Only in America
July 13, 2013

Animal shelters in many U.S. cities are reporting a surge in the number of abandoned chickens. Tiffany Young, founder of a Seattle animal rescue group, says the problem is "hipster urban yuppie types" trying to raise poultry in their backyards — and giving up when they realize it’s hard work. "There is not a sanctuary in the Northwest that is not at capacity or beyond," said Young. The Week Staff

Russia in Syria
5:56 a.m. ET

On Wednesday, Russia and Syria launched what appears to be their first coordinated joint strike on the insurgents battling to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian ally. Syrian ground troops launched an offensive in western Hama and Idlib provinces, supported by Russian airstrikes, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. With Russia stepping more aggressively into Syria's civil war, BBC News took a look at the military hardware Russia is believed to be using. The video below focuses on Russia's advanced SU-35 Strike Fighter, but that's just the tip of the spear. Peter Weber

Apple vs. Microsoft
5:23 a.m. ET

On Tuesday, Microsoft took a big step further in its evolution toward becoming a hardware company, showing off its first-ever laptop, the Surface Book, plus new iterations of its Surface tablet, Lumia smartphones, and Band smartwatch/fitness tracker.

The new laptop, which features a removable tablet-screen, will challenge other hardware makers rolling out their own Windows 10 notebooks, "but the main event today was clearly more about Microsoft vs. Apple," one of the tech world's biggest, longest-running rivalries, says Edward C. Baig at USA Today. "Microsoft's first bold claim is that Surface Pro 4 is 50 percent faster than Apple's MacBook Air, which it clearly views as Surface's natural competitor." Time will tell if consumers love, not just need, Windows 10 — a key goal of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella — and the Microsoft hardware that runs it. But competition is good for consumers, so game on. Peter Weber

Colbert Nationalism
4:40 a.m. ET

China is the world's second-largest movie-watching nation, after the U.S., and Hollywood regularly panders to Beijing so its movies will be allowed into China and win over its audiences, Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show, citing The Martian as one example. Well, two can play at that game. "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get a piece of that sweet — and sour — renminbi," he said, kicking off "Stephen Colbert's Pander Express," his "long-running first attempt to suck up to the Chinese censors."

And pander he did, mixing praise for the Chinese with loaded barbs, some of them in questionable taste (see Square, Tiananmen). How dedicated is Colbert to the sucking up? He almost died, choking on lamb face stew, just so a special guest could come out and save him... before urging the Chinese to watch The Late Show in Mandarin. Watch, learn, and occasionally cringe below. Peter Weber

Secretary of Explaining Stuff Explains
3:57 a.m. ET

In 2012, President Obama dubbed Bill Clinton the Secretary of Explaining Stuff, Stephen Colbert reminded Clinton on Tuesday's Late Show, and so he asked the former president to explain three things. First up was why Sen. Bernie Sanders is doing so well in the race against Clinton's wife, Hillary Clinton. "There are a lot of people all over the world who are really hacked off, that they think the system is rigged against them and the rich get all the gains," Clinton said, and they see Republicans doing well by rewarding candidates who run to the right so Democrats think "they will be even more effective if they move further to the left."

The other two questions were about Donald Trump, starting with why Clinton thinks Trump is doing so well on the Republican side. "Because he's a master brander, and he's the most interesting character out there," Clinton said. "It may have a short half-life, his campaign — I can't tell yet — but he's a master brander and there is a macho appeal to saying: I'm just sick of nothing happening, I make stuff happen, vote for me." The last question was about the rumor that Clinton called Trump and asked him to run, which would be "pretty smart, man," Colbert joked. Clinton said no, adding: "I get credit for doing a lot of things I didn't do." Watch the interview below. Peter Weber

Capital Punishment
3:12 a.m. ET

On Tuesday night, Texas executed its 11th inmate this year, killing 35-year-old Juan Garcia through lethal injection. Garcia admitted to killing Mexican immigrant Hugh Solano in Houston during a botched robbery in 1998, when Garcia was 18, but insisted it was an accident during a fight for the gun. Prosecutors say Garcia got just $8 from Solano. Despite Garcia's long rap sheet, Solano's widow asked the judge not to sentence him to death, saying she forgave him for the murder. She and her daughter were at the execution, weeping, NBC News reports, and Garcia apologized to them in Spanish before he died, saying: "The harm that I did to your dad and husband — I hope this brings you closure.... I never wanted to hurt any of you all."

Garcia was the third inmate put to death in the past week, following executions in Virginia and Georgia. Peter Weber

2:19 a.m. ET

Earlier this week on Facebook, Republican presidential candidate answered some questions from regular people. He told Michael, for example that he drives an electric Tesla sedan ("I am sure some left-wing environmentalists' heads are exploding"), and Anne that he lives in West Palm Beach, Florida. Dan asked if Carson's views on the Second Amendment have changed since last week's mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. Carson replied that he has cousins who were killed by gun violence in Detroit, and that "as a doctor, I spent many a night pulling bullets out of bodies." Then he added:

There is no doubt that this senseless violence is breathtaking — but I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away. Serious people seek serious solutions. [Carson, Facebook]

Carson followed up Monday night's comments with an interview Tuesday morning on Fox News, where he suggested, as The New York Times puts it, that the students at Umpqua Community College "were overly passive." If an assailant pointed a gun at him, Carson told Fox and Friends, "I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say: 'Hey, guys, everybody attack him! He may shoot me, but he can't get us all.'"

Carson also said Tuesday that President Obama is wrong to visit the families of the victims in Oregon this week. If he were president, he said, "I mean, I would probably have so many things on my agenda that I would go to the next one." But hey, at least he didn't mention Hilter. Peter Weber

hard work pays off
2:06 a.m. ET
Darren McCollester/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The debate team from New York's Eastern Correctional Facility has major bragging rights, after beating the national debate championship team from Harvard.

In September, the inmates invited the Harvard team to the Napanoch prison for a friendly match. The Eastern Correctional Facility team was formed two years ago, and the men take debate classes taught by faculty at Bard College; about 15 percent of the inmates are enrolled in different courses through the Bard Prison Initiative. "Students in the prison are held to the exact same standards, levels of rigor, and expectation as students on Bard's main campus," Max Kenner, executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative, told The Associated Press. "Those students are serious. They are not condescended to by their faculty."

During the battle against Harvard, the inmates had to argue that public schools should have the right to turn away students whose parents came to the United States without documents. It was a stance the inmates didn't agree with, but they were able to come up with points Harvard wasn't expecting, AP reports, and a neutral panel of judges declared them the winners. The inmates have defeated teams from West Point and the University of Vermont, and the Harvard team appears happy to join their ranks, posting on Facebook: "There are few teams we are prouder of having lost a debate to than the phenomenally intelligent and articulate team we faced this weekend." Catherine Garcia

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