New Google Doodle Celebrates 100 Years of the Trans-Siberian Railway

Wednesday’s Google Doodle celebrates the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway, which was built by Russian Tsar Alexander III between 1891 and 1916.

The railway, which was completed on Oct. 5 1916, allowed passengers and cargo to travel from Western Russia all the way to the Pacific Ocean in just seven days, and is still critical to Russia’s trade with Europe and China today. The railway traverses 5,772 miles and crosses seven timezones between Moscow and Vladivostok.

The centennial doodle was created by Google’s art director Matt Cruickshank who traveled the railway in April 2015, drawing scenes of Russian cities and countryside along his way.

“I felt compelled to echo the visual strength of Russian graphics coupled with a folk art style,” Cruickshank said on the doodle’s web page.

Google also commemorated the completion of this masterpiece in Russian engineering through a short film featuring Cruickshank’s art accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major, Op. 48, II. Waltz as performed by the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra.

Hurricane Matthew roars toward Bahamas as rescuers try to reach Haiti

Rescue workers in Haiti struggled to reach cutoff towns and learn the full extent of the death and destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew as the storm began battering the Bahamas Wednesday and triggered evacuations along the U.S. East Coast.

At least 11 deaths had been blamed on the powerful storm during its weeklong march across the Caribbean, five of them in Haiti. But with a key bridge washed out, roads impassable and phone communications down, the western tip of Haiti was isolated and there was no word on dead and injured.

Forecasters said the high winds, pounding rains and storm surge were already beginning to have an impact in the southern Bahamas as the storm, with top sustained winds of 125 mph.

A day earlier, Matthew swept across a remote area of Haiti with 145 mph winds, and government leaders said they weren’t close to fully gauging the impact in the vulnerable, flood-prone country where less powerful storms have killed thousands living in flimsy shacks.

“What we know is that many, many houses have been damaged. Some lost rooftops and they’ll have to be replaced while others were totally destroyed,” Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph said.

The hurricane also rolled across the sparsely populated tip of Cuba overnight, destroying dozens of homes in Cuba’s easternmost city, Baracoa, and leaving hundreds of others damaged.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or large-scale devastation, though the waves had picked up a large shipping container and dropped it three blocks inland from the shore.

By Wednesday morning Matthew was passing east of the Bahamian island of Inagua, moving over open water on a forecast path expected to take it very near the Bahamas capital of Nassau and then Florida’s Atlantic coast by Thursday evening.

At 8 a.m. EDT Matthew’s eye was about 45 miles east-northeast of Cabo Lucrecia, Cuba. Matthew was heading north at 10 mph.

Matthew will likely pose a threat to Florida by late Thursday and other areas of the East Coast afterward.

Florida cancelled school classes along its Atlantic coastline and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley also announced plans starting Wednesday afternoon to evacuate a quarter million people, not counting tourists, from its vulnerable coastline.

The hurricane center said winds had slightly decreased overnight as Matthew dropped from a Category 4 to a Category 3 storm early Wednesday. But forecasters warned Matthew could re-strengthen slightly and said Matthew would remain a powerful and dangerous storm over coming days.

Along the U.S. East Coast, people raced to supermarkets, gas stations and hardware stores, buying up groceries, water, plywood, tarps, batteries and propane.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged coastal residents to prepare for the possibility of a direct hit and line up three days’ worth of food, water and medicine. The White House said relief supplies were being moved to emergency staging areas in the Southeast.

In Haiti, where international aid efforts were stymied Tuesday because of the lack of access to the hardest-hit areas, muddy rivers and tributaries continued to rise as water flowed down hillsides and mountains, making more flash floods and mudslides possible even Matthew tracked away from the country.

Matthew was at one point a Category 5 storm, making it the most powerful hurricane in the region in nearly a decade.

Mourad Wahba, U.N. secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Haiti, said at least 10,000 people were in shelters and hospitals were overflowing and running short of water. Wahba’s statement called the hurricane’s destruction the “largest humanitarian event” in Haiti since the devastating earthquake of January 2010.

Surging waters ripped away a bridge in the flooded town of Petit Goave, preventing any road travel to the hard-hit southwest. Local radio reported water shoulder-high in parts of the southern city of Les Cayes.

Milriste Nelson, a 65-year-old farmer in the town of Leogane, said neighbors fled when the wind tore away the corrugated metal roof on their home. His own small yard was strewn with the fruit he depends on for his livelihood.

“All the banana trees, all the mangos, everything is gone,” Nelson said as he boiled breadfruit over a charcoal fire. “This country is going to fall deeper into misery.”

Haitian authorities had tried to evacuate people from the most vulnerable areas ahead of the storm, but many were reluctant to leave their homes. Some sought shelter only after the worst was already upon them.

Rainfall totals had been predicted to reach 15 to 25 inches in Haiti, with up to 40 inches in isolated places.

Tim Kaine Among Growing Number Of Americans Against The Death Penalty

The percentage of Americans who oppose the death penalty is the highest it’s been in decades, according to a new poll.

The poll, from Pew Research Center, found that 42 percent of Americans said they oppose the death penalty for people convicted of murder, while 49 percent of Americans said they favored it. Nine percent of respondents said they weren’t sure either way. The last time opposition to the death penalty was this high was in 1972, according to Pew.

Research from Pew shows that support for the death penalty has been declining for about two decades. In the mid-1990s, 80 percent of Americans favored the death penalty, while just 16 percent opposed it.

Last year, 56 percent of Americans favored the death penalty and 38 percent opposed it, Pew said. [Mistaken Identity? 10 Contested Death Penalty Cases]

People’s positions on the death penalty are strongly tied to their political parties, according to a statement from the Pew Research Center. In the new poll, 72 percent of Republicans supported the death penalty, compared to 34 percent of Democrats.

The percentage of independents who support the death penalty fell 13 percentage points over the past year, from 57 percent in 2015 to 44 percent in 2016, Pew said.

The decline in support for the death penalty has corresponded with a drop in U.S. executions; in 1999, there were 98 executions, compared to 15 so far this year, according to The New York Times.

The new Pew poll was conducted from Aug. 23 to Sept. 2, and involved a nationally representative sample of about 1,200 U.S. adults, Pew said.

Original article on Live Science.

Editor’s Recommendations

The GOP Just Published A Bunch Of Post-Debate ~Blog Posts~ Before The Debate Started

The GOP just published a ~blog post~ ahead of tonight’s vice presidential debate declaring Mike Pence the victor and Hillary Clinton the loser.

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“The consensus was clear after the dust settled,” the article read. “Mike Pence was the clear winner of the debate.”

The story praised Pence, saying he “made the most of his opportunity to debate Hillary’s VP pick Tim Kaine,” and said he “perfectly shared Trump’s vision to make America great again and that message is resonating with Americans all across the country.”

A second post declared that Hillary Clinton was the loser.

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Then there were these posts:

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After a few minutes they took them down.

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People were, as you can imagine, a bit confused.

That feeling when the GOP publishes their post-debate #analysis pre-debate.


— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller)

The ultimate in the #FactFree world of the #GOP. Declare victory before the debate even starts.…

— GBliss (@GBliss)

.@GOP has got to do better at the cyber. #VPDebate

— Full Frontal (@FullFrontalSamB)

Listen who among us hasn’t had an editor yell “post and backfill”

— Brandon Wall (@Walldo)

The GOP declared Pence the winner of the VP debate almost 2 hours before it starts.
I have no jokes.
I have no words.
Except sickening.

— Nina L. Diamond (@ninatypewriter)

Well, thanks to that GOP site, the entire debate is spoiled. #VPDebate

— Marcus S. (@goodwillfiction)

Thanks for ruining the end of the debate! Now if the GOP posts who gets eliminated on #DancingWiththeStars Ill be really upset #SpoilerAlert

— Lindsay Voorhees (@LindsayAnn15)

In summary:

The GOP just published an article claiming Mike Pence won the #VPDebate

— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews)

BuzzFeed News has reached out to the GOP for more information.

15 Biggest VP Debate Zingers

Vice presidential candidates Tim Kaine and Mike Pence were defensive out of the gate Tuesday night and didn’t let up for 90 minutes, interrupting each other and throwing attacks against Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump — and at times each other.

Here are some of the snippiest remarks at the lone vice presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia:

1. Pence: “You whipped out that Mexican thing again.”

2. Kaine: “Why don’t you trust women to make this choice? Why doesn’t Donald Trump trust women to make this choice for themselves?”

3. Kaine:Putin is a dictator, not leader, anybody who thinks otherwise doesn’t know Russian history.”

4. Pence: “We can put cyber security first … if we make sure the next secretary of state doesn’t have a private server…”

5. Kaine: “Trump can’t start a Twitter war with Miss Universe without shooting himself in the foot.”

6. Kaine: “Trump has a personal Mt. Rushmore,” including Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un and Saddam Hussein.

7. Pence: “I’ll work with you when you go back to the Senate.”

Related: Everything You Missed From the VP Debate

8. Kaine: “You can’t have somebody at the top who demeans everybody he talks about.”

9. Kaine: Pence was “chief cheerleader of the privatization” of the entitlement while he was a member of Congress.

10. Pence: Kaine and Clinton are running a campaign on an “avalanche of insults.”

11. Kaine: “So it’s smart not to pay for our military, it’s smart not to pay for veterans, it’s smart not to pay for teachers, I guess all of us who do pay for those things, I guess we’re stupid.”

12. Kaine: “Do you want a ‘you’re hired’ president in Hillary Clinton or a ‘you’re fired’ president in Donald Trump?

13. Pence: “Appreciated you’re hired, you’re fired thing, you use that a whole lot…”

14. Kaine: “You will look in vain” for an apology from Trump.

15. Kaine: “He’s asking people to vote for somebody he cannot defend.”

Trump retweets supporter who says Kaine looks like ‘Batman’ villain

Donald Trump promised his Twitter followers that he would livetweet Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Tim Kaine, but the Republican nominee mostly retweeted his supporters.

Trump tweeted “Both are looking good! Now we begin!” in the early moments of the showdown. He then tweeted at Fox News’ Megyn Kelly to say he was watching the debate in Nevada.

Trump’s next 17 posts were all retweets. Most were messages from supporters, including one from a Twitter user who compared Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate, to a Batman villain.

Another user retweeted by Trump said Clinton “gets Americans killed.”

Trump also retweeted graphics favorably comparing Kaine’s record as Indiana governor to Kaine’s record as Virginia governor. Other tweets included links to campaign press releases about Clinton’s policy on Syria and North Korea, as well as a reminder of the Democratic candidate’s “basket of deplorables” remark about Trump supporters last month.

Trump also backed up Pence’s support of law enforcement officers in a segment of the debate devoted to police shootings of African-Americans. 

See the Fox News 2016 battleground prediction map and make your own election projections. See Predictions Map →

The billionaire closed the evening with the night’s most-retweeted post, according to Twitter’s own analytics.

The problem with Obama’s account of the Syrian red-line incident

President Obama with his foreign policy team in the Oval Office on July 13, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Few moments have been as debated and dissected as President Obama’s 2013 decision not to launch airstrikes against Syria after President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons to kill his own people.

In his zeal to defend his decisionmaking in Syria, though, Obama in an interview with New York magazine has added a new wrinkle to his account of the incident.

“My decision was to see if we could broker a deal without a strike to get those chemical weapons out, and to go to Congress to ask for authorization,” Obama said in the interview, published Monday. The president’s recounting of the 2013 incident suggests that the final agreement with the Assad regime to dispose of its vast chemical weapons stockpile had come about because of steady leadership and careful planning from the executive branch.

The reality, though, was far messier and shows why the 2013  incident remains one of the hotly debated moments of Obama’s presidency. In 2012, Obama said that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in the country’s civil war would cross a “red line” triggering an American military response.

Obama’s critics (and even some allies) have blasted him for threatening to punish Assad with airstrikes and not following through on his “red-line” pledge. “If you say you’re going to strike you have to strike,” Hillary Clinton said privately, according to Jeffry Goldberg of the Atlantic magazine. “There’s no choice.”

Obama has defended the decision as one of his proudest moments in the White House, noting that Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal was destroyed — an outcome that would not have been possible with airstrikes. “The notion seems to be that, ‘Well, you should have blown something up, even if that didn’t mean that you got chemical weapons out,’ ” Obama told New York magazine. “There continues to be, I think, a lack of examination of the fact that my decision was not to let Assad do whatever he wanted.”

The U.S. military was just hours away from launching the strikes when Obama decided to put the plans on hold and seek congressional approval before initiating the attack. There was, however, little enthusiasm for the strike in Congress, putting the president in a tough spot. He was not eager to launch the strikes without the backing of lawmakers.

The final deal to dispose of Syria’s weapons came together only after Secretary of State John Kerry was asked if there was anything Assad could do to avoid an attack. “Sure, he could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community,” an exasperated Kerry told reporters in September 2013. “Turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow a full and total accounting for that. … But he isn’t about to do it.”

The idea of working with the Russians to pressure Assad had been discussed informally in the White House earlier, and had even come up in a conversation between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin. But few senior officials gave the long-shot idea much serious thought.

Kerry’s ad-libbed statement in London prompted a frantic call from Russia’s foreign minister, suggesting that such a deal might be workable.

Derek Chollet, a former senior Obama administration official, described the call in his book “The Long Game” as “a stunning twist that led to an outcome that none of us had expected, planned for or even dreamed was possible.”

Chollet defends the deal as the best possible outcome for the United States and the world, even as he concedes that it would have been easier for Obama to claim success if his strategy had looked less improvised and chaotic.

“I keep reminding people that foreign policy is more like hockey than figure skating,” he said in an email. “It’s not all about style points!”

Who Won the Debate? Commentators Give Edge to Mike Pence

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International observers will watch U.S. vote closely

VIENNA Amid charges from Donald Trump that the U.S. presidential election could be “rigged” and concerns of rights activists that black voters may face undue obstacles, the head of an international observer team pledged a full review ranging from voting machines to racial bias as it began work on Tuesday.

The team from the 57-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that will monitor the Nov. 8 presidential and Congressional elections is set to be the biggest the organization has sent to the United States, tasked with checking the vote meets international standards.

Republican candidate Trump’s apparent suggestion that the vote might not be free and fair has drawn an angry response from his opponents, who say it is baseless.

Democrat Hillary Clinton has led Trump in national opinion polls in recent months. On Tuesday, an average of polls aggregated by RealClearPolitics website showed her with 48.1 percent of support compared to Trump’s 44.3 percent.

Civil rights advocates have also said voters are more likely to face racial bias at this election than they have in 50 years, because of voting laws that several states passed after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the landmark anti-discrimination 1965 Voting Rights Act three years ago.

“We do have concerns about voter registration, voter identification and also electronic voting,” the head of the OSCE mission, British lawyer and diplomat Audrey Glover said in a telephone interview, adding that the mission is impartial.

“We always let the facts speak for themselves, so let’s see what happens,” she said. Allegations such as Trump’s, however, were for the U.S. authorities to follow up on while the OSCE observed, she added. “We’re not policemen.”

The Shelby County v Holder Supreme Court ruling in 2013 struck down a part of the Voting Rights Act that was used to determine which areas with a history of discrimination had to obtain special permission before changing their voting laws.

That has raised concerns among rights groups that laws on issues like voter identification have since been changed to make it more difficult for poor and minority voters to take part.

The OSCE, which comprises much of Europe, Central Asia and North America, has also suggested that all electronic voting machines be required by law to leave a verifiable paper trail, though many states do not provide one.

Glover said her team would seek to clarify where it legally can and cannot go, adding that states’ and counties’ stance on international observers was often not clear. Texas also threatened OSCE observers with prosecution four years ago, which the organization called “unacceptable” at the time.

Glover, however, struck a conciliatory tone.

“If the law says international observers are not allowed, then obviously we won’t try and go. We’re not going to try and make any sort of a scene,” she told Reuters.

But the biggest hindrance might be self-inflicted. The OSCE had hoped to deploy 100 so-called long-term observers in the coming week, but OSCE states – including Germany, France, Spain, Romania, Finland, Bosnia – have only provided 26.

Up to 400 short-term observers will begin work close to Election Day.

“We’ll do what we can with what we’ve got,” Glover said. “We will try and make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear and we will try and cover the whole of the United States, or to the extent that is feasible.”

(Edited by Dominic Evans)