Welcoming Crimea's "return to the Motherland," on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared in the territory for the first time since Moscow annexed the region, formerly a part of Ukraine, in March. Putin's visit tied in to Russia's most important secular holiday, Victory Day, which honors the 1945 Soviet victory against the Nazis. The holiday now celebrates Russian power, and Putin noted that in an address: "2014 will go into the annals of our whole country as the year when the nations living here firmly decided to be together with Russia, affirming fidelity to the historical truth."
Putin makes first visit to Crimea since March annexation
Arkansas judge strikes down state's gay marriage ban
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza struck down a 2004 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in Arkansas late on Friday."This is an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality," Piazza wrote in his decision. "The exclusion of a minority for no rational reason is a dangerous precedent." State Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has said that while he personally supports gay marriage, he will defend the state's constitutional ban in court.
Postal Service reports $1.9 billion quarterly net loss
While the Postal Service announced an operating revenue of $16.7 billion in the second quarter of this year (a $379 million increase over the same 2013 time period), it was not enough to offset the agency's debt. The Postal Service still posted a net loss of $1.9 billion in the second quarter on Friday, despite cost-cutting efforts such as staff reductions and plant consolidations. Postal officials are reiterating their plea to the government for help. "Without legislation, our losses will increase in the coming years, and we will likely be a significant burden on the taxpayers," Patrick R. Donahoe, the postmaster general, said.
U.N. refugee agency: Thousands of Nigerians fleeing Boko Haram
As international focus remains on more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted in April by Boko Haram insurgents, the United Nations refugee agency told reporters on Friday that "up to a thousand" people per week are fleeing their homes in northeast Nigeria. The refugees, hoping to escape increased Boko Haram attacks, are traveling across the border into Niger, which is also unstable due to the remoteness of that particular region. Officials said a quarter of a million people are now displaced within the country since Nigeria declared a state of emergency one year ago; another 60,000 people have fled across borders.
NBA names Richard Parsons as Clippers' interim CEO
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Richard Parsons as interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. Parsons, a former Citigroup and Time Warner chairman, takes the position left vacant by Donald Sterling, whose racist statements to a female friend became public last month and moved the NBA to ban him from operating as owner of the Clippers. Silver said Parsons will "bring extraordinary leadership and immediate stability to the Clippers organization," as the NBA proceeds with its plan to force Sterling to sell his team.
IOC denies rumors it asked London about hosting 2016 Olympics
As Rio de Janeiro struggles to complete preparations for the 2016 Summer Olympics, the International Olympic Committee reportedly reached out to London, host of the successful 2012 Games, and asked whether the city would be able to host again if Rio is not fully prepared. However, the IOC swiftly denied that report, despite officials' increasingly critical comments on Brazil's timeline. "The situation is critical on the ground," John Coates, IOC vice president, said. Brazil's preparations are "the worst I've experienced."
Ford recalls nearly 700,000 vehicles
Ford recalled nearly 700,000 Escapes and C-Max model vehicles on Friday, citing potential airbag malfunctions the company said could cause an increased risk of injury to passengers during accidents. While no accidents or injuries due to the defects have yet been reported, the recall followed an announcement by the company several weeks ago that it would be increasing recall repair funding by $400 million.
Larry Wilmore named as Stephen Colbert's successor
The Colbert Report officially has a successor: Larry Wilmore will replace Stephen Colbert on the Comedy Central show, starting in January. Wilmore is a comedy writer and actor, who appears regularly on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and was reportedly handpicked by Stewart to replace the outgoing Colbert.
Netflix raises price on video-streaming option
Planning to sign up for Netflix? As of Friday, the company began charging new subscribers $9 per month for its internet video-streaming option, up from $8 per month. The service's current subscribers — 36 million in the U.S. alone — will not see a price hike until May 2016. Netflix had not raised its prices since 2011, but CEO Reed Hastings had warned of the imminent cost increase, saying it would be necessary in order to pay for more original programming like House of Cards.
Noah reigns supreme as top boy name in U.S.
The Social Security Administration released its list of top baby names in the United States on Friday: Knocking out 13-year-winner Jacob for the top spot in 2013 was the name Noah. For girls' names, Sophia remained first for the third year in a row. The list, released every year before Mother's Day, compiles the names parents supply to the agency when filling out Social Security card applications.