March Madness
March 29, 2014

And another No. 1 seed bites the dust.

Finishing up the NCAA tournament's Sweet Sixteen play on Friday night, No. 4 Michigan State battled to a 61-59 win over top-seeded Virginia. In fact, just one game on Friday night featured a victory by the higher seed (that would be No. 2-seeded Michigan over No. 11 Tennessee, 73-71).

Both remaining No. 1 seeds, Arizona and Florida, are set to play tonight for a Final Four berth, and's Jon Terbush found that, historically at least, those two teams' chances are pretty good:

Whether or not Cinderella team Dayton (a No. 11 seed, facing Florida) or gritty No. 2 Wisconsin (facing Arizona) can pull off an upset remains to be seen. Get thee to a couch, bar, or laptop, though, because March Madness is upon us, and there are plenty more dunks to be watched before a champion is crowned. --Sarah Eberspacher

two thumbs up for condoms
December 1, 2015
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When asked by an audience member to clarify his stance on making contraception available for women, Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) launched into a four-minute speech on Monday that extolled the ubiquitousness of condoms.

"Anyone who wants contraceptives can access them," he said during the campaign stop in Bettendorf, Iowa. As a lifelong conservative, Cruz said, he "never met anybody, any conservative who wants to ban contraceptives. Last I checked, we don't have a rubber shortage in America. Like look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom. You put 50 cents in — and voila!"

Cruz also revealed that because of contraceptives, there aren't more small Cruzes running around. "[My wife] Heidi and I, we have two little girls," he said. "I'm very glad we don't have 17." He went on to say that during previous election cycles, "Republicans would curl up in a ball" when it came time to talk about women's reproductive health matters. "They'd say, 'Don't hurt me,'" Cruz said. "Jiminy Cricket! This is a made-up, nonsense example."

While Cruz showed that he knows what condoms are used for and their price in the early 1990s, he didn't discuss other forms of contraception, like birth control pills, which not only prevent pregnancies but are also used to treat a variety of health issues, from acne to polycystic ovarian syndrome. Catherine Garcia

right name wrong guy
December 1, 2015
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Since 2002, Mustafa al-Aziz al-Shamiri has been held at Guantanamo Bay as an enemy combatant, and on Tuesday, U.S. officials admitted that al-Shamiri was not the person they originally thought.

Al-Shamiri was believed to have been a courier and trainer for al Qaeda, but was actually a low-level Islamist foot soldier, The Guardian reports. During a hearing to discuss his possible release, the Department of Defense said that al-Shamiri did fight in Afghanistan for the Taliban from 2000 to 2001 and associated with al Qaeda members, but conceded he was not a significant catch, and they confused him with other men with similar names.

The 37-year-old Yemeni was previously considered too dangerous to be released, but there was not enough evidence to try him, The Guardian says. A representative for al-Shamiri said he is "not a continuing significant threat to the United States of America," and is "earnestly preparing" for life on the outside. Over the past 13 years, he has taken English and art classes, and learned carpentry and cooking skills. "Mustafa does have remorse for choosing the wrong path early in life," the representative said. "He has vocalized to us that while he cannot change the past, he would definitely have chose a different path." Catherine Garcia

December 1, 2015
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The Illinois attorney general is calling for an independent investigation of the Chicago Police Department by the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.

Lisa Madigan sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch Tuesday, the day Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy resigned in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting. "The shocking death of Laquan McDonald is the latest tragedy in our city that highlights serious questions about the use of unlawful and excessive force by Chicago police officers and the lack of accountability for such abuse," Madigan said in a statement. "Trust in the Chicago Police Department is broken." Madigan said she knows the "vast majority" of officers serve "with bravery, honor, and integrity," and added that the "children in all of Chicago's communities deserve to grow up in a city in which they are protected and served by the police."

Madigan requested that investigators look into the department's use of force; training and supervision of officers; the adequacy of reviews and investigations into officer misconduct; and if there is a pattern of discriminatory policing, ABC Chicago reports. Catherine Garcia

food safety
December 1, 2015
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After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that tainted celery was likely behind an E. coli outbreak that has made at least 19 people in seven states sick, Starbucks recalled its turkey and stuffing paninis from 1,347 west coast locations last week.

A seasonal offering, the sandwiches were pulled from stores in California, Oregon, and Nevada, Starbucks spokeswoman Erin Jane Schaeffer said; no other markets were affected, and so far, there are no reports of the sandwiches making anyone ill. After the E. coli outbreak was traced to chicken salad sold at Costco, the CDC tested the celery and onion used in the salad, and found the bacteria, Bloomberg reports. Taylor Farms Pacific Inc. then announced it was recalling multiple celery products, including the sandwiches sold at Starbucks.

Costco and Starbucks aren't the only companies dealing with E. coli — an outbreak linked to Chipotle has made at least 45 people sick, and health officials are still trying to determine the contaminated ingredient. Catherine Garcia

December 1, 2015

Something sinister is happening in the Sea of Japan.

Since October, a dozen wooden boats have been discovered in the sea or on the coast filled with 22 decaying bodies, police and the Japanese coast guard said. One boat contained six skulls, and another had two headless "partially skeletonized" bodies. So far, the clues point to the boats being from North Korea – the coast guard says the hull of one boat with 10 bodies on it had "Korean People's Army," the name of the military, written in Korean, and Japan's NHK reports a tattered piece of cloth found on one boat looks like it could be from a North Korean national flag.

The coast guard is likely correct, maritime expert Yoshihiko Yamada told NHK. The boats have a "striking resemblance" to vessels used by North Korean defectors, and because the boats are "old and heavy," they didn't have enough engine power to "turn the ships against the currents." If the people on the boats were attempting to defect from North Korea, they could have taken the Sea of Japan route because, although more dangerous, it's not policed like the border with China. Catherine Garcia

fight against ISIS
December 1, 2015
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On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced a specialized expeditionary targeting force will be deployed to Iraq to fight the Islamic State.

Carter told the House Armed Services Committee the U.S. will launch raids "at the invitation of the Iraqi government" and "conduct unilateral operations in Syria" against ISIS targets, with the goal of defeating ISIS "at its core." He did not say when the troops will arrive.

Department of Defense officials told NBC News about 100 to 150 special operations forces will be permanently based in Iraq, and will gather intelligence, free hostages or prisoners, and kill or capture ISIS leaders. They will also accompany and assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces in operations against ISIS. A senior defense official told NBC News the missions will be similar to the raid that was conducted in northern Iraq in October, where commandos helped Kurdish fighters free 70 ISIS prisoners. Catherine Garcia

they believe the children are our future
December 1, 2015
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Most parents dream of a better world for their children. Unfortunately, most parents are not Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, who just announced the birth of their first child — a baby girl named Max.

Fortunately, Zuckerburg and Chan do have the resources to do their part to ensure that Max will grow up in a better world — and the rest of us will also get to reap the benefits! In an extended letter addressed to Max (and posted on Facebook), Zuckerberg and Chan have announced that over the course of their lifetimes, they will give away 99 percent of their Facebook shares — currently valued at $45 billion — in an effort to "advance human potential and promote equality."

"Max, we love you and feel a great responsibility to leave the world a better place for you and all children," the letter concludes. "We wish you a life filled with the same love, hope, and joy you give us. We can't wait to see what you bring to this world."

You can read the full letter here. Scott Meslow

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