T-shirt opinions
September 1, 2011

Back in 2009, Texas Gov. Rick Perry floated the idea that Texas might secede from the United States because "we're a pretty independent lot...." Now a top candidate for the GOP 2012 nomination, Perry seems intent on leading our once-repellent-to-him nation — as this tongue-in-cheek T-shirt ($14.95) punnily notes: "If at first you cannot secede, Run for President!" The Week Staff

crisis at sea
2:35 a.m. ET
Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

In Thailand on Friday, representatives from more than 20 countries gathered at the Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean to discuss the migrant crisis taking place in the region.

Thousands of migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar are adrift at sea in southeast Asia, Reuters reports, unable to land in Thailand now that the country has made it too risky for traffickers to drop them off. Many of the migrants are Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, a minority group that the country considers stateless. Htein Lin, director general at Myanmar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Myanmar is not to blame for the crisis, adding, "You cannot single out my country. In the influx of migration, Myanmar is not the only country."

Malaysia says it has taken in 120,000 migrants from Myanmar, and Indonesia promised to give temporary shelter to migrants at sea, but said it needs other countries to help resettle them. Thailand will not allow the boats to dock because it is already hosting 100,000 migrants from Myanmar, but is offering medical aid to migrants at sea. The country also gave the U.S. permission to fly surveillance flights over its airspace in an attempt to track down boats carrying migrants. "We have to save lives urgently," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard said. Catherine Garcia

1:44 a.m. ET

On Thursday, a Southern California man ended his 55-day fast protesting the Armenian genocide that took place 100 years ago.

Agasi Vartanyan of Glendale began his fast on April 3, and spent the last 55 days inside a glass box outside of a Burbank church, only consuming bottled water. Vartanyan went on the hunger strike to bring attention to the 100th anniversary of the genocide of about 1.2 million Armenians in their homeland in 1915, and conducted a similar protest in Russia in 2006. A nonprofit group set up a livestream of his protest, and it drew almost 20 million viewers. "What makes what I'm doing worthwhile is when I see young people remembering their roots and their heritage," he told the Los Angeles Times through a translator.

The number 55 was important to Vartanyan, as he'll be turning 55 this year and he wanted to end his fast on May 28, the day Armenians celebrate their independence. It took him a year to prepare, both physically and mentally, and dropped 56 pounds over the 55 days. He would like to see the Turkish government recognize the massacre as genocide, and believes it deserves the same recognition as the Holocaust. "I've done these things for the memory of the victims," he told supporters who came to watch him finish the fast. "You never get anywhere without fighting for it." Catherine Garcia

This just in
1:12 a.m. ET

A volcano erupted without warning in Japan on Friday morning, causing the government to order all 140 residents of the Kuchinoerabu island to evacuate.

Authorities say that so far, no injuries or damage have been reported, although several people are not accounted for and others are on boats headed to an emergency shelter. Following Mount Shindake's eruption, Japan's meteorological agency raised its alert level to five, the highest on its scale, The Guardian reports.

Officials say that pyroclastic flows, or currents of rock fragments and hot gases from the volcano, have reached the north-west shore of the island. Witnesses said they heard what sounded like an explosion and felt the earth shake, then saw black smoke rising into the air. Catherine Garcia

12:37 a.m. ET
George Frey/Getty Images

Military veterans who were illegally charged too much interest on their student loans will receive anywhere from $10 to $100,000 in refunds.

The Department of Justice secured $60 million in refunds for 77,795 veterans who were overcharged by the student loan service provider formerly known as Sallie Mae, The Hill reports. Now called Navient Corp., the company will begin to issue refunds in June, with the Department of Justice saying the average veteran will receive $770.

Navient agreed to settle with the Department of Justice last year after it was charged with violating the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act by not capping interest rates at six percent for certain loans. It was the first time a student loan company was sued by the federal government on these charges. Catherine Garcia

May 28, 2015
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It’s a T-I-E: For the second year in a row, the Scripps National Spelling Bee crowned two champions.

Vanya Shivashankar, 13, of Olathe, Kansas, and Gokul Venkatachalam, 14, of Chesterfield, Missouri, battled it out through 20 rounds Thursday night, with Shivashankar tackling words like "thamakau," "hippocrepiform," and "scherenschnitte" and Venkatachalam taking on "pipsissewa," "pyrrhyloxia," and "sprachgefühl." It all came down to "nunatak" — after Venkatachalam spelled it correctly, the pair were named co-champions, with each one walking away with $35,000, a $2,500 U.S. savings bond, and a complete reference library.

Both were competition veterans — it was Shivashankar's fifth year, Venkatachalam's fourth — who have long had their eyes on the prize. "I saw the past two champions and I wanted to do the same and I wanted to get the same," Venkatachalam told USA Today. "I just put in the work." Shivashankar — whose sister, Kavya, won the 2009 bee — dedicated her win to her grandmother, who died in 2013. "All she really wanted was her grandkids to do so well and I hope I make her happy with this," she said. Catherine Garcia

May 28, 2015
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Experts believe that there could be a simple explanation behind the Department of Defense inadvertently sending out live anthrax samples.

The spores are incredibly tiny and very tough, and the irradiation procedure used to deactivate them might not have killed each and every one, John Peterson, a microbiology professor who works with anthrax at the University of Texas Medical Branch, told NBC News. Anthrax spores are 1 micron in diameter, and samples could contain 10 billion spores, making it difficult for an X-ray or gamma ray to kill all the spores. "If a procedure kills 99.999 percent of the bacteria, there would still be 100,000 spores left viable," Peterson said. "They are very difficult to kill."

While anthrax is not fatal if treated in time, spores can be dispersed in the air and stay around for months or years, and it is considered a potential biological weapon. On Wednesday, the Pentagon confirmed samples of live anthrax were sent out to labs in nine states and an Air Force base in South Korea, and at least 26 people who came in contact with the samples are taking antibiotics as a precaution. Investigators say they are looking into the irradiation process that was used to inactivate the spores. Catherine Garcia

Can't we all just get along?
May 28, 2015

Police in Arizona are preparing for a "Draw Muhammad" contest and rally planned for Friday outside of a Phoenix mosque.

The event's organizer, Jon Ritzheimer, has put together two other protests in Phoenix over the past few weeks, with some supporters arriving with profane anti-Islam t-shirts and signs, News 12 reports. The event is being called a "Freedom of Speech Rally," and is taking place three weeks after a similar event in Garland, Texas, where two men who allegedly were supporters of ISIS were killed after shooting a security guard. "I want this to be about pushing out the truth about Islam," Ritzheimer said.

Usama Shami, president of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, told News 12 that the FBI and local police have notified him about the event, and says the protesters have the right to assemble. "Everybody has a right to be a bigot," he said. "Everybody has a right to be a racist. Everybody has a right to be an idiot." Shami is urging members of the mosque to attend prayer services Friday night, and to avoid engaging with protesters. "They're not looking for an intellectual conversation," he said. "They're looking to stir up controversy and we're not going to be a part of it." Catherine Garcia

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