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In this undated file photo provided by TLC, Kody Brown, center, poses with his wives, from left, Janelle, Christine, Meri, and Robyn in a promotional photo for TLC's reality TV show, "Sister Wives." (AP)

Federal Judge Strikes Down Part Of Utah's Polygamy Ban

by Eyder Peralta
Aug 28, 2014

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A federal judge on Wednesday finalized a ruling that strikes down part of Utah's ban on polygamy.

The case is high profile partly because the suit was brought forth by the Brown family, the stars of the TLC show "Sister Wives." It's also important because as it works its way through the appeals process, it has the potential to become a landmark.

As the Salt Lake Tribune reads the decision, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups says the part of the law that prohibits cohabitation between adults to whom they are not legally married violates both the First and 14th Amendments.

The paper adds:

"Utah law made such a union a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Waddoups said the ban violated the First and 14th amendments to the Constitution.

"Waddoups let stand the portion of the statute that prevents someone from having more than one active marriage license.

"In the final portion of his ruling Wednesday, Waddoups found the Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman violated the Browns' constitutional rights when he oversaw a 2010 investigation into whether the Brown family was committing bigamy. At the time the Browns lived in Lehi. They have since moved to Nevada. Buhman eventually decided not to file criminal charges, but Waddoups said the investigation stifled the Browns' rights to free speech, religion and equal protection."

The AP reports that the Utah attorney general is weighing whether to appeal the judge's decision.

In a blog post, the Brown family's lawyer, Jonathan Turley, said he hopes that the AG will not appeal the case. He said that Americans should not fear prosecution solely because of the structure of their family.

"Neither the Attorney General nor the state of Utah should fight a ruling that reaffirmed freedom of religion and equal protection," Turley wrote. "Utah is a state that was founded by citizens seeking those very rights against government abuse. Utah is better place because of the courageous decision of Judge Waddoups and the commitment of the Brown family in defense of our Constitution."

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Josh Shaw of the USC Trojans celebrates in Los Angeles, California. (Getty Images)

USC's Josh Shaw Suspended For Making Up Heroic Tale

by Eyder Peralta
Aug 28, 2014

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The University of Southern California has suspended cornerback Josh Shaw after he admitted to fabricating a heroic tale that explained his sprained ankle.

CBS News reports:

Shaw has been suspended indefinitely from all of the Trojans' team activities after acknowledging his heroic tale was "a complete fabrication," the school announced in a statement Wednesday.

"The school didn't explain how Shaw actually was injured, but USC officials say they regret posting a story on their website Monday lauding Shaw's story about a second-story jump onto concrete to rescue his 7-year-old nephew.

"'We are extremely disappointed in Josh,' USC coach Steve Sarkisian said. 'He let us all down. As I have said, nothing in his background led us to doubt him when he told us of his injuries, nor did anything after our initial vetting of his story.'"

Shaw originally said he jumped from a second-story balcony because his nephew was drowning. Shortly thereafter, Sarkisian said he received calls questioning the veracity of the tale.

Campus authorities investigated and by Wednesday night, Shaw released a statement.

"On Saturday August 23, 2014, I injured myself in a fall," Shaw said, according to CBS. "I made up a story about this fall that was untrue. I was wrong not to tell the truth. I apologize to USC for my action on this part.

"My USC coaches, the USC athletic department, and especially coach Sarkisian have all been supportive of me during my college career and for that, I am very grateful."

Even before Shaw admitted to his lie, there was lots of speculation of how exactly he was injured. That question still has no answer.

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In this 1998 photo, President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton are seen at the White House with Poets Laureate Robert Pinsky (left) Rita Dove (center) and Robert Haas (right). (AP)

Book News: Former Poet Laureate Robert Hass Wins $100,000 Poetry Prize

by Annalisa Quinn
Aug 28, 2014

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The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Former U.S. poet laureate Robert Hass has won the $100,000 Wallace Stevens prize for "outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry" from the Academy of American Poets. Hass is much-lauded: he was a MacArthur Fellow, won a National Book Award in 2007, and shared a Pulitzer Prize in 2008, among other prizes. (Read two of his poems here.) The Academy of American Poets also announced the winners of six other awards, including Tracy K. Smith, who won the $25,000 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, and Rigoberto González, who won the $25,000 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in October.
  • Female journalists — and CNN's Piers Morgan — get disproportionate abuse online, a new study finds. Salon reports: "[M]ore than 5 percent of the messages a woman [journalist] receives online will be abusive or derogatory in nature, on average. Piers Morgan, whom researchers rank as the No. 1 receiver of hate tweets per day, gets 8.4 percent negative comments — putting him not that far ahead of the average female journalist when it comes to fielding vitriol. The study does note that men still receive the highest proportion of abusive tweets overall — but they're also primarily the ones disseminating hatred."
  • Novelist Ben Lerner talks to Parul Sehgal about writing fiction: "What interests me about fiction is, in part, its flickering edge between realism and where a tear in the fabric of a story lets in some other sort of light."
  • For Flavorwire, Emily Temple takes on "New Adult" literature and asks, "Why do we think 18-25 year olds need another stepping stone — whether actual or intellectual — before they make it to full-on adult literature?"
  • The New York Times asks Mohsin Hamid and Thomas Mallon whether where they live affects how they write. Hamid says, "I suspect Nadine Gordimer might not have written July's People had she not lived in South Africa. And J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit might have read a little differently had he been a resident of Osaka instead of Oxfordshire. Places do things to you."
  • In a new single for the Atavist, Empathy Exams author Leslie Jamison writes about a whale whose song was audible to the human ear — but not, apparently, to other whales. It's excerpted in Slate: "A legend was born: the loneliest whale in the world. ... The song ... was quickly becoming a kind of sentimental seismograph suggesting multiple storylines: alienation and determination, autonomy and longing; not only a failure to communicate but also a dogged persistence in the face of this failure."
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Women rush across the street after shelling in the town of Donetsk, Ukraine on Wednesday. (AP)

Ukrainian President Says Russian Troops Have Entered His Country

by Eyder Peralta
Aug 28, 2014

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says Russian troops entered his country on Thursday.

Poroshenko said he was canceling a trip to Turkey and he was asking the United Nations Security Council to meet to provide an assessment of the "sharp aggravation of the situation in Ukraine."

Another Ukrainian official told CNN that the movement of Russian troops amounted to a "full-scale invasion."

Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, tweeted that because Russian-supplied weapons had not secured a victory for pro-Russian rebels, there was now an "increasing number of Russian troops ... intervening directly in fighting on Ukrainian territory."

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reminds us that these reports of incursions are not new. They've happened many times over the course of this five-month-long conflict.

"But what's different this time is that they seem a little more brazen about it," Soraya told Morning Edition. "Even as Russia is denying officially from the Kremlin that they are doing this, and they say troops that have been captured crossed over mistakenly; they're not admitting to it... But there seems to be much more of an openness to this in the last few days than we've seen in the past."

The Washington Post reports that in a meeting on Tuesday, Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed cooperation in securing Ukraine's eastern border.

Still, "even as reports of Russians tanks and soldiers on the ground in Ukraine continued to come in Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia does not want Ukraine to break apart."

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'Kill My Mother' Is A Darkly Drawn Confection

Aug 28, 2014

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Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer — now in his mid-80s— has been in the business for more than 60 years. So his first graphic novel, a darkly drawn confection in the noir tradition, called Kill My Mother, comes late in his career. I feel a certain kinship with him, because as a reader I'm a latecomer to the genre myself. Call me a dinosaur, but his book, so deliciously inviting to scan (if a bit convoluted in its plot), is one of the first of its kind that I've read cover to cover. Like the satiric, fanciful dancers Feiffer drew for The Village Voice, I'm doing mental turns and jumps because I did.

The noirish story begins in the 1930s, in the aftermath of the death of a Southern California policeman. The cop's widow, a blonde named Elsie, makes ends meet by going to work for an alcoholic private eye who knew her husband. Meanwhile, her daughter Annie feels abandoned, and takes up raucous games and shoplifting in the company of a young friend named Artie. The drawings and the story become more complicated when Annie and Artie — on the run from a department store detective — are rescued by a tall, gaunt mystery woman with a baseball bat.

Annie, in turn, rescues their rescuer from life on the street ... but meanwhile, the plot thickens as her mother tries to find yet another mysterious tall blonde, whom the detective has been hired to track down. Gunplay flares up when Elsie picks up a pistol to protect herself from a menacing gang of street thugs. And the alcoholic detective winds up dead, shot by (yet another) pistol-packing mystery blonde — whose panties he happens to have stolen and pulled up over his own underwear.

The cross-dressing is only one part of a story filled with many ambiguous turns and false identities — and it doesn't help that Feiffer's drawings of the various blond women become less and less distinguishable over the first half of the book. On top of everything else, the story jumps a decade ahead to Hollywood, to a radio studio where Annie, now grown, is drawing huge audiences with a radio show based on her exploits with Artie. And then there's a subplot about the rivalry of two movie stars, one a former boxer and the other of mysterious origins. And then it's off to a Hollywood variety show in the jungles of a South Pacific island under siege by the Japanese, a sequence that includes island warfare, and some startling revelations about character and motive — and more cross-dressing.

All this may make you feel — as it did me — that you're watching some lost Raymond Chandler film, with a script by William Faulkner. The characters tend to emote extra-large, in a way that makes me think of the expressionist histrionics in silent films. Dialogue in graphic novels can sometimes play second fiddle to the art, but in this case, Feiffer expresses a great deal of emotion just in his lettering, let alone the dialogue itself.

Overall it's pretty easy on the eyes, mainly because of Feiffer's by now familiar — and quite endearing — style of drawing wide-eyed, rangy, long-limbed figures, usually mostly comic, expressing joy or, as often happens here, distress. Figuring this one out as you look at the pages is a real brain-teaser — which may make you want to go back and read the entire thing again. That's what happened to me. Dark or light, there's a certain pleasure to it.

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