Science & Health

John Glenn, Former US Astronaut and Senator, to Be Interred in Arlington Cemetery

U.S. astronaut John Glenn, who died in December at age 95, will be buried Thursday in Arlington National Cemetery, a place of honor for members of the U.S. military.

His family and invited guests, including astronauts and dignitaries, will say goodbye to the first American to orbit Earth at a small private service at the Old Post Chapel beginning at 9 a.m.

The U.S. Marine Corps will begin a live stream at 9:40 a.m. (EDT) that will include a processional to the graveside by caisson, a flyover, a graveside service and taps. Streaming video also will be available on NASA TV.

Glenn served as a U.S. senator from Ohio for 24 years and founded the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at Ohio State University.

In Glenn’s honor, President Donald Trump has ordered flags at federal entities and institutions flown at half-staff Thursday, his press secretary tweeted, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich has done the same at public grounds and buildings across Glenn’s home state.

Glenn played a historic part in the U.S. space race, piloting one of the United States’ earliest manned space missions and later, at age 77, returning to space to become the oldest astronaut ever to do so.

Glenn, seen as an all-American hero, has been the subject of heartfelt tributes since his death. After his death December 8, his body lay in state in the Ohio Capitol. He was memorialized in a service at Ohio State University, where his children told mourners that their father repeatedly asked them, “What have you done for your country today?”

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden memorialized Glenn at that service by saying, “He knew by his upbringing that ordinary Americans can do extraordinary things.”

Arlington Cemetery, Glenn’s final resting place, is where many American military heroes and statesmen are buried. A national monument to unknown soldiers is located there, to honor soldiers whose wartime deaths could not be documented.

The cemetery sits on a hill in Virginia overlooking the Potomac River, with a clear view of the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument.

It is one of the most-visited sites in the Washington area.

Some information for this report from AP.

Arts & Entertainment

Poland Plans Changes as It Takes Control of New WWII Museum

A court paved the way Wednesday for Poland’s government to take control of a new World War Two museum that has been the focus of a major ideological standoff over how to remember the war.

The conflict has pitted the creators of the Museum of the Second World War — who place Poland’s war experiences in an international context and emphasize the fate of civilian populations — against the nationalistic ruling party, which prefers to focus on Polish suffering and military heroism.

Culture Minister Piotr Glinski sought to take control of the museum last year by merging it with an as-yet-unbuilt museum, the Museum of Westerplatte and the War of 1939.



Critics of the government described the maneuver as a legal trick aimed at pushing out the managers of the original museum.

The attempt was held up for months in the courts, giving director Pawel Machcewicz time to open the World War Two museum to the public in March after more than eight years of development. It is located in Gdansk, where Germany fired some of the war’s opening shots against Poland.

Merger can proceed

A decision Wednesday by the Supreme Administrative Court now paves the way for the Culture Ministry to take control of the Museum of the Second World War. The court overruled a lower court’s decision to suspend the merger, which now can proceed.

The ministry said in a statement that the merger of the two institutions would take place “immediately” and will mean “a significant increase of their potential.”

The ministry argues that it is not economically justifiable to operate two state museums on a similar subject in the same city.



Opponents of the ruling Law and Justice party see the step as part of the party’s broader agenda to take control of state institutions and to reshape the nation to conform to its nationalistic worldview.

The museum project was launched in 2008 by then-Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who is now one of the European Union’s top leaders.

Tusk is a longtime rival of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the ruling party’s leader, and many political observers think Kaczynski’s opposition to the museum is at least partly rooted in that rivalry.

Kaczynski has for years also criticized the museum’s concept and said he preferred a museum that would focus exclusively on Polish suffering and military heroism.

Poland was occupied during the war by both Germany and the Soviet Union and subjected to unthinkable horrors by the regimes of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin. Nearly 6 million Polish citizens were killed.



Many Poles feel that the world has never truly understood the magnitude of their country’s devastation, a belief that has bolstered the views of some museum critics who argue Poland’s tragedy must be told as its own story.

Wartime suffering

Director Machcewicz argues that Poland’s wartime suffering, which features heavily in the museum, is much more meaningful, especially to foreign visitors, when placed alongside information about the suffering also inflicted across Europe and beyond.

Machcewicz is expected to lose his position now that the government has been cleared to take control of the Museum of the Second World War.

He expressed satisfaction that he was at least able to open the facility, allowing thousands of visitors to see it before the exhibition is potentially changed. But he also appealed to the government not to change the exhibition.

“I will keep fighting for the integrity of the exhibition even after I am fired,” he said.

Arts & Entertainment

Alan Jackson, Jerry Reed, Don Schlitz to Join Country Music Hall of Fame

Country star Alan Jackson, actor-singer-guitarist Jerry Reed and songwriter Don Schlitz will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame later this year. Their selection was announced Wednesday.

Jackson, 58, from Newnan, Georgia, broke out in 1990 with his neo-traditional style of honky-tonk country music that earned him several multiplatinum records. His hit songs include “Chattahoochee,” ”She’s Got the Rhythm (And I Got the Blues)” and “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).”

Jackson, with his signature white hat, said during the press conference that his dad’s wooden radio inspired him to write “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow,” one of his first singles. The radio is now in an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, along with a pair of water skis he wore for the music video for “Chattahoochee.”

“I’ll be in the Hall of Fame with Daddy Gene’s radio and my water skis and some blue jeans with holes in them,” Jackson said.

The singer-songwriter earned two Grammy Awards and was named entertainer of the year three times by the Country Music Association. Over the course of his 25-year career, he’s the second most nominated artist in CMA history with 81 nominations and has had more than 30 No. 1 country hits.

“This is about the last dream on the list, right here,” Jackson said.

Reed, from Atlanta, Georgia, became a popular country star in the 1960s with his fingerstyle picking that earned him the nickname “Guitar Man.” which became the title of one of his signature songs. His hits include Grammy-winning “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” and “Amos Moses.”

After regularly appearing on Glen Campbell’s TV show, he started a successful career in Hollywood. He starred opposite Burt Reynolds in the “Smokey and the Bandit” films and appeared in Adam Sandler’s “The Waterboy.”

He died in 2008 at 71. His daughters Seidina Hubbard and Lottie Zavala spoke on his behalf Wednesday.

Schlitz, 64, from Durham, North Carolina, has written dozens of top country hits including “The Gambler,” ”On The Other Hand,” ”Forever and Ever, Amen,” ”The Greatest” and “When You Say Nothing At All.”

His songs were cut by Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Judds, Tanya Tucker and more. He has won three CMA song of the year awards and two Grammy Awards, and has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

“I will never be able to believe that I deserve this, unless I receive it as a representative of my family, my mentors, my collaborators, my promoters and my friends,” Schlitz said. “That’s the only way I can deal with this.”

Arts & Entertainment

Muslims Expected to Rival Christians for Most Believers by 2060

The Pew Research Center says Muslims are soon to rival Christians as the largest religious group worldwide, with higher birth rates among Muslim families predicted to increase the Muslim population to a number ties with Christians by 2060.

Pew said in a study released Wednesday that by 2060 Muslims will make up about 31 percent of the world population, with about 3 billion people, while Christians will make up about 32 percent, or 3.1 billion people.

A Pew study two years ago found that Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion and could overtake Christianity by the end of this century. The analysis is based on 2,500 census, survey and population registers from around the world.

Pew experts say they allowed for conversion rates, but maintain that birth and death rates will have a far larger impact on religious populations.

Other religious groups such as Hindus and Jews are expected to grow to larger total numbers by 2060, but not at pace with total population growth. And the number of people who profess no religion is expected to shrink, given current birth rates.

Silicon Valley & Technology

Germany Threatens Social Media Companies with Massive ‘Hate Speech’ Fines

Germany has threatened to slap social media companies with huge fines if they do not act quickly enough to remove “hate speech” from their websites.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet on Wednesday approved a measure that would fine websites like Facebook and Twitter up to $55 million if they do not do enough to censor comments that violate German speech law.

“Hate crimes that are not effectively combatted and prosecuted pose a great danger to the peaceful cohesion of a free, open and democratic society,” said Merkel’s government in a statement.

Germany outright bans any speech that overtly promotes racism or insults a certain segment of the population. It also, due to its Nazi past, bans public Holocaust denial.

The draft legislation would require social media companies to remove any illegal speech within 24 hours of it being flagged by users. Other offensive content would need to be removed within seven days of being reported and reviewed.

The German Federation of Journalists blasted the move and said the legislation would make it “difficult to reconcile freedom of the press and opinion.”

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said the companies are responsible for policing and removing hateful content from their sites and that “there is no room for criminal incitement on social media.”

“The internet affects the culture of debate and the atmosphere in our society. Verbal radicalization is often a preliminary stage to physical violence,” he added.

The massive flow of refugees into Germany over the past two years has fueled a rise in negative online comments, alarming German authorities. In 2015, the social media companies agreed to step up policing of online hate speech, though Maas said they have not done enough.

Mass cited research that claims Twitter removes just one percent of the illegal content flagged by users within 24 hours, while Facebook removes 39 percent. Facebook rejected Mass’s data, citing its own data that shows it removes about 65 percent of illegal content within a day.

German lawmaker Renate Kuenast called the fines “an invitation to not just erase real insults, but to wipe out almost everything for the sake of playing it safe.”

The bill still needs to be approved by parliament.

Silicon Valley & Technology

Ebay’s Founder Pledges $100 Million to Fight Fake News, Hate Speech

Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar’s philanthropy promised $100 million over the next five years to support journalism and fight fake news, the foundation announced Wednesday.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which broke the story of the controversial Panama Papers, is the first organization to receive funds from the Omidyar Network – a three-year grant of up to $4.5 million “to expand its investigative reporting”.

“Across the world, we see a worrying resurgence of authoritarian politics that is undermining progress towards a more open and inclusive society,” Matt Bannick, Omidyar Network Managing Partner, said. “A lack of government responsiveness and a growing distrust in institutions, especially the media, are eroding trust. Increasingly, facts are being devalued, misinformation spread, accountability ignored, and channels that give citizens a voice withdrawn.”

Formally announcing the commitment at the Skoll World Forum on social entrepreneurship in Oxford, England, the Omidyar Network has also promised support to the Anti-Defamation League, devoted to fighting anti-Semitism, and the Latin American Alliance for Civic Technology (ALTEC).

Established in 2004 by Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the Omidyar Network supports organizations to foster economic and social change.

Reporting on the Panama Papers revealed secret, so called offshore financial accounts that were hiding assets to avoid tax payments.

Arts & Entertainment

Cooperative Board Games Let Everyone Win… or Lose

It’s a game that is deadly serious.  

In this make-believe world, humanity teeters on the brink of destruction.  With each flip of a card, virulent and deadly diseases get a fiendish chance to advance across the globe.

In this world, Yaianni and his friends are valiant public health officials, racing against time to save the world from pestilence and death. So they take this game – called Pandemic – seriously.

They huddle around a table at the Victory Point Cafe in Berkeley, California, discussing strategy. The colorful board in front of them is crowded with little cubes representing diseases, and every turn could be their last. In Pandemic, Yaianni says, diseases usually win.


“People have created this game to make you lose.  So it’s a challenge, mentally.”

It’s a challenge players can overcome only if they work together. Pandemic is a cooperative game. Unlike most board games, in which one player wins and everyone else accepts defeat, in this newer style of gaming, the deck is stacked against everyone.  


A deck of disease, a game of friends

Yaianni’s team must draw from a diabolical deck that is filled with cards that make even more “disease cubes” pile up. “Every turn, we’re all talking about the turn we’re taking together,” he explains. To prevent another disaster, the friends decide to build a little hospital.


Yaianni says that when he’s hanging out with friends, he likes board games. “It’s kind of social, at the same time, it’s not something you do on your own.  I used to play a lot of computer games and that’s fun.  But it’s between you and the computer screen.  Even if you’re on line, playing with other people.  Here you’re like literally in person.  And you’re, you know, you play a game together, whether it’s cooperative or competitive, you’re socializing in a way, and it’s entertaining.”

To help with that socializing, the Victory Point Cafe offers patrons coffee, beer… and board games.  Nora, the assistant manager, says those board games are a big part of the appeal. “You can play video games with other people, but you don’t look at them necessarily face to face over a board that you share pieces on and that sort of thing.  You can’t hand things to other people. [Board games are] just very tactile, and very visual.  And you know, I feel like it uses more engagement, and people crave that.”


There is a wall lined with board games that customers can borrow, and most of these games are competitive. But Nora likes the cooperative games such as Pandemic. “There’s something about cooperative games that I just find really enjoyable, and almost comforting.  Because you’re working together.”

Competition vs. cooperation

At Karliquin’s Game Knight in Boulder, Colorado, the board game buddies prefer competition, whether it’s a colorful board and a deck of cards, or a lively game of dice. One regular at the hobby shop dismisses cooperative games. “You can’t really feel the twist of the knife,” he says while rolling a pair of dice. “There’s kind of no reward and no penalty for failing in cooperative games.  It’s a little better than watching television but not by much.”


But cooperative games have their fans here. One man says his favorite is a game called Ghost Stories. “You’re protecting a village against an onslaught of ghosts.” Other players list Mansions and Madness, and Super Dungeon Explorer.


Meanwhile, back at Victory Point, it’s a Pandemic cliffhanger. One turn away from the final curtain, their team strategy gets a boost with the draw of a lucky card. They save the world from pestilence and death!

As for what this means in the game of Life, Yaianni quips, “If your life is having to cure disease before it kills everyone in the world, then yes, I guess it’s a metaphor for life.” Yet in a world that needs people solving problems together, he says that playing cooperatively speaks to him. “We have a very good team when we’re playing together, and if we didn’t have this level of teamwork, we wouldn’t have been able to do it.  We would have lost the game.”


Board game fans say that win, lose or cooperate, anyone who finds a game they love will have a grand adventure. 

Arts & Entertainment

Born on Bayou: NYC Ferry Fleet Builds for Summer Launch

The future of public transportation in New York City is taking shape on the bayous of Louisiana and Alabama.

Shipyard workers in the two states are scrambling to finish the city’s new ferry fleet in time for a launch this summer, just a little more than a year after it was first proposed.

The city is making a $335 million bet that the service will attract millions of passengers traveling between Manhattan and waterfront neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx that are now a distant walk from overcrowded subways.

Transportation infrastructure in the city has a tendency to take many years, if not decades, to get built, but in this case workers are under pressure to get the new ferries and docks built in a New York minute.

Horizon Shipbuilding, in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, has 100 employees – including 80 hired last summer – working to fill its order of 10 ferries for the 20-boat fleet. The rest are being built at the Metal Shark shipyard in Franklin, Louisiana, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Baton Rouge.

Inside Metal Shark’s huge boat-building shed last week, several of the $4 million catamaran vessels were in various stages of completion. Sparks and smoke flew around workers’ protected heads as they welded one lightweight aluminum ferry frame. Other workers stood between the catamarans’ two pontoons, sanding the rough metal. Electricians were busy wiring the navigation system. Cranes carried pieces of tubing to the ferry-to-be.

“A project like this is unique,” said Junior Volpe, director of special projects for Hornblower Inc., the San Francisco-based company that will operate the ferry system in partnership with New York City.

More than a year ago, when they were still negotiating the construction of the ferries in such a short time period, “a lot of people were, like, ‘Wow, I don’t think this is ever going to happen.’ And to prove that things are possible, here we are. We’re sitting on the first ferry that’s going to be delivered here at Metal Shark – and it’s amazing,” Volpe said.

City transportation officials say the new ferry fleet will speed up travel time in this city of islands by as much as two-thirds and come at a competitive price – $2.75 – the same as a subway fare. That compares to the limited ferry service that currently takes commuters and tourists across the Hudson and East Rivers at $4 to $6 per ride. New York’s fifth borough, Staten Island, is served by its famed free ferry service that offers about 23 million rides a year.

In an interview with The Associated Press this week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he hoped the new ferry service, along with a new streetcar line he also has proposed, would help lighten the transportation load for a city of 8.5 million that is expected to grow by another half a million people in the coming years.

While de Blasio acknowledged the new ferry service’s initial goal of 4.6 million annual rides per year is modest (the subway system handles 5.7 million rides on weekdays), he was hopeful the growth in ridership would be greater.

“If you build it,” he said, “they will come.”

Travel by water in New York harks back to the city’s maritime glory days in the late 1800s, when there were no subways and the East River, the harbor and the Hudson River were abuzz with industrial production and business activities relying on water-borne modes of transportation.

“But ferries don’t solve New York’s overall transportation problem,” said Nicole Gelinas, a transportation analyst at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

She noted that with commercial activity no longer concentrated on the waterfront and most people living elsewhere, ferries handle only a fraction of the ridership of subways. “That doesn’t mean ferries are not a good idea, because they get at least some people off the trains that are crowded beyond capacity.”

In addition, she said, the financial structure of the new ferry service, in which the city plans to spend $180 million over six years subsidizing fares, could be difficult to sustain.

“The mayor hasn’t addressed these issues at all,” Gelinas said. “But the new ferries are good for him in that he’ll be inaugurating them a few months before the election.”

All that doesn’t ruin the anticipation for longtime Astoria resident Claudia Coger.

After years of spending three, even four, hours a day commuting to work as a train inspector, with long walks to subways and buses, she vows to be among the first on the ferry, boarding at a dock just steps from her apartment.

“Yes, for sure, because I fish over here anyway!”