As the New York Stock Exchange's opening bell pealed across the trading floor Thursday morning, heralding Twitter's first day as a publicly owned company, an investment scramble immediately drove the price of a share to $45.10, 73 percent above the opening share price of $26. The spike was driven by investors demanding 30 times more than the 70 million available shares; the share price of TWTR steadily hovered above $45 through the mid-afternoon.
The owners of Twitter, the free online microblogging platform that has facilitated political uprisings and sexting scandals via users' 140-character messages – along with a lot of self-hype this week, as one user observed – have yet to turn a profit off their hungry and growing eight-year-old company. But the more than $3 billion they've made today will allow them to fund eight new revenue streams, including ads targeted to specific audiences and more sales of user data to analytics companies.
Twitter had lost a total of $483 million by this fall, a quarter that also saw one of the company's biggest three-month losses ($65 million) in the past three years. But AP reported that its revenue last quarter also doubled from this time last year, to $169 million. If that seems confusing – that its losses and revenues could be growing at the same time – it's because the company has been pouring money into growth. During that quarter, the company hired 300 new employees, building a workforce of 2,300.
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Those workers have got to be in high spirits today. According to Twitter's recent securities filing, the company distributed nearly 86 million restricted stock units among its employees – 16 million more than it sold on the stock exchange Thursday morning. At current rates, those shares are worth about $3.9 billion, or an average of $1.7 million per employee, according to the Wall Street Journal, though the stock is not divided evenly, and most of it can't be sold for years.
Twitter's IPO is the largest from a US technology company since Facebook’s debut in May 2012, which was an alarming flop that saw stock prices plummet on the day they were released. Facebook, whose IPO was widely regarded as damagingly over-hyped, was able to rebound by the start of 2013, but observers say Twitter likely drew valuable lessons from the debacle, such as keeping its initial offering modest.
While Facebook is much more widely recognized and used than Twitter, the smaller company continues to grow, with at least 230 million monthly active users. IPO analyst Francis Gaskins told Bloomberg West that this lower awareness may turn out to be an advantage.
"People don't really understand Twitter, they don't really understand the revenue model. And that's really good for a software, to come public and for people not to totally understand it," said Mr. Gaskins, who is paid to offer advice on IPOs. "The pot is definitely boiling for Twitter," he said.
Twitter has said it may release another 10.5 million shares, if trading remains high.
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After months of false starts, the Illinois House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to legalize same-sex marriage, and reports suggest that Pope Francis's recent comments about homosexuality may have played a small but significant role.
At least one Catholic lawmaker cited the pope's statement as she explained her recent decision, and Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, also a Catholic, used the pope's words to articulate his own reasons for supporting the bill. Previously, he had been criticized for not pushing hard enough to rally support within his congressional chamber.
Other factors played into the shift that made passage through the House possible Tuesday, including two US Supreme Court decisions this summer in favor of gay marriage, according to observers. But with polls showing public opinion moving toward greater acceptance of gay marriage, the events in Illinois raise questions about whether opposition among Catholic lawmakers could be waning.
Pope Francis caused international ripples in July, when he warned that the Roman Catholic Church had become too focused on its opposition to homosexuality, asking, "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?"
At that point, the Illinois bill had passed through the state Senate but was languishing in the House. The House convened in both January and May without voting on the bill, as its supporters struggled to assemble a majority amid a tide of organized opposition, with churches among the leading opponents.
But according to The Chicago Tribune, Pope Francis' comments "sparked a wave of soul-searching by several Catholic lawmakers who had battled to reconcile their religious beliefs with their sworn duty to represent their constituents who were increasingly supportive of gay rights even as Cardinal Francis George remained opposed."
State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D), who had spent much of the summer undecided, voted for the bill on Tuesday, telling the Tribune, "As a Catholic follower of Jesus and the pope, Pope Francis, I am clear that our Catholic religious doctrine has at its core love, compassion, and justice for all people."
And House Speaker Madigan (D) echoed the Pope's words in the Tribune, adding a legal twist: "For those that just happen to be gay – living in a very harmonious, productive relationship but illegal – who am I to judge that they should be illegal?"
Though he was an early supporter of the bill, his commitment to it had been question. But on Tuesday, advocates told the Tribune that he had been instrumental in rounding up the needed votes in recent weeks – and Madigan told the paper that he had personally helped persuade at least five legislators to support it.
The bill passed, 61 to 54, and Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has promised to sign it, making Illinois the 15th state to legalize gay marriage.
The Chicago Sun-Times noted how the statement had a neutralizing impact on the arguments of local Church leadership:
"Despite harsh rhetoric on the issue from Cardinal George and other [local] Catholic leaders, their positions against the bill were severely undercut by several statements from newly installed Pope Francis that were widely interpreted – as Madigan himself did Tuesday – as more welcoming to gay and lesbian couples."
The Tribune also pegged the Supreme Court decisions this summer as instrumental. "Supporters said efforts to pick up votes were boosted by events that unfolded since May, the first being the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling that struck down the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman for the purpose of receiving federal benefits," writes the paper.
Local Catholic officials were dismayed by the House vote.
"We remain concerned about the very real threats to religious liberty that are at stake with the passage of this bill," said the Catholic Conference of Illinois, in a statement released Tuesday. "Today's vote to redefine marriage in the State of Illinois is truly grievous," said Bishop David Malloy, in a separate statement.
But according to a poll released Oct. 22 by Fako & Associates of Lisle, Ill., state voters who identify as Catholic support gay marriage by a 2-to-1 ratio. This is dramatically higher than the rate of approval among Illinoisans in general (52 percent), according to the same poll.
Once the new law is signed by Governor Quinn, gay civil unions, which have been legal in Illinois since 2011, can be converted into marriages.
"I do not believe the relevant members of the administration understand the president's vision or have the capability to carry it out," outside consultant David Cutler, a Harvard economics professor, wrote in the memo, which CBS News said it obtained. The recipient of the memo was Larry Summers, head of the National Economic Council.
It is not clear how far Mr. Cutler's memo traveled through the administration or whether it influenced the course of the Obamacare rollout, whose website malfunctions have embarrassed the administration and frustrated health-insurance shoppers since the Oct. 1 launch.
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The partisan battles surrounding Obamacare led the administration to keep its cards close to the vest, CBS suggests.
The White House "relied on appointed bureaucrats and senior White House health care advisers," according to an article on the CBS News website. "Fearful of constant attacks from congressional Republicans, the White House became secretive about the law's complexity and regulatory reach."
The Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010, and the memo cited by CBS was sent two months later.
According to United Press International, more specific problems were brushed aside as late as September of this year. "Two private contractors testified before a House panel [the week of Oct. 28] they told administration officials the site had troubles two weeks before it opened to the public but the officials swept aside their advice to meet the Oct. 1 deadline," the news agency reports.
Just days before passage of the Affordable Care Act, Cutler publicly expressed optimistic support for the legislation, although he didn't comment on implementation. In response to concerns that Obamacare would fail to lower health-care costs, he evaluated in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal whether the plan incorporated 10 cost-lowering ideas. Cutler found that Obamacare incorporated six ideas fully and three partially. Only the public insurance option, which had faced opposition from the GOP and others, was not part of the plan.
"What is on the table is the most significant action on medical spending ever proposed in the United States," he concluded. "Should we really walk away from that?"
But in an interview around the same time as the memo to Mr. Summers, Cutler questioned whether the responsibility for implementing the reforms should lie with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Overseeing insurance exchanges is “a completely different activity from running a Medicare program, so I wouldn’t necessarily give CMS running insurance exchanges,” he told the "Health Affairs" blog.
In the memo to Summers, he wrote, "It is frustrating any time you really want to see something succeed because you believe it's good for people, and it doesn't get off on the right foot."
"You need to have people who have understanding of the political process, people who understand how to work within an administration and people who understand how to start and build a business," he also wrote. "[U]nfortunately, they just didn't get all of those people together."
Mitt Romney, who enacted similar health-care reforms for Massachusetts when he was governor, told NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that Mr. Obama's mishandling of the national plan was "rotting" the foundation of his presidency. Current Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) has argued, according to CBS, that the website problems are a blessing in disguise: In resolving them, the president will have another opportunity to sell the country on the plan, he said.
A shooting at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Friday morning appears to have involved a lone gunman with no ties to any terrorist organization.
“At this point, we don’t see any additional threat at the airport,” FBI Special Agent in Charge David Bowdich said at a press conference midday Friday.
Still, the violent disruption scrambled travel plans for thousands of passengers around the country. Those trying to fly from LAX, or who were expecting visitors flying in from other cities, were told to expect “significant delays.”
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“All flights at LAX today will be significantly affected,” airport officials tweeted. (Check @lax_official for the latest information.) Some inbound flights were diverted to nearby Ontario Airport. JetBlue flights began operating to and from Long Beach Airport. Delta was issuing travel waivers for its customers.
Two hours after the sound of gunfire sent travelers at the airport diving for cover, as flights to and from Los Angeles were held on the ground on a busy travel day, authorities reported that three TSA employees had been shot and one of those had died.
As pieced together in early reports citing eye witnesses and security personnel, the shooter – identified only as a US citizen with an airline ticket – had parked his car at the airport, ran up an escalator into Terminal 3, pulled an assault-type rifle from a bag, and began firing as he approached the terminal area where passengers must first show their tickets and government-issued identification before having their luggage and themselves checked by TSA. Witnesses say they heard eight to 10 shots.
In all, seven people were injured, six of whom were taken to hospitals. Armed law enforcement personnel then tracked the shooter through the terminal. There was an exchange of gunfire near a Burger King restaurant; the shooter was shot and taken into custody.
Some passengers who already had cleared security rushed onto the tarmac to evacuate, while others were locked down in airport restaurants and lounges, the Associated Press reported. The airport was being swept as a precaution, and the bomb unit was on scene.
Evacuated passengers were loaded onto buses by the dozens, while others decided to walk off the airport grounds. People trailing rolling suitcases were seen on the normally quiet streets and sidewalks outside LAX.
At the airport press conference, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, LAX Police Chief Patrick Gannon, Los Angeles Police Chief Charles Beck, Special Agent Bowdich, and others noted the fluidity of the investigation, which is being led by the FBI.
In its live blog on the incident, the Los Angeles Times had quoted anonymous officials saying the shooter had been a TSA employee, and that he had in fact been killed in the shootout with law enforcement officers – assertions that officials at the press conference refused to comment on. The LA Times later updated its report to say that the shooter was alive but in critical condition.
Unconfirmed at this time is this report by NBC News: “The gunman, identified by law-enforcement officials as 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia, was shot by law enforcement and taken into custody in critical condition. The motive is not clear but it's believed he had anti-government views based on written materials he was carrying, the officials said.”
Officials emphasized that security had not been breached – the shooting began before the gunmen would have gone through any TSA checkpoints – and that the response by unarmed TSA personnel who confronted the individual and by armed security personnel was exactly as called for in training for such incidents.
"The situation at LAX is very fluid," the FAA said in a statement. "There is currently a ground stop for flights that are scheduled to depart for LAX. This means those flights are temporarily being held at their departure airports. Arrivals and departures are still occurring, and some flights may be diverted. The FAA is closely monitoring the situation and making adjustments to arrival and departure flows as needed. Passengers should contact their airline to determine the status of their flight."
In a statement, the White House said President Obama had been informed of the incident: "The President has been briefed about the shooting at LAX. We will continue to stay in touch with our federal and local partners. The LAPD is leading the response and investigation. We urge citizens to listen to the authorities and follow directions from the first responders on site. The President will continue to receive briefings throughout the day.”
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Millions of Americans will be expected to make do with less as of Friday, as $5 billion in cuts to the US food stamp program takes effect. The cuts to the program, formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), will pinch almost 48 million people and could be followed by an even bigger slash.
The cuts come as a four-year increase in funding to the food stamp program reaches its expiration date. Government support for the program had been increased in 2009, as part of the broad stimulus package designed to help strapped Americans piece back together what had been lost during the recession.
The food stamp cuts, scheduled to take effect on Nov. 1, are distinct from possible additional slashes to the program included in the farm bill – broad legislation covering America’s agriculture and nutrition policies, including the food stamp program. The House version of the bill calls for a reduction in spending on food stamps by $40 billion over the next decade. The Senate is proposing less-significant cuts of about $4 billion.
The end to the food stamp provisions in the stimulus program will reduce government spending some $5 billion in the 2014 fiscal year. The impact that the funding curtailment will have on people receiving benefits will depend on household size. For a family of four receiving a maximum food stamp allotment, benefits will decrease from $668 to $632 per month, a decrease of $36, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said.
The cuts come at a time when more Americans are on food stamps than at almost any other point in the past decade. In fiscal year 2006, about a year before the recession, the number of people on food stamps was about 26 million. As of this July, the most recent month for which data are available, almost 48 million people are enrolled in the program, or about a seventh of the US population.
In 2009, noting the burgeoning numbers of Americans who had lost their jobs, homes, or both, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The set of measures, including a now-lapsed payroll tax “holiday,” was modeled on the idea that helping struggling Americans find their footing again could help jump-start an entire community’s economy: Each dollar in food stamp benefits generates about $1.70 in economic activity, according to Moody’s Analytics.
If counted as income, food stamp benefits lofted some 4 million Americans above the poverty line in 2012, according to the US Census Bureau and USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. About 83 percent of food stamp benefits go to households that include a child, a senior, or a disabled person, according to Feeding America.
But the swelling number of enrollees in the program, and rising government expenditures for it, furnished a Republican push for major cuts to food stamps. The program has doubled in cost since 2008, now amounting to some $80 billion per year, the Associated Press reports.
In September, the Republican-controlled House passed a farm bill that would drop almost 4 million people from the food stamp program, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The bill, in aiming to tighten the eligibility requirements for the program, would require adults between 18 and 50 without dependents to be either employed or enrolled in a work-training program to receive benefits. It would also allow states to require food stamp recipients to be subjected to drug testing, as well as eliminate the automatic enrollment of people who qualify for other low-income benefits.
"By reforming food stamps, we will save the program for the truly needy," Rep. Virginia Foxx (R) of North Carolina told Reuters. "An overextended, unchecked SNAP program won't be capable of serving the citizens it's purposed to help."
About 400,000 people would be removed under the Democrat-controlled Senate’s bill, according to Feeding America. Negotiations between the two chambers began Wednesday.
Anti-hunger advocates have said that food stamp benefits are seldom enough to support struggling families month to month, even before Friday’s cuts and the proposed cuts under either version of the farm bill.
“We already know SNAP doesn't last the whole month,” Rebecca Brislain, executive director of the Florida Association of Food Banks, told NPR.
Food stamp eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130 percent of the federal poverty guideline, or an income of about $2,552 a month. About 90 percent of households receiving the benefits fall well below that level, according to Feeding America. The average household on food stamps has a gross monthly income of about $744, the group says.
Plane travelers’ entertainment options during takeoffs and landings have now expanded beyond feigning sleep or perusing SkyMall.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Thursday that airline passengers will be allowed to use portable electronic devices during “all phases of flight,” provided that the airline can demonstrate that the devices pose no risk to their aircrafts and that the device is in “airplane mode.” Using cellphones to make calls will still be banned between departure and arrival gates.
The announcement was made after months of FAA-ordered expert review of its policy on the use of laptops, iPods and other electronic devices during flights. FAA regulations had banned use of the devices during taxiing and while flying below 10,000 feet.
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In January, the FAA had established a 28-member advisory committee to review its regulations on portable electronic devices. In recent years, criticism of the administration’s ban had mounted, as gadget-fans noted that the regulation dates to 1966 and was based on studies between 1958 and 1961 showing that radio waves could muddle a plane’s navigation system. Some five decades ago, planes’ insulation against radio waves was far less sophisticated, and there has since been no hard evidence to support the idea that a tablet could bring down a plane, critics said.
"We're flying in a Lockheed Eagle Series L-1011,” the Toby Zeigler character quipped in the 1999 pilot episode of "The West Wing." “Carries a Sim-5 transponder tracking system, and you're telling me I can still flummox this thing with something I bought at Radio Shack?"
In September, the panel released its report to the FAA and confirmed the public’s suspicion: aircraft do just fine despite radio interference signals.
Panel membership had included representatives from the mobile technology industry, airlines, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, and flight attendants.
“This is great news for the traveling public – and frankly, a win for common sense,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) of Missouri, who had in recent years waged an earnest campaign for expanded use of the devices, said in a statement.
The new permissions will take effect at varying times for different aircraft carriers, though for most airlines the implementation should be complete within a year, the FAA said. Airlines carriers must prove to the FAA that their planes can safely handle portable device use in flight. No guidelines have yet been released for how airlines can apply for expanded portable electronic device use.
Passengers will still be asked to turn off their devices during the pre-departure safety briefing, as well as in low visibility conditions during landings, the FAA said. Such landings occur in about one percent of flights, it said.
Using cellphones to make voice calls remains prohibited throughout all flights. But phones can be used to connect to games and to other data, so long as they’re in "airplane mode,” which disables cellular connection. WiFi will be available if the aircraft offers a WiFi connection.
In an attention-galvanizing incident in December 2011, an American Airlines pilot kicked Alex Baldwin off a plane for using a cellphone after the plane’s doors had closed and as it readied for departure. Mr. Baldwin tweeted afterward that he had been playing “Words With Friends.”
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Everybody get up – the song “Blurred Lines” is back in the news. Robin Thicke, who has taken blistering criticism over the past seven months for the lyrics, music video, and VMA performance of his controversial song “Blurred Lines,” is now starring in another drama, this time in a courtroom.
The children of late Motown singer Marvin Gaye filed a copyright infringement lawsuit Wednesday against recording artists Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and Clifford Harris Jr., alleging that the songwriters plucked compositional elements from a Gaye song for use in their own "Blurred Lines," a 2013 hit single. The suit also targets music publisher EMI April, which has business ties with the musicians on both sides of the legal battle, accusing it of promoting “Blurred Lines” at the Gaye estate’s expense.
Gaye, famous for his 1982 hit “Sexual Healing,” among other songs, and as the posthumous winner of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, died in 1984. He has been called the “The Prince of Soul.”
The lawsuit, first reported by the Hollywood Reporter, comes two months after Thicke, Williams, and Harris filed a preemptive suit against the Gaye estate in a California court, seeking a ruling to establish that "Blurred Lines" does not plagiarize Gaye’s 1977 song, "Got to Give it Up.” At the time, rumors had been mounting that Gaye’s children – Nona Marvisa Gaye, Frankie Christian Gaye, and Marvin Gaye III – were planning to sue the songwriters for comments that both Thicke and song reviewers had made suggesting that the 2013 hit had been pulled from one of Gaye’s songs.
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In a May interview with GQ, Thicke said he and Williams had written “Blurred Lines” in just 30 minutes, after listening to Gaye’s song and deciding “we should make something like that, something with that groove.” Several music reviewers, including The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Vice, found that highly plausible, noting the resemblance of the two songs.
"Don’t let the video’s modernism fool you: white-soul conservatism is the order of the day, and this hit is just as nostalgic as Mr. Thicke’s first single was," wrote The New York Times in an August review of "Blurred Lines," which made explicit comparison of the song to Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up." The review, which wryly called Thicke "white soul's leader," had seemed at the time a harbinger of a coming lawsuit against the superstar for ripping off a pioneering black soul singer's music.
Thicke, after filing the preemptive lawsuit in August, retracted his own comments in a September interview with TMZ, in which he said his song and Gaye's song had no relationship.
“Being reminiscent of a 'sound' is not copyright infringement," write the plaintiffs in the preemptive lawsuit.
As expected, Gaye’s children did indeed file a lawsuit. But, in a surprise, they also allege that Thicke plagiarized more than one of their father’s songs. In addition to “Blurred Lines,” Thicke's 2011 song, "Love After War," is a rip-off, this time of Gaye's 1976 song, "After the Dance,” the suit charges.
The suit, filed in US district court in Los Angeles, includes an attached report from a musicologist who identifies at least eight similar compositional features between “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give it Up,” including the “unusual cowbell instrumentation, omission of guitar, and use of male falsetto.” The plaintiffs also write that “any ordinary observer would immediately recognize ‘Love After War’ as a copy of ‘After the Dance.’ ”
“The songs’ substantial similarities reach the very essence of each work,” the suit says.
The suit also names EMI April, the song publisher, now under Sony/ATV, which manages Gaye’s roster of songs and which also co-owns Thicke’s songs, the Hollywood Reporter said. The plagiarism lawsuit also alleges that EMI April’s chairman tried to intimidate Gaye’s family into not filing suit, telling his heirs that in doing so they would be “killing the goose that laid the golden egg,” as well as “ruining an incredible song” ["Blurred Lines"].
Overall, EMI April failed “to remain neutral when faced with a conflict of interest, and instead g[ave] strong support to the Blurred Writers, in direct detriment of the Gaye Family,” the suit says.
The Gaye family is asking that EMI April lose the rights to administer Gaye’s catalogue of songs, as well forfeit all profits from Thicke’s music. The plaintiffs are also seeking $150,000 in damages for each act of infringement.
“We have repeatedly advised the Gaye family's attorney that the two songs in question have been evaluated by a leading musicologist who concluded that 'Blurred Lines' does not infringe 'Got To Give It Up,’ ” said SONY/ATV, in a statement. “And while we very much treasure the works of Marvin Gaye and our relationship with the Gaye family, we regret that they have been ill-advised in this matter."
The Gaye family’s lawsuit also names Thicke's wife, actress Paula Patton, who is featured in "Love After War,” Star Trak Entertainment, Interscope Records, and Universal Music Group recordings, among others.
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The Navy’s biggest-ever destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, sailed from a Maine port on Monday. The stealth warship is the first of the DDG-1000 class of destroyers, a controversial line of three ships to be deployed to the Pacific during the next three years as sentries to China’s burgeoning naval might.
The USS Zumwalt is big: It is 610 feet long, has an 11,000-square foot flight deck, and displaces 14,564 tons of water. That’s about 100 feet longer than other destroyers, as well a water displacement about 50 percent larger than the next biggest destroyer on the water, the Military Times reported.
Despite its colossal size, Zumwalt is also stealthy, with concealed antennas and an angular frame that makes it much less detectable to radar than are current warships. It also packs a punch. Its “Advanced Gun System” fires warheads at a range of about 63 miles with impeccable precision, three times farther than current destroyers can fire, CNN reported. Its massive electrical capabilities are also expected to support future laser weapons.
But, as precedent suggests with ships of unprecedented size, there’s a problem: Engineers aren’t quite sure if Zumwalt ships are capable of weathering giant waves, according to Defense News. A single sizable swell that hits the ship’s back end might take the ship down, engineers have said. That’s because these ships sport a new, downward-sloping hull that primes the ship to move stealthily, but not necessarily stably; traditional ships have upward-flaring hulls.
The ships are controversial for more than just their Achilles hull: They are expensive – the most expensive Navy ships ever built, to be exact.
Zumwalts began as a dream of the 1990s, imagined as part of the 1991 21st Century Destroyer program, the news website Medium reported. What if a ship could avoid radar detection? What if it could ply the waters unnoticed, a Loch Ness monster of the open seas? What if the US could sport bigger and badder ships than ever before thought possible?
The Department of Defense announced in the 1990s that it would build 32 of the novel class of ships, originally called DD 21 and later DD(X). But the cost of building the ships began to float higher and higher, and, as it did, the Pentagon scaled back the number of behemoth ships it planned to put on the water. In 2003, the Pentagon said it would buy 16 ships. Then, it said seven ships. Then, in 2008, it said three ships.
In 2009, the number of ships was almost reduced to no ships at all, when costs ballooned to over $5 billion per ship, a violation of the Nunn-McCurdy amendment, which says that defense projects whose cost per unit grows more than 15% above what was originally estimated must be tabled. That year, to keep the program going, Department of Defense officials dialed back the cost of the first Zumwalt destroyer to $3.3 billion, with subsequent ships costing about $2.5 billion.
The most recent new destroyer, the US Arleigh Burke class of ships, cost about $1.8 billion each. The Navy is expected to return to building the cheaper class of ships after production wraps up on the three Zumwalts.
All three Zumwalt ships, called Zumwalt, Michael Monsoor, and Lyndon B. Johnson, are due to be based out of San Diego and to be charged with policing the Pacific. Their super structures are constructed at Huntington Ingalls Industries, in Gulfport, Miss., and assembled at Maine's Bath Iron Works, which is part of General Dynamics Marine Systems. The first ship will be delivered to the Navy in 2015, the Washington Times reported.
Zumwalt has hit the water, but it is not quite battle-ready, and Bath Iron Works will keep working on the ship in the water for the next few months. The ship had been due to be christened earlier this month with a bottle of champagne smashed against its hull, but the ceremony was postponed due to the government shutdown. The shipyard expects the champagne slinging to happen sometime in the spring, Fox News reported.
The class of ships is named for Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., the chief of naval operations in the early 1970s. He is credited with ordering the Navy to end racial discrimination and allowing women to serve on ships.
Two mothers whose unarmed, black sons were fatally shot last year spoke before the Senate Tuesday, pressing lawmakers to ask states to clarify their controversial “stand your ground" laws.
The women – Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin; and Lucia Holman McBath, mother of Jordan Russell Davis – both lost their 17-year-old sons in incidents in which “stand your ground” laws became a justification for shooting the teenagers, rather than fleeing the situation.
The Democrat-convened hearing was held despite no expected congressional action on the issue, the Associated Press said. The 2014 midterm elections could put pressure on members of Congress to clarify their positions on guns, but so far, Congress has been reluctant to intervene in states' right to keep stand your ground laws on the books.
In February 2012, Trayvon was walking home in Sanford, Fla., with a package of Skittles in his pocket, when a complex narrative unfolded: George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, and Trayvon got into an fight, and Mr. Zimmerman said he shot Trayvon in self-defense. But others said that Trayvon had come under suspicion of being a criminal because he was wearing a hoodie.
The trial this summer for Zimmerman factored in stand your ground legislation. Such laws, on the books in some version in 22 states, including Florida, allow a person who believes him- or herself threatened with death or harm to choose not to retreat, even if retreating is an available option. On July 13, Zimmerman was acquitted of both second-degree murder and manslaughter.
The trial has furnished a continued brimming debate over stand your ground laws.
"I just wanted to come here to talk to you for a moment to let you know how important it is that we amend this stand your ground because it certainly did not work in my case," Ms. Fulton, Trayvon's mother, told the Senate.
"The person that shot and killed my son is walking the streets today,” she said. “This law does not work."
Florida’s stand your ground law is also expected to factor into the trial of Michael David Dunn, Jordan’s alleged killer, next year. Last year in Jacksonville, Fla., Mr. Dunn allegedly fired nine rounds on a Dodge Durango with four teenagers inside, after complaining about their loud music. He says he saw a gun inside the vehicle, though authorities did not retrieve a gun from the scene.
Ms. McBath, Jordan’s mother, told the Senate that she is confronted with the "very real possibility that my son's killer will walk free, hiding behind a statute that lets people claim a threat where there was none."
"Even the Wild West had more stringent laws governing the taking of life than we have now. Stand your ground defies all reason. It goes against the sound system of justice established long ago on this very hill," she said.
In a microcosm of the discussion that has rankled the United States in recent months, senators tussled over stand your ground legislation at the Judiciary Committee hearing.
“It is clearly time for stand your ground to be carefully reviewed," said Sen. Richard Durbin (D) of Illinois, who had called for the hearing.
"These stand your ground laws have allowed shooters to walk free in shocking situations,” he said.
There’s a difference "between serious efforts to stop violent crime and efforts to advance a political agenda,” he said.
Florida was the first state to pass a stand your ground law in 2005. Since then, many other states have adopted some version of the law: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia, according to the AP. At least nine laws include the language “stand your ground.”
Mr. Sharpton, of the National Action Network, has threatened a boycott of Barneys, after two black shoppers came forward this week with allegations that in separate incidents police had detained them on suspicion of stealing their expensive purchases from the high-end retailer. His meeting with Barneys CEO Mark Lee was scheduled for Tuesday morning at the National Action Network’s headquarters in Harlem.
Meanwhile, the New York Attorney General’s Office on Monday sent letters to both Barneys and Macy’s in an official probe of racial profiling at the stores. The two retailers have until Friday to provide information on their policies for stopping customers based on race, the New York Daily News reported.
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"Attorney General [Eric] Schneiderman is committed to ensuring that all New York residents are afforded equal protection under the law," Kristen Clarke, head of the attorney general's Civil Rights Bureau, wrote to the two retailers' CEOs.
"The alleged repeated behavior of your employees raises troubling questions about your company's commitment to that ideal," the letters said.
The developments come amid an already-troubled relationship between the New York Police Department and the city’s minority communities and has put another spotlight on the city's pushback against persistent racism.
Reports of racial profiling first surfaced last week when Trayon Christian, 19, a Queens student, filed suit against both Barneys and the NYPD in Manhattan Supreme Court for an alleged incident on April 29. In that incident, plainclothes officers stopped him a block away from the Barneys flagship store on Madison Avenue, where he had just purchased a $349 Ferragamo belt with his debit card, he said. He was held at the 19th Precinct for two hours before he was released, with no charges filed against him, he said.
Also, Kayla Phillips, 21, a nursing student from Canarsie in Brooklyn, told the New York Daily News that four plainclothes officers surrounded her three blocks from the same Barneys store, after she had purchased a $2,500 orange suede Céline bag with a debit card in February. Ms. Phillips said she plans to sue the NYPD.
Two Macy’s shoppers have made similar allegations of racial profiling. One of them, the actor Rob Brown of HBO's "Treme," said he was handcuffed and held for an hour after purchasing a $1,350 gold Movado watch at Macy's Herald Square, the Daily News said. In the other, Art Palmer, an exercise trainer from Brooklyn, said that police swarmed him after he purchased $320 worth of Polo shirts and ties at the same store, the Daily News reported.
Mr. Brown is suing the NYPD and Macy's. Mr. Palmer has filed a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board in New York.
Macy's told the Daily News it was not involved in the incident with Brown. Barneys said in a statement that “no employee of Barneys New York was involved in the pursuit of any action with [Mr. Christian] other than the sale.”
“Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights,” the statement said.
Following reports of the incidents, Change.org launched a petition asking Jay Z to cut all ties with Barneys, with which he is collaborating on a Christmas collection. When the superstar and man-of-the-street rapper made no immediate comment, he was pilloried on social media as betraying his previous stands for social justice.
In 2006, the Brooklyn native had banned Cristal champagne from his swanky nightclub after the company's CEO made racist remarks, the Daily News reported.
On Saturday, Jay Z defended his choice to continue working with Barneys, at least for the time being.
''I am against discrimination of any kind, but if I make snap [judgments], no matter who it's towards, aren't I committing the same sin as someone who profiles?” he wrote on his website, Life + Times, noting that a quarter of the proceeds from his collection would benefit the Shawn Carter Foundation, which helps low-income students.
“I am no stranger to being profiled and I truly empathize with anyone that has been put in that position,” he wrote. “Hopefully this brings forth a dialogue to effect real change.”
Racism has been a foregrounded issue in New York City in recent years, as pressure has mounted on the NYPD to ease its aggressive stop-and-frisk policies. In August, a federal judge ordered the NYPD to reform its stop-and-frisk program. Last month the judge, Shira Scheindlin of US District Court in Manhattan, also granted class-action status to a lawsuit brought by public housing residents and visitors who say they were illegally stopped in the buildings.
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