We still don't know exactly what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which according to U.S. officials was likely brought down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile near the Ukraine-Russia border on Thursday. Suspicion immediately fell on Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine, though Russia has denied involvement and laid the blame at the Ukrainian government's doorstep.
But the killing of nearly 300 civilians from several different countries has turned the global klieg lights on a game of cat-and-mouse that Russia had been more than happy to play — and that could ultimately be responsible for a catastrophe that will ramp up pressure on President Vladimir Putin in ways he didn't foresee.
Putin has consistently called for a diplomatic solution to the conflict, while brazenly sending arms and armed forces to assist the rebels, extending an insurgency that has destabilized the government in Kiev. "It is a game for Putin," an anonymous Russian official told The New York Times. "He likes to say that he is a peacekeeper from one hand, while from the other he is sending the rebels arms. It is typical K.G.B."
So far, the U.S.'s European allies have been reluctant to following President Obama's lead in strengthening sanctions against Russia. With the deaths of Dutch and British civilians, among others, that could change. Furthermore, in this new environment, it will become far more difficult for Russia to continue supporting the rebels, who may soon find themselves left high and dry.
No one wanted this disaster to happen — perhaps none more than Putin himself. Ryu Spaeth
Officials with the Oklahoma Corrections Department used bottles labeled potassium acetate during an execution in January, violating protocol, state records show.
Convicted killer Charles Frederick Warner was given a lethal injection on Jan. 15, and officials were supposed to use potassium chloride to stop his heart, The Oklahoman reports. On Sept. 30, officials received the same incorrect drug ahead of convicted murderer Richard Glossip's scheduled lethal injection, and a stay was granted by Gov. Mary Fallin (R) after the mix-up was discovered.
An investigation was launched by Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) into Glossip's scheduled execution, and he confirmed on Wednesday it will also look into drug mistakes. "I want to assure the public that our investigation will be full, fair, and complete and includes not only actions on Sept. 30, but any and all actions prior, relevant to the use of potassium acetate and potassium chloride," he said. Fallin said Wednesday that "until we have complete confidence in the system, we will delay any further executions." Catherine Garcia
Paul Prudhomme, the influential Louisiana chef who made Cajun and Creole cooking popular across the country, died Thursday. He was 75.
— Yahoo News (@YahooNews) October 8, 2015
Born in 1940 near Opelousas, Louisiana, Prudhomme was the 13th child in his family, and started cooking at the age of seven in a kitchen without electricity. Prudhomme opened his first restaurant at the age of 17, Big Daddy O's Patio, outside of Opelousas, Louisiana, and in 1975 became the first non-European chef at Commander's Palace in New Orleans. He introduced Cajun food there, which, NOLA.com says, was "almost unheard of in New Orleans at the time." In 1979, he opened K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen along with his future wife, K Hinrichs, and patrons would wait hours for his blackened redfish and sweet potato pecan pie.
Prudhomme's popularity spread across the country as food writers began to come to New Orleans to pay him a visit. He wrote numerous cookbooks, including Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen, opened pop-up restaurants in New York City and San Francisco, gave a demonstration at the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, and started Magic Seasonings Blends, sold in all 50 states and 30 countries. Food writer Craig Claiborne said in 1988 that Prudhomme "has had the greatest influence on American cooking, in cultivating the public interest in American food, of anybody I know. ... People said, 'There must be more to Southern cooking,' and he opened up the floodgates to the whole field of Southern cooking." He is survived by wife Lori Prudhomme. His first wife, K Hinrichs, died in 1992. Catherine Garcia
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) saw numerous signs that becoming speaker of the House just wasn't meant to be. There was the Benghazi gaffe about Hillary Clinton and the impossible demands of the House Freedom Caucus. But perhaps his biggest red flag was the comment from "a lot of friends that were really supportive that said, 'Why do you want to do it during this time? This time will be the worst time. They're going to eat you and chew you up,'" McCarthy recounted in an interview with Politico, shortly after he abruptly announced Thursday that he was dropping out of the speakership race.
Although many thought McCarthy could gather the requisite 218 votes to become speaker, he knew that he "was never going to be able to get 247," he said, referring to the total tally of Republicans in the House. And, Politico reports, he wondered if he could be an effective speaker with "essentially the bare minimum" of support.
McCarthy said he wasn't so sure. "The conference is an odd place," McCarthy said. "Sometimes you gotta hit the bottom to be able to come back. This gives us a real fresh start — a new start gives a fresh start. Having a fresh face brings the conference together."
Choreographer Ryan Heffington has a talent for putting together some unusual, breathtaking dances — remember the video for Sia's "Chandelier"? This time, Emma Stone is Heffington's leading lady in the music video for "Anna," by Arcade Fire's Win Butler.
Filmed on the supposedly haunted Queen Mary ocean liner, Billboard reports that the music video was partly inspired by stories of the Lady in White, "a young and beautiful woman who, it has been reported, likes to dance to unheard music in the Queens Salon." While you really need the sound on for the full effect, Stone's performance is mesmerizing just about any way you look at it. Watch it in full below. Jeva Lange
Some Republicans were caught actually sobbing after Kevin McCarthy dropped out of the House speaker race
Everyone had just finished saying the Pledge when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) stood up and announced he would be withdrawing his bid for speaker of the House — a decision that has thrown a wrench into the plans of the confused and scattered GOP Congressional leadership. In fact, McCarthy's announcement came as such a surprise that Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) said some members were actually sobbing afterward. "The person next to me was crying," Rooney told The Hill.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) had the same story for The Washington Post's Robert Costa:
Rep. Peter King tells me that members are crying in cloakroom, unable to handle the unrest and confusion. "A banana republic," he says.
— Robert Costa (@costareports) October 8, 2015
Likewise, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) told The Hill that fans of McCarthy's were in shock. "They lined up to give him a hug," Huelskamp said. "I saw tears in eyes. It's the strangest thing I've seen in a long time." Jeva Lange
The Federal Reserve released the minutes from its September meeting today. We learned the results of that meeting the day it ended, but the minutes can still provide a window into what's going on in the heads of the Fed officials who vote on monetary policy. Take this quote:
To some [members], the continued subdued trend in wages was evidence of an absence of upward pressure on inflation from current levels of labor utilization. Several others, however, noted that weak productivity growth and low price inflation might be contributing to modest wage increases. A number of participants reported that some of their business contacts were experiencing labor shortages in various occupations and geographic areas resulting in upward pressure on wages, with a few indicating that the pickup in wages had become more widespread.
Consider that line against something you'd never read in the Fed minutes. Something like: "Other members responded that their contacts amongst the unemployed and low-income workers saw no evidence of rising wage pressure at all."
Fed officials understandably rely on their contacts throughout the world of business owners to gauge regional changes in the economy. Those contacts have vested interests in having monetary policy prioritize low inflation over low unemployment. That doesn't mean the stress and worries they're under are not genuine. But with the exception of recent activism efforts, people who desperately need job growth to continue have no equivalent access to Fed officials' ears. Cold aggregate data is all that speaks for them.
That's bound to have an impact on how the Fed weighs it priorities. Hearing from people on the ground may be qualitative, not quantitative, but it can help parse the quantitative data. Human beings are social creatures, after all, and Fed officials are only human. Jeff Spross
U.S. officials reported Thursday that Russian missiles aimed at Syria fell short of their target and crashed in a rural area of Iran. Intelligence estimates that at least four missiles crashed, though it remains unclear where they landed. Russian ships were positioned in the South Caspian Sea, and officials say that missiles' flight path would have "taken them across the northern sections of Iran and Iraq on the way to Syria," The New York Times reports.