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April 21, 2013

A Michigan judge found himself in contempt of court after his cellphone began talking during a trial's closing arguments. The phone began asking for voice-dialing commands, saying, "I can't understand you." The red-faced judge said he bumped the phone by accident, but found himself in contempt and imposed a $25 fine on himself. "If I cannot live by the rules that I enforce,’" he said, "then I have no business enforcing these rules."

  Samantha Rollins

11:40 a.m. ET
Carl Court/Getty Images

Snapchat plans to host original scripted content through Snapchat Shows before the year is over, Variety reports. The announcement from the company's head of content, Nick Bell, follows Snapchat's successful rollout of TV companion programs for shows like The Voice and The Bachelor.

"Mobile is the most complementary thing to TV that has been around," Bell said.

Snapchat's first attempt at original scripted content, though, was widely panned. Literally Can't Even aired on the app in 2015, Tech Crunch reports, "inspiring headlines including 'We Literally Can't Even with Snapchat's new original series' and 'Snapchat's First Original Series is Here and It's Awful."

Bell said Wednesday the company had been hesitant to break into scripted content — production is expensive — but that it is "an interesting next juncture" for the app and could create "fundamentally a new medium."

The new shows will be tailored to Snapchat's mobile platform, likely running approximately three to five minutes in length, Variety adds. Jeva Lange

11:30 a.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

As the climate continues to warm, the permanently frozen ground underneath much of Alaska is starting to thaw. While the loss of permafrost would obviously have big consequences for the state's population, wildlife, and infrastructure, perhaps even more alarmingly, it would also have a huge impact on the already increasing global temperature, The New York Times reported Wednesday:

Starting just a few feet below the surface and extending tens or even hundreds of feet down, it contains vast amounts of carbon in organic matter — plants that took carbon dioxide from the atmosphere centuries ago, died and froze before they could decompose. Worldwide, permafrost is thought to contain about twice as much carbon as is currently in the atmosphere.

Once this ancient organic material thaws, microbes convert some of it to carbon dioxide and methane, which can flow into the atmosphere and cause even more warming. Scientists have estimated that the process of permafrost thawing could contribute as much as 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit to global warming over the next several centuries, independent of what society does to reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels and other activities. [The New York Times]

The complete thaw of the Arctic's "always-frozen ground" is estimated to be "millenniums" away, but already the melting ground is believed to be contributing to rising carbon emissions in the region. One calculation estimates that right now, thawing permafrost worldwide emits about 1.5 billion tons of fossil fuel annually, which the Times noted is "slightly more than the United States emits from fossil-fuel burning."

“There's a massive amount of carbon that's in the ground, that's built up slowly over thousands and thousands of years," said Max Holmes, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center studying Alaska's permafrost melt. "It's been in a freezer, and that freezer is now turning into a refrigerator."

Read more on the alarming thaw at The New York Times. Becca Stanek

10:14 a.m. ET

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is either slowly transforming into a Proverbs Twitter bot or he has found a particularly clever way to subtweet the president of the United States.

As Newsweek recently observed, this Rubio tweet in June came "the day after Trump tweeted 'The Fake News Media has never been so wrong or so dirty. Purposely incorrect stories and phony sources to meet their agenda of hate. Sad!'"

Another Rubio subtweet spotted by Newsweek followed Trump's declaration that "Hillary Clinton colluded with the Democratic Party in order to beat Crazy Bernie Sanders. Is she allowed to so collude? Unfair to Bernie!"

There are plenty of other examples:

The latest Rubio subtweet follows Trump's off-script rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday:

Subtle? Jeva Lange

10:06 a.m. ET
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) didn't name any names in its statement issued Wednesday, but it didn't need to. In the statement, released the week after President Trump hesitated to directly condemn white supremacists and blamed "both sides" for the violence at the Charlottesville, Virginia, white nationalist rally, the U.N. committee called on "high-level politicians" in the U.S. to "unequivocally and unconditionally reject and condemn racist hate speech and crimes in Charlottesville and throughout the country."

The call was made in conjunction to an "early warning" about the rise of racist displays in the U.S. "We are alarmed by the racist demonstrations, with overtly racist slogans, chants, and salutes by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan, promoting white supremacy and inciting racial discrimination and hatred," CERD Chairperson Anastasia Crickley said in a statement.

The Guardian noted that the only other such early warnings given in the past decade were issued in Burundi, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Kyrgyzstan, and Nigeria. Becca Stanek

9:50 a.m. ET

ESPN is pulling college football announcer Robert Lee from covering a Virginia game this season because his name is only one initial away from being shared with the Confederate general, the New York Daily News reports. While Lee's name might have raised eyebrows in Charlottesville, where violence erupted over protests concerning the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the announcer is Asian-American and shares "no heritage to the former military leader of the Confederacy," the Daily News reports.

Lee was slated to cover a football game between Virginia and William & Mary when protests broke out in Charlottesville earlier this month. ESPN said in a statement that the decision was made due to "the reasonable possibility that because of [Lee's] name, he would be subjected to memes and jokes and who knows what else." The statement went on to say: "No politically correct efforts. No race issues. Just trying to be supportive of a young guy who felt it best to avoid the potential zoo." Jeva Lange

9:40 a.m. ET
George Frey/Getty Images

A federal jury in Las Vegas declined on Tuesday to convict any of the four men who participated in the standoff between Bureau of Land Management agents and supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy in 2014. The jury cleared Oklahoma resident Richard Lovelien and Steven Stewart of Idaho of all charges, and dismissed the main conspiracy and extortion charges against Eric Parker and O. Scott Drexler, both from Idaho. Federal prosecutors have not decided if they will retry Drexler and Parker, who was famously photographed aiming a rifle at BLM agents.

This was the second time the four defendants had been tried, after a jury deadlocked on the charges against them in April, while convicting two others of multiple charges. Prosecutors charged the six men and 13 others last year; two took plea deals, and the others were divided into three groups, based on the severity of the charges. The trial that just concluded was the lowest tier in terms of alleged involvement in the 2014 standoff, when Bundy and his supporters threatened violence against federal agents coming to seize some of his cattle to pay off more than $1 million Bundy owed the government for unpaid grazing fees.

Bundy and two of his sons, Ammon and Ryan, will be in the next round of trials. Ammon and Ryan Bundy were acquitted last year of charges stemming from their armed occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon. Peter Weber

9:35 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Trump's response to the Charlottesville, Virginia, white nationalist rally certainly didn't do his already dismal approval rating any favors. A Politico/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday, and taken entirely after the violence in Charlottesville, showed Trump's approval rating at a new low of 39 percent. The week before Trump blamed "both sides" for the rally's violence and hesitated to directly condemn white supremacists, his approval rating sat 5 points higher, at 44 percent.

Notably, Trump's rating decline can be mostly attributed to self-identified Republican voters' waning approval: Trump's approval rating among Republicans dropped from 81 percent last week to 73 percent. His approval rating among Democrats and independents dipped just 1 point, though 71 percent of Democrats deemed the president's response to be "inappropriate."

On the whole, only 16 percent said that Trump's response was "unifying." On Tuesday night, Trump doubled down on his response, claiming the media had downplayed anti-fascist protesters' actions.

The poll surveyed 1,987 voters from Aug. 17-19. Its margin of error is plus or minus 2 percentage points. Becca Stanek

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