Only in America: The price of mental health
California taxpayers paid a prison psychiatrist $822,302 last year — five times more than the governor — and 92 other psychiatrists more than $300,000, a Bloomberg investigation found. As a result of a court order that compelled the state to improve inmate care, Dr. Mohammad Safi — who got his medical degree in Afghanistan — was on call 17 hours a day, including many weekends. "They ask me to work because there aren't enough people," Safi said.
New York Assmbly Speaker Sheldon Silver agrees to temporarily step aside
For the first time since 1994, Sheldon Silver won't be in the role of speaker of the New York State Assembly — if his fellow Democrats approve his new shift-of-power proposal in a meeting on Monday. Late Sunday, Silver agreed to temporarily give up his speaker duties while he fights federal corruption charges. Instead of handing over power to one person, though, he would split his duties among a handful of senior Democratic colleagues.
Silver would "not specifically step down, but step back," an unidentified person "briefed on the situation" tells The New York Times. Federal prosecutors accuse Silver, 70, of trying to disguise $4 million in payments he obtained by abusing his authority; Silver denies the charges.
Birdman, Eddie Redmayne, Julianne Moore receive top honors at the SAG Awards
Birdman, Eddie Redmayne, and Julianne Moore were among the big winners Sunday night at the 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Birdman's Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, and Amy Ryan shared the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture award, while Redmayne received the Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role award for his turn as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything and Moore took home the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role award for her work as Alice Howland in Still Alice.
Supporting honors went to J.K. Simmons for Whiplash and Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. On the television side, Kevin Spacey won for male actor in a drama series for House of Cards and Viola Davis won for female actor in a drama series for How to Get Away with Murder, while William H. Macy received the male actor in a comedy series award for Shameless and Uzo Aduba the female actor in a comedy series award for Orange is the New Black. For a full list of winners, visit the Los Angeles Times.
White House announces proposal to protect pristine habitat in Alaska
On Sunday, the White House announced that President Obama will ask Congress to classify 12 million acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska as wilderness, which would forbid drilling for oil and gas and the construction of roads on the land.
The refuge covers 19 million acres, and is home to polar bears, gray wolves, musk oxen, and caribou. "This is a big deal," Gene Karpinski, president of The League of Conservation Voters, told The New York Times. "Big oil has long wanted to get its hands on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. ... We wholeheartedly agree and celebrate this announcement by the Obama administration."
The proposal is already receiving opposition from several Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who called the proposal "a stunning attack on our sovereignty" and vowed to "fight back with every resource at our disposal." Since the refuge was created in 1980, lawmakers in Alaska have tried to open the area for drilling and development, the Times reports.
Residents uneasy over genetically modified mosquitoes being released in Florida
Scientists say that by releasing millions of genetically modified male mosquitoes into the Florida Keys, they could slow down the spread of dengue and chikungunya, but area residents aren't very enthusiastic about the plan.
The male mosquitoes have been engineered by the British biotech firm Oxitec to produce offspring that quickly die off; if the female mating partners only produce these doomed larvae, there will be fewer mosquitos and fewer cases of the painful virusus they carry. "This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease," Michael Doyle, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, told The Associated Press.
Mosquito controllers say they are running out of ways to kill the Aedes aegypti, which has evolved to resist several insecticides. Since the Keys haven't had a dengue outbreak in years or a chikungunya case ever, however, residents aren't quick to welcome the genetically modified mosquitoes. "If I knew that this was a real risk and lives could be saved, that would make sense," Key Haven resident Marilyn Smith told AP. "But there are no problems...why are we being used as the experiment, the guinea pigs, just to see what happens?" So far, more than 130,000 people have signed a Change.org petition against the release of the mosquitoes.
John Oliver tamely, passionately auditions for 50 Shades of Grey
John Oliver's hashtag #NotMyChristian sounds pretty political/religious, but it isn't. In an online Last Week Tonight video Sunday night, Oliver ardently protests the casting of Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the film adaptation of the erotic E.L. James novel Fifty Shades of Grey, then sort of apologizes for the anti-Dornan hashtag, then films his own audition tape for the already completed movie (or at least its sequel). Steamy? Well, let's just put it this way: Except for one word, you'd be as safe watching it at work as any other non-work video. —Peter Weber
At least 18 killed in protests marking the anniversary of Egypt's uprising
Over the weekend at least 18 people were killed during protests to mark Sunday's anniversary of the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak.
— Khadija (@khadijas_) January 25, 2015
At least 17 of the fatalities were on Sunday, in several clashes that also saw at least 35 people wounded. Activist Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, 32, died of internal bleeding after being shot on Saturday when police broke up a demonstration in Cairo, NBC News reports. Her fellow demonstrators blame al-Sabbagh's death on the police, and Egypt's Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb said in a statement an impartial investigation would take place to determine who killed the activist.
2 planes in Seattle evacuated due to 'security concerns'
Late Sunday afternoon, two planes were evacuated once they landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport over what a Sea-Tac spokesman called a "security concern."
Upon arrival, passengers on a JetBlue flight from Long Beach, California, and a regional SkyWest jet from Phoenix were bused to their gates "out of an abundance of caution," The Associated Press reports, and an investigation is underway. On Sunday afternoon, a Delta Air Lines flight from Los Angeles to Orlando was diverted to Dallas also due to a "security concern," a Delta spokesperson said. Passengers were removed from that flight and authorities are examining the airplane.
Authorities have not said if these cases are linked to bomb threats made Saturday that targeted two airplanes heading to Atlanta, AP says.
Exit polls show anti-austerity Syriza party to win Greek elections
Greece's left-wing Syriza party on Sunday appeared to win a decisive victory in a nationwide election, according to early exit polls.
In what would represent a sound rejection of austerity, preliminary results showed Syriza taking around 35 percent of the vote to 30 percent for Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the governing New Democracy Party. A Syriza victory would likely result in the party's leader, Alexis Tsipras, becoming the next prime minster.
"The message is that our common future in Europe is not the future of austerity," Tsipras said Sunday.
'Potentially historic' snowstorm threatens to paralyze Northeast
The northeastern United States could in some places see around two feet of snow over the next few days as a massive winter storm passes through the region.
— Michael Palmer (@MPalmerTWC) January 25, 2015
Blizzard watches are in effect in Boston and Providence — which could each get slammed with two feet of snow — and in New York City, where one foot is forecast to fall between Sunday and Wednesday. A "large area" could see winds around 50 miles per hour, and 70 mph gust could buffet the Massachusetts coast, according to The Weather Channel, which calls the storm "potentially historic."
Mike Huckabee on 2016 bid: 'I'm moving in that direction'
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said Sunday he is leaning toward another run at the White House.
"I think it's pretty evident that I'm moving in that direction," Huckabee said on Meet the Press.
Earlier this month, Huckabee left Fox News after more than six years with the network, a move widely seen as a prerequisite for a 2016 bid. You can watch Huckabee's entire Meet the Press interview here.