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January 31, 2012

The pleasures of flying commercial can now be yours at home. Skypak airline trolleys are the same slim, sturdy rolling carts that flight attendants swear by, only now they've been restyled for use in your "living room, bedroom, kitchen, or man cave." Starting at $1,771, the trolleys offer a variety of interior fittings, from clothes drawers to wine racks. The exterior can even be studded with Swarovski Elements crystals or plated with 24-karat gold. Merely having such a jet-set totem around, the manufacturer promises, will "give you itchy feet." Source: PostIntelligencer.com

The Week Staff

1:45 p.m. ET
Screenshot/Twitter/MSNBC

American fighter jets on Thursday intercepted Russian planes in disputed Syrian airspace, MSNBC reported, the latest escalation of tensions between American and Russian forces in the region. MSNBC's Hans Nichols reported that the U.S. planes fired warning flares at two Russian fighter jets as they approached airspace the U.S Air Force claims to control.

American and Russian warplanes have had several tense encounters in Syria this year. Nichols speculated that this latest action shows that the U.S. "is no longer willing to abide" the Russian incursions into its claimed airspace, which have been "testing American resolve." Russian officials claim they are simply trying to launch airstrikes on the Islamic State.

While Nichols claims the incident occurred Thursday, Fox News reported the encounter happened Wednesday. Additionally, the details of Nichols' report are very similar to an incident reported by RT on Dec. 9 in which Russian officials claimed that the U.S. intercepted and shot warning flares at Russian fighter jets who were trying to bomb an ISIS base.

In June, Russia warned the U.S. that it would treat American aircraft as "targets" after American jets after shot down a Syrian warplane. Last week, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial withdrawal of Russian troops in Syria, but the U.S. — which has about 2,000 troops of its own in the country — has remained skeptical that the Russian troop withdrawal will be significant. Kelly O'Meara Morales

11:00 a.m. ET
Facebook/Congressman Blake Farenthold

Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold (Texas) will retire in 2019 at the end of his congressional term, local ABC affiliate Newscenter 25 reported Thursday. NBC News confirmed the report, citing two unnamed GOP officials familiar with Farenthold's thinking.

Farenthold has recently come under fire for using vulgar insults to address staffers with whom he was angry, and a New York Times investigation depicted the lawmaker's office as a "hostile work environment, rife with sexual innuendo." Farenthold's improper conduct was first revealed by Politico's report earlier this month that Farenthold had used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Farenthold has denied the allegations. He had initially planned to run for re-election next year, but instead will reportedly retire in January 2019, when his current term ends. Kimberly Alters

10:45 a.m. ET
Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images

President Trump is so consistently irritated by Russia talk that officials avoid discussing the country during the president's daily intelligence briefings, The Washington Post reported Thursday — despite the fact that all U.S. intelligence agencies agree that the Kremlin launched a concerted disruption operation during the 2016 election.

"If you talk about Russia, meddling, interference — that takes the [briefing] off the rails," a former intelligence official told the Post. In the event that officials do have to deliver Trump potentially upsetting information about Russia, they carefully structure their briefings in order to "soften the impact" of the information, the Post reported.

The issue, the Post explained, is that Trump feels that he cannot accept that Russia meddled in the 2016 election without invalidating his electoral victory:

Holding impromptu interventions in Trump's 26th-floor corner office at Trump Tower, advisers [...] sought to convince Trump that he could affirm the validity of the intelligence without diminishing his electoral win, according to three officials involved in the sessions. More important, they said that doing so was the only way to put the matter behind him politically and free him to pursue his goal of closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

[...] But as aides persisted, Trump became agitated. He railed that the intelligence couldn't be trusted and scoffed at the suggestion that his candidacy had been propelled by forces other than his own strategy, message, and charisma. [The Washington Post]

Trump's reluctance to hear damning information about Russia has forced officials to get creative when they try to make him take a stand against Putin. In one case, the Post reports, officials tried to convince Trump not to return Russian compounds seized by former President Barack Obama by presenting the issue through the familiar lens of real estate and briefly getting him to consider selling the properties for profit.

Read more about Trump's Russia reticence at The Washington Post. Kelly O'Meara Morales

10:03 a.m. ET

Chandler Self was mere yards from the Dallas Marathon finish line when disaster struck. The 32-year-old doctor had been leading the pack for the final 8 miles of the 26.2-mile race when her legs started to buckle from exhaustion. Luckily, Ariana Luterman, a 17-year-old high school athlete who was anchoring her team's relay, was there to lend a hand. Luterman helped Self to her feet several times and gently pushed the winner across the finish line: a display of sportsmanship that has since gone viral. "The only thing I could think of to do was to pick her up," Luterman told DallasNews.com, "so I picked her up." Christina Colizza

9:28 a.m. ET
Rob Kim/Getty Images

In November, two women — model Keri Claussen Khalighi and screenwriter Jenny Lumet — accused Def Jam founder and lifestyle entrepreneur Russell Simmons of sexual assault, prompting Simmons to "step aside" from his business empire. On Wednesday, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times recounted the stories of nine more women, four of whom accused Russell of raping them. They said they came forward now because of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and Simmons' denials about sexually assaulting Khalighi and Lumet.

Music producer Drew Dixon, singer Tina Baker, and music journalist Toni Sallie told The New York Times that Simmons raped them in the late 1980s and '90s, and female hip-hop artist Sherri Hines told the L.A. Times he raped her in 1983. Each of the women told friends or family about being raped contemporaneously, the newspapers confirmed. Christina Moore, comedian Amanda Seales, Lisa Kirk, actress Natashia Williams-Blach, and massage therapist Erin Beattie said that Simmons had sexually harassed or propositioned them, often by exposing his genitals.

In a statement to The New York Times, Simmons, 60, said he has "accepted that I can and should get dirt on my sleeves if it means witnessing the birth of a new consciousness about women," but "what I will not accept is responsibility for what I have not done," and when it comes to the rape accusations, "I vehemently deny all these allegations. These horrific accusations have shocked me to my core and all of my relations have been consensual."

Dixon and Sallie left the music business, largely, they say, because of being harassed and assaulted by Simmons and professional gatekeepers like him. Dixon said she can't even listen to the hit music she helped create. "I gave up something that I loved to do," she told The New York Times. "I erased myself," and now "I want people to know why." You can read the detailed allegations at The New York Times and L.A. Times. Peter Weber

7:44 a.m. ET
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, the Walt Disney Co. agreed to buy a passel of 21st Century Fox's movie and TV assets for $52.4 billion, giving Disney the 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight film studios and Fox television studio, FX, and the National Geographic Channel. Disney CEO Robert Iger will stay on as head of the combined companies through 2021, Disney also announced. The acquisition will require Justice Department antitrust approval. Analysts say that Disney wanted 21 Century Fox's content for its upcoming video-streaming services. The deal also gives Disney a 60 percent stake in Hulu. "It gives them a little more leverage to compete against new studios such as Netflix," says Boston College Law professor Dan Lyons, and "against cable companies to try to figure out they are going to continue to make money off the declining traditional cable bundle." Peter Weber

6:33 a.m. ET
Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images)

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission, led by Chairman Ajit Pai, is expected to approve Pai's proposal to rescind 2015 open internet rules adopted under former President Barack Obama, with Pai and his two fellow Republicans, Michael O'Rielly and Brendan Carr, voting in favor and Democratic commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel strongly opposed.

The new rules will allow broadband internet providers like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T to block or throttle access to certain websites, or provide special "fast lanes" for sites, apps, or customers who pay extra. They also scrap consumer protections, prevent states from enacting rules that contradict the FCC's, and shift a good deal of the FCC's internet oversight powers to the Federal Trade Commission, which may or may not have the legal authority to regulate large broadband ISPs.

Pai's proposal is broadly unpopular — in a new poll, 83 percent of voters, including 75 percent of Republicans, favored keeping the current net neutrality rules after being presented with vetted arguments from proponents and opponents of Pai's changes by the University of Maryland's Program for Public Consultation. Librarians warn it will cost taxpayers or hurt library users. Critics of the plan are already planning legal challenges, and Congress could also step in.

The proposal dismantles "virtually all of the important tenets of net neutrality itself," telecom and media analysts Craig Moffett and Michael Nathanson write in a note to investors. "These changes will likely be so immensely unpopular that it would be shocking if they are allowed to stand for long." Pai argues that broadband giants will use their newfound powers for good, lowering prices and creating new services, and the broadband industry group USTelecom says the fears are unfounded and overblown. Broadband companies unsuccessfully sued to overturn the 2015 net neutrality rules and lobbied hard for Pai's proposal. Peter Weber

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