthly fee, Entitle lets you download a fixed number of ebooks every month from its digital library ($14.99 for two books a month; $21.99 for three; $27.99 for four). It differs from its predecessors, which include Oyster and Scribd, in that readers get to keep the ebooks they download.
Cynthia Russett, the historian whose book Sexual Science: The Victorian Construction of Womanhood described the efforts of Victorian scientists to find evidence that women were inherently inferior, has died at the age of 76. The book, which is her best-known work, suggests that scientists responded to women's "new claims to a life beyond the domestic hearth," by "measuring limbs, pondering viscera, [and] reckoning up skulls" in an attempt to demonstrate scientifically that women are naturally subordinate. After earning a PhD at Yale, Russett joined the faculty there and taught from 1967 until her death.
Saying that his mission "is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together," Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson isn't backing away from the comments he's made about gays that have led A&E to suspend him from the popular show indefinitely.
Robertson, in a statement to Fox News' FOX411, goes on to say:
"However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other."
If you're just catching up on this story, A&E this week suspended Robertson after GQ posted a long piece about the Duck Dynasty phenomenon and the Robertson family. Among the things Robertson says in that story (fair warning: "adult" content follows):
"It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical."
— Paraphrases Corinthians to say: "Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."
— Says that when he was growing up in Louisiana in the days before the Civil Rights movement, "I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. ... Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."
His suspension, The Associated Press says, has been "lauded by the gay and lesbian media advocacy group GLAAD, which had quickly condemned Robertson's comments. 'What's clear is that such hateful anti-gay comments are unacceptable to fans, viewers, and networks alike,' said GLAAD spokesman Wilson Cruz. Robertson's removal 'has sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value.' "
But Robertson also has his defenders, including 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. She tweets that, "Free speech is endangered species; those 'intolerants' hatin' & taking on Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing personal opinion take on us all."
Palin has also posted a photo of herself with the Robertsons.
As the AP notes:
"Robertson and his extended family became wealthy manufacturing duck calls and were turned into TV and pop culture stars by Duck Dynasty, which has set cable ratings records for a non-fiction series. Several family members appeared in this year's Macy's Thanksgiving parade."