Stephen Jin-Woo Kim. Image: Stephen Kim Legal Defense Trust.
Former State Department official Stephen Kim announced today he will plead guilty to leaking classified information to Fox News journalist James Rosen and will serve 13 months in jail.
The case sparked controversy last year when it was revealed the Justice Department named Rosen a “co-conspirator” in court documents for essentially doing his job as a journalist. But a largely ignored ruling in Kim’s case may have far broader impact on how sources interact with journalists in the future.
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Over the last decade
, the drugs used in lethal injection executions in the United States have fallen into short supply, as the mostly European companies that manufacture those drugs cut off their availability in protest of the death penalty. States are beginning to run out of stockpiles
of pentobarbital and sodium thiopental. Instead, they're turning to combinations of what drugs are still available. The results could change the case on whether lethal injection represents cruel and unusual punishment. In Ohio last week, a prisoner took 25 minutes to die
, struggling and gasping for breath all the while. — Maggie
Perhaps you've heard of the Russian cruise ship
that was abandoned in the North Atlantic and is now, possibly, floating towards a landfall in England? (Or, it might have sunk a while ago. Nobody is really sure.) Anyway, here's a fun fact: According to maritime law
, if you can find the thing and take control of her (which may, or may not, involve fighting off armies of cannibal rats) then you own her
. — Maggie
Image: West Virginians line up at a water filling station at West Virginia State University. A chemical spill prevents them from using tap water. REUTERS/Lisa Hechesky
Over the weekend, Xeni wrote here about a chemical spill in West Virginia that's dumped upwards of 7,500 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol into the Elk River just a mile upstream from the West Virginia American Water intake system, contaminating local water supplies. Since she posted, there have been some more updates on this story, including some interesting chemical sleuthing from a couple of great writers.
First off, what is 4-methylcyclohexane methanol? It's used in coal washing, a process that it would be reasonable to think of as "a good thing", because washing coal is what removes a lot of the sulfur that would otherwise contribute to acid rain. Basically, while we'd all prefer we didn't burn coal, if we're going to burn it, we want it to be washed. To do that, coal is crushed fine and dumped into a bath of frothy, foamy water. Relatively light coal floats and sticks to the foam. Relatively heavy sulfurous rock sinks. 4-methylcyclohexane methanol is one of the chemicals that can be used to make the froth.
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Yesterday I posted an epic collection of the "Best News Bloopers 2013." But here's a last minute great one in which KUTV Utah reporter Brooke Graham faints during a live report and instantly recovers to finish her interview! (via Bleacher Report)
Graham, who gave permission to KUTV to post the video, later wrote, "I am known to faint any time I am in high altitudes and get too cold... I could feel myself getting light headed and tried to warn the producer that I was sick."
Back in the 80s, Ronald Reagan paid a lot of rhetorical attention to the story of an anonymous "welfare queen" who drove a Cadillac and lived high on the taxpayer's dime. I'd long assumed that Reagan's queen was a fictional construct, but the truth is much, much more fascinating.
At Slate, Josh Levin has a long read on the life and times of "Linda Taylor" (in quotes because that's only one of her many, many aliases), the real woman who served as the basis for Reagan's story. Taylor really did drive a Cadillac and perpetrate a decent amount of welfare fraud. But her story isn't really representative of the typical sort of welfare fraud — let alone the typical welfare recipient, in general. In fact, Taylor was the sort of person that gets armchair diagnosed as a sociopath. She spent most of her life grifting somebody and was possibly involved in the deaths of multiple people.
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Love this list of 20 rules of thumb to help you analyze the validity of science news. A lot of it boils down to statistics and common sense (hey, you guys, scientists are human), but it's also stuff that easy to lose sight of when you're excited or scared or totally fascinated. Print this out and read it before you click "share". — Maggie
Over the last couple of days, you might have heard about the "duon" — a "second" genetic code that's being hyped as a radical new "breakthrough" in science.
Based solely on the number of words I've put in quotations here, you can probably guess that the actual news doesn't really match the hype.
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Two days ago, a truck carrying a container of radioactive cobalt-60 (enough to make a dirty bomb) was stolen by carjackers off a highway near Tijuana. Today, authorities found the truck. The thieves probably aren't terrorists
, just some guys who wanted a truck with a crane attached to it. But, at some point, they opened the container of cobalt-60 and will now almost certainly die from radiation exposure. — Maggie
Last week, I linked you to a piece pointing out that three New York Times
op-ed pieces linking bacterial exposure (or lack thereof) to autism, celiac disease, and allergies were all written by the same guy
, Moises Velasquez-Manoff. His ideas are interesting, but there's also good reason to be skeptical. If you want to get a better idea of the arguments for and against Velasquez-Manoff's thesis, I'd recommend checking out this post at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker
, which links to several critical stories and to Velasquez-Manoff's response to them. — Maggie
A Greenland shark found beached on Nov. 16. (CBC/Derrick Chaulk)
A tragedy was averted in Newfoundland when two men rescued an 8-foot-long Greenland shark that had managed to both partially beach itself and get a 2-foot-long hunk of moose lodged in its mouth. The men pulled the moose bits free and then towed the shark back into deeper water. The shark survived and, hopefully, learned some valuable lessons about hubris.
After stumping her doctors, a sick Taiwanese woman turned out to be infected with a strain of bird flu never before seen in humans
. She survived, and nobody else appears to be infected, but you might want to get used to thinking about H6N1. — Maggie
i09's Annalee Newitz has a theory about why some stories get shared around the Internet
more than others — and, not coincidentally, why nuanced stories about science tend to get shared less than, say, the average LOLcat. If she's right, the real trick with science reporting on the Internet is to write accurate stories that aren't all reported from deep in the Valley of Ambiguity. — Maggie
The website banner for shahamat-english.com, an English-language website of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
A Daily Beast story about Taliban’s ruling council meeting for peace talks in Pakistan “violates the basic principles of journalism” and is "nonsense," according to the Afghan Taliban. That's not as bad as having your news organization banned on Reddit, but it's still gotta hurt.
The Taliban's critique, below, in full:
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