Nyquist Wins The 2016 Kentucky Derby

Nyquist, ridden by Mario Gutierrez, crosses the finish line during the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7.

Nyquist, ridden by Mario Gutierrez, crosses the finish line during the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7. Rob Carr/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Rob Carr/Getty Images

Nearly one year since American Pharoah made history, Nyquist has embarked on a star-making turn of his own at Churchill Downs. The thoroughbred has won the 2016 Kentucky Derby.

The colt beat out 19 other competitors over the course of a hectic mile and a quarter, crossing the finish line first.

Jockey Mario Gutierrez earned a patient win with Nyquist, giving the racehorse Danzing Candy plenty of leeway to lead the pack early. Gutierrez kept Nyquist close, though, never dropping much lower than third. Nyquist pulled ahead in the final stretch and didn’t ease up until he definitively captured the Run for the Roses.

The win didn’t exactly come as a surprise. By mid-afternoon, the bay colt was pulling down 2-1 odds, cleanly earning honors as the heavy favorite. Nyquist — owned, trained and ridden by the same team that won the 2012 Kentucky Derby — approached this year’s race with the confidence of having succeeded at Churchill Downs before.

“There’s a quiet confidence in the group that’s not flashy,” owner Paul Reddam told Rick Howlett of member station WFPL before the race. “But — to speak Californian for a moment — there’s a very good vibe in the barn.”

Famous for his ice hockey fandom, the Ontario native named Nyquist after a player on his favorite team, forward Gustav Norquist of the Detroit Red Wings. And it’s not even the first — or the second, or the third — Red Wings player who has served as namesake for one of Reddam’s horses.

But, whatever the pedigree of his on-ice predecessor, Nyquist (the horse, to be clear) has been dominant on the track in his own right. Before the Kentucky Derby, the horse had gone a perfect 7 for 7 in his early races.

Now, make that 8 for 8.

Of course, the conclusion to this year’s Derby Day, now in the books, also ushers us to the starting gate of another beloved, decades-old tradition: talk of a potential Triple Crown. The Kentucky Derby is just the first jewel in horse racing’s highest prize; to win a Triple Crown, Nyquist must now go on to win the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, too.

American Pharoah managed the feat last year — for the first time since 1978. Can Nyquist do the same? Ladies and gentlemen, let the breathless debates begin.

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Blaze Area Of Wildfires In Canada 'Could Double,' As Energy Company Evacuates

A police officer works a road block on Highway 63 near Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Friday.

A police officer works a road block on Highway 63 near Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Friday. Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images

A massive oil sands wildfire in Alberta, Canada, now extends more than 600 square miles, and officials are concerned that it could double in size on Saturday because of windy, dry weather conditions.

The Alberta government says some 500 firefighters are fighting the fire in and around Fort McMurray, in addition to 15 helicopters and 14 air tankers.

Reporter Craig McColloch tells NPR’s Newscast unit that at least 88,000 residents have been evacuated since the blaze erupted nearly a week ago, and it’s impacting the region’s oil sands industry. The region has “the third-largest reserves of oil in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela,” according to the Associated Press.

Here’s more from Craig:

“Another major energy company is shutting down operations near Fort McMurray. Syncrude joins Suncor Energy, BP and Phillips 66 who have alerted customers they will not be able to meet their obligations to provide Canadian crude oil due to the wildfire.

“Ralph Goodale, Canada’s minister for Emergency Preparedness, says more firefighters are being brought in to relieve those on the front lines: ‘They’ve been on the line doing this now for almost a week. And they need some rest. They need some respite.’

“Meanwhile, the convoy of evacuees from oil field work camps north of Fort McMurray continues. … Many are also being airlifted out.”

Craig adds that those southbound evacuee convoys are being escorted in groups of 50 by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The Associated Press describes what the fleeing workers are likely seeing:

“The images were largely ones of devastation — scorched trucks, charred homes and telephone poles, burned out from the bottom up, hanging in the wires like little wooden crosses.”

The Two-Way has highlighted some of those scenes in a series of photos from the raging wildfires.

Chad Morrison, Alberta’s manager of wildfire prevention, tells the AP that there was “high potential that the fire could double in size” by the end of the day on Saturday.

A Fort McMurray evacuee plays a guitar while lying on a cot at a hockey rink in Lac La Biche, Alberta, Canada, on Saturday.

A Fort McMurray evacuee plays a guitar while lying on a cot at a hockey rink in Lac La Biche, Alberta, Canada, on Saturday. Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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The CBC reports that local officials battling the fire now refer to it as “the beast.” The news service reports that during the past five days, “the fire has destroyed more than 1,600 homes and buildings, forced 80,000 to evacuate the city, and resisted all efforts to to try to wrestle it under control.”

The CBC also says the city had already been hit hard by the drop in oil prices, resulting in “thousands of layoffs.” It adds: “People who had been struggling to find work are now also looking for a place to stay.”

“What do we restart from? I think it is going to force a lot to leave. Our population is going to shrink,” oil sands worker Cory Samman says, according to CBC.

Meanwhile, the government says evacuated families will receive $1,250 per adult and $500 per dependent in emergency financial assistance.

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Russian Military Involved In Shooting Down Flight MH17, Researchers Say

Russian officials are trying to discredit a new report that implicates the Russian military in the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17. Nearly two years ago, that attack in the skies over eastern Ukraine killed 298 people.

The latest report comes from a U.K.-based organization called Bellingcat, which bills itself as a group of citizen investigative journalists. Much of their work is done by volunteers, who sift through open source information on the web, using social media and satellite imagery. The group was launched with a crowd-funding campaign, and says it now receives a grant from Google.

Bellingcat has focused on a number of big stories such as the war in Syria and the terror attacks in Paris. The team has been interested in the MH17 case ever since the plane was shot down in July 2014.

Early on, the group found photographs of an anti-aircraft missile launcher that were taken in eastern Ukraine on the day the plane was shot down. Eliot Higgins, one of the founders of Bellingcat, says his group linked the missile launcher, called a Buk, to the Russian 53rd air defense brigade. That unit is stationed in the Russian city of Kursk, not far from the Ukrainian border.

“We discovered quite quickly that the soldiers there were using a lot of social media, posting photographs of each other, posting photographs of the base,” Higgins says.

The photographs included pictures of their equipment, such as their Buk missile launchers. The launcher that was believed to have shot down the Malaysian airliner had an identification number that was partly worn away, but the researchers were able to pick out other unique characteristics. They included a dent in the side of the launcher and even the pattern formed by soot around the exhaust pipe.

“We looked at all these details and we were able to establish the number of the missile launcher, which was 332,” Higgins says.

In other words, Bellingcat is saying that MH17 was shot down by a specific Russian missile launcher that was documented to be in eastern Ukraine at the time.

Spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, dismissed the Bellingcat report. She says it was the work of amateurs who ignored the information put forward by Russian experts and professionals.

Zakharova says the motives behind it are sinister. “We consider this whole campaign to be an attempt by certain destructive forces to demonize Russia by creating an image in the mass consciousness that’s very far from reality.”

Eliot Higgins says much of the information provided by the Russian experts has been refuted. He says there’s a simple reason why Russia has been so adamant in rejecting any suggestion its troops were involved in the shoot-down.

Russia has continually denied it ever sent any troops or equipment across the border into Ukraine, Higgins says, because “to admit that they were responsible for MH17 is not only admitting to the murder of 298 people, but also admitting that they were lying for months and months to their own countrypeople.”

The Safety Board in the Netherlands, where the flight originated, recently completed its investigation, saying the plane was most likely shot down by a Buk missile, originating from territory controlled by the Russian-backed separatists.

Dutch police are now conducting a criminal investigation into the attack, which may finally determine who fired the missile.

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In Commencement Speech, Obama Advises Howard University Grads On Creating Change

President Barack Obama gives his commencement address to the 2016 graduating class of Howard University in Washington, D.C. on Saturday.

President Barack Obama gives his commencement address to the 2016 graduating class of Howard University in Washington, D.C. on Saturday. Susan Walsh/AP hide caption

toggle caption Susan Walsh/AP

Speaking to the graduating class of Washington, D.C.’s Howard University, President Barack Obama emphasizes that his election hasn’t created a “post-racial society” despite improved race relations.

Stressing the need to keep pushing for change, he gives the students at the historically black university impassioned advice on how to “shape our collective future.”

Chief among that advice: Vote, “not just some of the time but all of the time.” He adds: “When we don’t vote we give away our power.”

You can watch the full speech here:


He describes the university as a “centerpiece of African-American intellectual life, and a central part of our larger American story.”

Arguing that the U.S. — and the world — is a “better place” than when he graduated from college in the early 1980s, he says there is still work to be done, citing employment, achievement and justice gaps for African-Americans.

“Be confident in your heritage. Be confident in your blackness,” he tells the graduates. “There’s no one way to be black. Take it from somebody who’s seen both sides of the debate about whether I’m black enough.”

Obama tells the graduates to remember the ties that connect African-Americans:

“That is our particular awareness of injustice, and unfairness, and struggle. … That means we cannot sleepwalk through life.

“We have cousins, and uncles, and brothers, and sisters, who we remember were just as smart and just as talented as we were but somehow got ground down by structures that were unfair and unjust, and that means we have to not only question the world as it is, and stand up for those African-Americans who haven’t been so lucky.”

That empathy should extend to “all people who are struggling,” he says.

Finally, he advises the grads that creating change requires organization and strategy. That strategy has to include voting, Obama adds:

“People try to make this political thing really complicated … you know what? Just vote. It’s math. If you have more votes than the other guy, you get to do what you want.”

Moreover, he says change requires compromise, and “listening to those with whom you disagree.”

As The Washington Post reports, “The president was kicking off a series of three commencement addresses, which will continue at Rutgers University in New Jersey and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.” The newspaper adds: “His appearance at Howard, urging the graduates to embrace the future, came as he is becoming more reflective as his presidency winds down.”

Check out NPR’s rundown of great commencement speeches for two more from Obama, and many others.

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Major League Baseball Cancels Series In Puerto Rico Due To Zika Concerns

An aerial view of the Hiram Bithorn Stadium as Puerto Rico plays Dominican Republic at the Caribbean Series baseball tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico in February.

An aerial view of the Hiram Bithorn Stadium as Puerto Rico plays Dominican Republic at the Caribbean Series baseball tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico in February. Ricardo Arduengo/AP hide caption

toggle caption Ricardo Arduengo/AP

Major League Baseball says it is moving a two-game series later this month from Puerto Rico to Miami due to players’ concerns about the Zika virus.

NPR’s Greg Allen tells our Newscast unit that the series pitting the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Miami Marlins was meant to honor Hall of Fame outfielder Roberto Clemente, who was from Puerto Rico. Here’s more from Greg:

“The Major League Players Association asked Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred to relocate the games to Miami because of the player’s concerns about contracting Zika, a mosquito-borne disease that has been linked to birth defects.

“Players received briefings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including cautions for those travelling with partners who are pregnant or are attempting to conceive. After the briefings, too many players on both teams objected to travelling to Puerto Rico, forcing MLB to relocate the games to Miami.”

Greg adds that Puerto Rican officials were unhappy with the move. He says the island’s top sports official described it as “shameful.”

This series shows Pittsburgh Pirates' right fielder Roberto Clemente making a sensational backhanded catch of a long drive by Bobby Thomson of the Cubs in 1958. The Puerto Rico series was intended to honor Clemente, a Hall of Fame player.

This series shows Pittsburgh Pirates’ right fielder Roberto Clemente making a sensational backhanded catch of a long drive by Bobby Thomson of the Cubs in 1958. The Puerto Rico series was intended to honor Clemente, a Hall of Fame player. AP hide caption

toggle caption AP

Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole said that “players had been told they’d need to wear long sleeves, cover themselves in bug spray and stay indoors unless it was necessary to be outside,” MLB.com reports.

The CDC says “local mosquito transmission of the Zika virus infection…has been reported in Puerto Rico,” meaning mosquitoes there are infected with the virus and are “spreading it to people.” The first case of local transmission in Puerto Rico was reported in December.

This has been an eventful week for the island commonwealth. You might remember that on Monday, Puerto Rico’s governor Alejandro García Padilla said it would not be able to pay the $400 million debt payment it owed.

As we reported, Padilla said “I’ve had to choose and I have made a choice…I’ve decided that your basic needs come before anything else.” He added that the island is “facing making a choice between providing its citizens with health care or paying its debt.”

NPR’s Jim Zarroli reported that “Puerto Rico has been trying to persuade Congress to pass a debt restructuring bill without success.”

And on July 1, Puerto Rico will own an additional debt payment of $1.9 billion, NPR’s Luis Clemens reported.

For an in-depth look at the history behind Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, check out this piece from WNYC’s On The Media.

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#NPRreads: Take Flight With These 3 Stories This Weekend

A Korean Air Boeing 747 aircraft takes off before storm clouds at Gimpo airport, south of Seoul.

A Korean Air Boeing 747 aircraft takes off before storm clouds at Gimpo airport, south of Seoul. Ed Jones /AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. Each weekend, we highlight some of the best stories.

From Chuck Holmes, Deputy Managing Editor:

Looking at the world in different ways. A pilot’s elegant reflections via @voxdotcom #NPRreads https://t.co/cKMYwPXqkW

— Chuck Holmes (@chuckatnpr) May 3, 2016

This essay by long-haul airline pilot Mark Vanhoenacker for Vox.com (based on his book) caught my eye with its headline: “I fly 747s for a living. Here are the amazing things I see everyday.”

Maybe it’s because air travel still seems to defy our sense of reality (“You’re sitting in a chair in the sky!” says comedian Louis C.K. in his viral stand-up bit about the miracle of human flight.)

Maybe it was the hours and hours I spent as a kid staring at contrails, trying to identify airplanes by their silhouettes, and imagining myself a pilot someday. (A potential career list that also included, at various times: veterinarian, Hollywood stunt man, doctor and architect.)

Vanhoenacker writes elegantly about the vast expanses of uninhabitable lands he views from the cockpit. He entertains us with aviation esoterica — pilots and air traffic controllers have dubbed the waypoint above Boston “NIMOY.” Why? The late actor famous for playing Mr. Spock was born in Boston.

He writes of shifting “‘rivers in the sky,’ the jetstreams that shape our weather and our travel. “And so I find it endlessly pleasing that as the winds and currents shaped the journeys of ships in the old days, similarly today, over the Atlantic, pilots routinely sail hundreds of miles out of their way to avoid a headwind, or to catch a tailwind that will speed us across the sea.”

His observations about time and distance and place made me think about my own perceptions of points on the map and how I view the world.

From Emily Harris, Middle East correspondent:

More society v personal struggle “Mental health..not been set up to look beyond mental capacity.”https://t.co/yBWuh5OuIr @MicNews #nprreads

— Emily Harris (@emilygharris) May 2, 2016

When is your problem a problem of how we’ve set up our society, not “an epidemic of personal failings?” That theme kept coming across my radar this week. It was the central question in NPR’s Politics in Real Life story on paid family leave. It turned the lure of imposter syndrome on its head in this excellent piece from Model View Culture. And was threaded throughout Mic’s piece highlighting not only the discrepancies people of color face in the mental health care system, but the actual risk many take when they seek help:

“Racial bias and stereotyping lead health care providers to perceive black people as ‘aggressive’ and misdiagnose them as schizophrenic. A recent study found black patients were 2.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with the mental illness than white patients. People of color who express frustration with racial discrimination to their therapist’s face being pathologized with diagnoses such as: panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders. For many, diagnosis is the first step to getting treatment, but a black person diagnosed with mental illness in America is more likely to face punitive consequences once in the system.”

Natalia Nodiff, featured in the article, put it much more succinctly: “A lot of my issues do boil down to social issues,” she said. “And they are not just in my brain.”

A key comparison: War zones. I’ve spent time in some of those. Any stress I experienced was seen as due to exposure to that situation, not me being nuts. But when daily life in America is a the high-stress situation, it’s interpreted differently, the Mic piece argues, quoting Ann Marie Yamada, a professor of social work at the University of Southern California. Yamada said:

“What about people who live in communities that are unsafe or threatening? That their friends are getting killed? That they have children that they fear for them when they go out and not know if they’re going to come back? How is that not going to create mental health problems in people?”

From Two-Way blogger Laura Wagner:

The Underside of the N.F.L.-Draft Hacking Scandal #NPRreads https://t.co/e9YXpdknwu via @iancrouch

— Laura Wagner (@Laura_M_Wagner) May 6, 2016

Last week, the NFL draft was held in Chicago. With its media fanfare, red carpets and canned quotes about expectations and hard work, it was the predictable spectacle sports fans have come to count on – except for one thing: Just before the draft was set to begin, a video was released on social media that changed the course of the night.

A grainy recording of Laremy Tunsil, a standout offensive lineman from Ole Miss, was posted on his Twitter account. The undated video showed him taking a hit from a bong through a gas mask. Tunsil, who was expected to be a top draft pick, fell all the way to 13th before he was taken by the Miami Dolphins.

Then, after he was picked, a text message exchange from Tunsil’s years at Ole Miss was posted on his Instagram. In the texts, Tunsil asked a football administrator for money to help pay his mother’s bills. As all of this played out, Tunsil didn’t say much more than that he had been hacked and that his mistakes were behind him.

The ensuing outrage, however, was as fierce as it was misplaced.

Yes, the video of Tunsil smoking was visually disconcerting. But isn’t a malicious invasion of privacy — and the fact that it cost a young man millions of dollars — a bigger deal? Yes, Tunsil shouldn’t have requested money from Ole Miss. But if the NCAA paid athletes fairly for their work, then he wouldn’t have had to ask. In the immediate aftermath of the situation, the wrong questions were being asked. This article begins to raise the right ones.

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