Taliban Leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour Likely Killed In U.S. Airstrike

Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour has likely been killed by a drone strike authorized by President Obama, the Associated Press reports.

According to the Associated Press, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said the attack occurred in a remote region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Today DoD carried out a precision airstrike targeting Taliban leader Mullah Mansur. Another step to make our troops safer in Afghanistan

— Peter Cook (@PentagonPresSec) May 21, 2016

“He said the U.S. was studying the results of the attack, leaving Mansour’s fate unclear,” says the AP.

A second male combatant accompanying Mansour in a vehicle is also likely to have been killed.

A U.S. official not authorized to publicly discuss the operation tells the AP the attack was carried out by unmanned aircraft operated by U.S. Special Operations Forces about 6 a.m. ET, southwest of the town of Ahmad Wal.

The Department of Defense issued a statement to the media via email saying Mansour was “the leader of the Taliban and actively involved with planning attacks against facilities in Kabul and across Afghanistan, presenting a threat to Afghan civilians and security forces, our personnel and coalition partners.”

Mansour became leader of the Taliban in July 2015, replacing founder and spiritual head Mullah Mohammad Omar. The Taliban confirmed that year that Omar had actually died in 2013. Mansour’s leadership was met with dissension and a rival group selected its own leader.

Says the AP:

“His formal ascension was divisive in the Taliban, handing him the challenge of uniting a fractured — but still lethal — insurgency that has seen fighters desert for more extreme groups such as the Islamic State.”

The Pentagon added in its statement that, since Omar’s death and Mansour’s appointment as leader, “the Taliban have conducted many attacks that have resulted in the death of tens of thousands of Afghan civilians and Afghan security forces as well as numerous US and coalition personnel.”

Last December, the Afghan government reported Mansour had been was severely injured in a gun battle in Pakistan.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan according to a harsh interpretation of Islamic law until they were toppled by a U.S.-led invasion after the Sept. 11 attacks.

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Exaggerator Pulls Off A Win At Preakness, Denying Nyquist's Triple Crown Bid

Exaggerator, with Kent Desormeaux aboard, moves past Nyquist during the Preakness Stakes on Saturday in Baltimore.

Exaggerator, with Kent Desormeaux aboard, moves past Nyquist during the Preakness Stakes on Saturday in Baltimore. Garry Jones/AP hide caption

toggle caption Garry Jones/AP

Exaggerator has taken home the second gem in horse racing’s triple crown. The colt won a mud-filled Preakness Stakes on Saturday, handing rival Nyquist the first loss of his career and effectively ending his shot at a triple crown.

It wasn’t an easy win for Exaggerator, though. For much of the race, the colt trailed not only Nyquist but Uncle Lino, as well. As in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, Exaggerator mounted a last-minute bid to take the lead; unlike that last race, however, Exaggerator finished the job.

Nyquist entered the race as the odds-on favorite, trailed by Stradivari and Exaggerator, whom he narrowly defeated at Churchill Downs two weeks ago. Nyquist — who’s named for the NHL’s Gustav Nyquist by his hockey fan owner — has now gone 8 for 9 in major races.

Rain came down for much of the day at Pimlico Race Course, just outside Baltimore. Still, Nyquist’s trainer, Dale Romans, betrayed no concern for the conditions in the lead-up to the race.

“My horse loves the mud,” Romans quipped to AL.com.

Yet it was Exaggerator — and his jockey, Kent Desormeaux — who emerged from the muck with the win.

Now, speculation surrounding a possible triple crown is also effectively silenced. With wins split between Nyquist and Exaggerator in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, respectively, American Pharoah remains assured of his status as the only horse to win a triple crown since 1978. The thoroughbred managed that achievement last year.

Next up on the schedule: the Belmont Stakes, which will be run on June 11.

The wet track at Pimlico Race Course was a mire of mud by the end of the day in Baltimore.

The wet track at Pimlico Race Course was a mire of mud by the end of the day in Baltimore. Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images

Deaths In The Undercards

Dark notes sounded at the rain-soaked track earlier in the day, however. Two horses died within the first four undercard races at Pimlico, including one of the victors.

Homeboykris, a 9-year-old underdog gelding, won the day’s first race at long odds — but collapsed shortly after leaving the winner’s circle. Officials don’t yet know the horse’s cause of death, but his trainer, Francis Campitelli, told The Baltimore Sun he suspects it was a heart attack.

“They’re thinking at this point it was some sort of heart attack — you know, ruptured aorta or something like that,” Campitelli said of the horse, which had a long racing career behind him. He had finished 16th in the 2010 Kentucky Derby. “We won’t know until they do a necropsy on him, just to find out exactly what happened.”

Devastating loss. Homeboykris, died from apparent heart attack on walk back to barn after Preakness day win pic.twitter.com/AWuVCkh0Gg

— Chris Campitelli (@CampoTres) May 21, 2016

Not long after that, Pramedya, a 4-year-old filly, fractured her leg during the fourth race. The horse’s jockey, Daniel Centeno, also broke his clavicle in the accident. The horse was euthanized on the track.

It’s not the first tragedy for Pramedya’s owner. The Washington Post reports that Lael Stables also owned Barbaro, a former Kentucky Derby winner “who broke his right hind leg racing in the 2006 Preakness and died from complications from the injury in January of 2007.”

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A 66,000 Pound Space Shuttle Fuel Tank Is Parading Through The Streets Of LA

The last remaining space shuttle external propellant tank is moved across the 405 freeway in Los Angeles on Saturday. The ET-94 will be displayed with the retired space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center.

The last remaining space shuttle external propellant tank is moved across the 405 freeway in Los Angeles on Saturday. The ET-94 will be displayed with the retired space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center. Chris Carlson/AP hide caption

toggle caption Chris Carlson/AP

A massive space shuttle fuel tank is winding its way through the streets of Los Angeles Saturday, on a 16-mile trek heading to the California Science Center.

It’s set to be displayed with the space shuttle Endeavor. The tank, which was never used in a mission, is the “last flight-qualified space shuttle external tank in existence,” according to the science center.

As reporter Danielle Karson tells our Newscast unit, ET-94 weighs “66,000 lbs., and is as tall as a 15-story building.”

Of course, there are plenty of logistical challenges in moving an object of this size through a crowded metropolitan area. As The Associated Press reports, the giant tank started moving at midnight from Marina del Rey, where it “arrived by barge Wednesday.” It’s crawling along at about 5 mph, the wire service reports, and is expected to take 13 to 18 hours to reach the science center.

Coming down Manchester now past @theforum #ET94 #ETComesHome #SpotTheTank for @latimes @LANow @latimesphotos pic.twitter.com/Y3NOcG8hCD

— Patrick T. Fallon (@pfal) May 21, 2016

Crews had to prepare the route in advance for the huge tank. As the Los Angeles Times reports, crews loosened “utility lines, street lights and traffic lights so they can be removed just before the fuel tank passes. They will be reinstalled immediately afterward.”

It took 30 engineers to work out how to get the tank through Los Angeles — where “along with affecting 50 of the city’s intersections, it will also have to make two epic turns,” member station KPCC reports.

A Times infographic shows how the tank makes a turn. It’s a slow process that involves 8 crew members guiding the 32-wheel transport device.

The spectacle is drawing big crowds along the tank’s route, where people are posting photos and videos using the hashtags #ETcomeshome and #ET94, among others.

Watching Space Shuttle fuel tank make its way thru LA streets to California Science Center. #gobig #gohome #ET94 pic.twitter.com/ldeJSj6puB

— suesims (@suesims) May 21, 2016

Fans include these aspiring astronauts:

These kiddos are ready for launch! #ETComesHome #spotthetank pic.twitter.com/iQWVkq1Fo7

— CA Science Center (@casciencecenter) May 21, 2016

The tank delivered to NASA before the Columbia accident. After the Columbia shuttle was destroyed as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere, NASA scientists studied ET-94 to determine whether its design played a role in the incident. Today’s ride is the last step in a long journey; it was shipped from New Orleans by barge, passing through the Panama Canal on its way to Los Angeles.

The tugboat and barge transporting NASA's only remaining space shuttle external tank, makes it through the Gatun locks of the Panama Canal, Panama, in April.

The tugboat and barge transporting NASA’s only remaining space shuttle external tank, makes it through the Gatun locks of the Panama Canal, Panama, in April. Arnulfo Franco/AP hide caption

toggle caption Arnulfo Franco/AP

Los Angeles residents have actually recently seen another piece of NASA history cruising down their streets: The space shuttle Endeavor made a similar journey in 2012 (charmingly dubbed “Mission 26: The Big Endeavor”). At 122 feet, it was significantly shorter than the tank, which measures 154 feet.

Fans watch the Space Shuttle Endeavour slowly move down Martin Luther King Blvd. in Los Angeles in 2012.

Fans watch the Space Shuttle Endeavour slowly move down Martin Luther King Blvd. in Los Angeles in 2012. Alex Gallardo/AP hide caption

toggle caption Alex Gallardo/AP

The tank was donated by NASA, and Science Center President Jeff Rudolph tells Danielle that he’s thrilled to acquire the tank.

“As soon as we got Endeavor, we said we got to see if there’s any way we can get that one remaining external tank,” he says. Danielle adds that the center is hoping to eventually add booster rockets to the display.

According to the center, that means it will be the “be the only place in the world that people will be able to see a complete shuttle stack — orbiter, external tank, and solid rocket booster — with all real flight hardware in launch configuration.”

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Meet Your New Wookiee Queen Of Viral Video: 'Chewbacca Mom'

Here she is, in full Chewbacca glory, laughing to the point of full-on weeping.

On Thursday, Candace Payne livestreamed a video on Facebook. It was simple, short — a one-cut number that showed her trying out a toy she’d just bought from a local department store. Pretty standard, right?

Well, by Saturday that little video had been viewed more than 105 million times … and counting. It has already beaten Buzzfeed for the most-watched Facebook Live video of all time.

If you somehow haven’t seen it yet yourself, go ahead now. We’ll wait.

The Star Wars fan had just bought the talking wookiee mask — as in, Chewbacca — on store credit after making a few returns. Of course, it takes a little while to even make out the fact that the mask talks, because Payne could not hold it together. Frankly, much of the video is simply Payne laughing hysterically at what she clearly thinks is the funniest thing she has ever seen.

And by the end, it’s difficult to disagree. NPR’s Rachel Martin said she was “literally weeping, she was laughing so hard” herself when she watched the video.

So, Martin decided to catch up with Payne, calling her at her home outside Dallas on Friday afternoon.

“I didn’t expect to laugh that hard,” Payne told her. “But I was looking at the phone videotaping it. I didn’t think that Chewbacca would look so happy!”

Here she is, in full Chewbacca glory, laughing to the point of full-on weeping. Facebook hide caption

toggle caption Facebook

And she didn’t expect the prodigious response to her video, either.

“Oh my goodness, I’m reeling. I don’t know what to do. I’m like, ‘Jesus, take the wheel!’ ” she says. She says she’s already gotten messages from people hoping to license the video and manage its distribution, aiming to drum up revenue from it. “That’s kind of where I’m negotiating that right now.”

Still, she hasn’t escaped the sense that all of this hubbub is, well, just a little bit crazy. “I’m like, y’all, come on.”

That said, she says something serious and lovely has come of her funny little video.

“I’ve had some people — they’ve sent me private messages, and they’ll just say stuff like, ‘Man, I’ve been battling depression. So-and-so passed away, and I hadn’t laughed since they died and this video made me laugh again,’ ” she says.

“I couldn’t ask for more. It’s just awesome.”

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Solar Airplane Attempting To Circumnavigate The Globe Takes Off From Tulsa, Okla.

Solar Impulse 2, the solar airplane of Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard and Ande Borschberg, in preparation for the take off from Tulsa International Airport, Oklahoma on Saturday.

Solar Impulse 2, the solar airplane of Swiss pioneers Bertrand Piccard and Ande Borschberg, in preparation for the take off from Tulsa International Airport, Oklahoma on Saturday. Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Getty Images

Solar Impulse 2, the experimental plane attempting to circumnavigate the world using only the sun’s power, has taken off from Tulsa on the latest leg of its journey.

The team says the flight to Dayton, Ohio — the 12th stage of the journey around the globe — is expected to take 18 hours, landing at approximately 11p.m. local time.

They’re aiming to promote clean energy. “We have built an experimental aircraft that we use to explore not only altitudes, but also unknown territories within the realm of clean technology and creative team building,” the team has said.

Time to board! #Si2 is like an old friend and each flight we do together to prove #futureisclean is magical ☀️ pic.twitter.com/pViroiclYX

— André Borschberg (@andreborschberg) May 21, 2016

Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg alternate legs of the aircraft, with Borschberg at the controls during today’s flight over the U.S. He’s been tweeting during his journey, including this snapshot of the sun rising over Oklahoma.

On board of @solarimpulse enjoying sun rise over oklahoma pic.twitter.com/pssrBy5yfG

— André Borschberg (@andreborschberg) May 21, 2016

Borschberg also paid tribute to the Wright Brothers – the famed aviation pioneers who hailed from today’s destination, Dayton. He also notes that “today is a great day as 89 years ago, Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris Le Bourget. A very special moment for me.”

.@WrightBrosNPS had the mindset to try w/o the fear of failing to make the impossible possible like we did with #Si2 pic.twitter.com/zFYGM6zFcW

— André Borschberg (@andreborschberg) May 21, 2016

You can follow a live stream of the journey here:

The aircraft has a wingspan wider than a Boeing 747 but weighs no more than a mid-sized car. It doesn’t handle well in gusty winds. The team says it “spent a week in Tulsa International Airport until they found a clear weather window to allow them to continue their flights across the U.S.”

As The Two-Way has reported, “the fuel-free flight project started in March 2015, but it was put on hold in July after the plane’s batteries developed problems during a five-day flight from Japan to Hawaii. It resumed its journey last month, completing a three-day trip from Hawaii to Mountain View, Calif.”

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For People With Disabilities New Technology Can Be Life Changing

Paul Herzlich works in Google’s legal department and helped develop a special sensor for “pressure sores” by those who use wheelchairs. Laura Sydell/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Laura Sydell/NPR

For most of us, eye tracking technology sounds interesting. But it’s not life changing. Eye tracking allows users to move a cursor around a computer or mobile device simply by moving your eyes and head.

Oded Ben Dov initially used eye tracking technology to develop a video game that he showed off on Israeli TV. The next day, he says, he got a phone call from a man who told him “I can’t move my hands or legs. Can you make me a smartphone I could use?”

That’s when Ben Dov realized that his eye tracking technology could change lives.

“For me, that was a calling to put my skills and knowledge to good use.” Ben Dov went on to found Sesame Enable, a company that sells smartphones for people who can’t use their hands.

Sesame Enable, which is based in Israel, was in Mountain View, California, this week for Google I/O, the company’s annual conference for developers who make products using Google technologies. Sesame Enable is getting support from Google.org — the company’s charitable arm.

Eve Anderson, who leads accessibility across Google, says Google.org has given out $20 million to organizations that use technology to help people with disabilities. Anderson says a lot of the technology that ends up helping people with disabilities comes out of well designed technology aimed at all consumers.

“We shouldn’t need to know they have a disability,” says Anderson. “It should just work for them.”

But taking existing technology and making it useful for a disabled person often does require new designs. Tom.org — a non-profit that brings together technologists who want to solve problems for people with disabilities, gets financial support from Google.org.

One of the products generated at a Tom.org hackathon was on display at the I/O conference. It’s a special sensor device for people in wheelchairs who face the problem of “pressure sores.” It was developed by Paul Herzlich and some of his colleagues. Herzlich works in the legal department at Google and he uses a wheelchair.

Pressure sores “happen when someone is sitting in the same position for too long,” says Herzlich. “It decreases blood circulation to that area and eventually leads to a break down of the skin in that area.” Herzlich says he was once hospitalized after getting a pressure sore and that the condition can be deadly.

The sensor device he developed fits easily on a wheelchair seat and it’s connected to a smartphone app via Bluetooth.

“If the app notices that the pressure hasn’t changed in a certain period of time it will notify the user as a reminder to move,” says Herzlich. “It’s raising that awareness for the user because we’re often paying attention to other things throughout our day and don’t remember to move.”

Herzlich and his colleagues hope to bring the product to market and develop a version for hospitals where patients face health problems related to bedsores.

Google was actually a little behind some of its rivals when it comes to making accessibility a priority says Mike Shebenack, the senior director of accessibility at Yahoo. Shebeneck is also with an organization called Teach Access, which brings together employees at tech companies that want to work on accessibility issues.

Shebenack says in the tech world, Apple lead the way by making its smartphones accessible. “Things like magnifiers and screen readers were built into the product” he says.

Though Apple poses other issues for developers who want to make technology accessible. Oded Ben Dov of Sesame Enable says they can’t make their product work as well on Apple devices because of its closed operating system. Google’s Android is open source.

The next update to the Android operating system will enable Open Sesame, an app that can be used on any Android smart phone.

Yahoo has an accessibility team, which works and trains engineers throughout the company to design all Yahoo products to be accessible.

“What we find is that when we give these designers and engineers an opportunity to do this, they have such a positive experience they want to keep doing it,” says Shebenack.

Shebenack says a lot of tech companies realize that the market for products that have a variety of accessibility features is large. A World Health Organization report estimated that more than 1 billion out of the approximately 7 million people in the world will experience a disability.

But, as much as disabled people often benefit from technology developed for regular consumers, it also works the other way around. “We discovered that when we focus on users with disabilities our products get better for everybody” says Shebenack.

For example, Shebenack notes that Yahoo has been working on closed captioning for live events streamed on the web. “We know that more people than those with hearing problems use closed captioning.” Try watching a TV screen in a loud airport or sports bars.

While it’s great news for disabled people that tech companies are increasing their interest in making products for them, Shebenack says there is a still a long way to go. It’s still rare for companies to have an accessibility team, and that’s especially true at start ups.

Google I/O’s dedicated space appears to show a real commitment on the part of one of the world’s largest and most influential tech companies to using technology to make life better for people with disabilities. And as Google’s Eve Anderson notes most of us are likely to discover that accessible technology will become more important to us as we age.

“I use magnification a lot more than I did in my younger days” she says.

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Do You Have To Agree On Politics For A Relationship To Work?

Dear Sugar Radio

Courtesy of WBUR

Dear Sugar Radio is a weekly podcast from member station WBUR. Hosts Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed offer “radical empathy” and advice on everything from relationships and parenthood to dealing with drug problems or anxiety.

In this week’s episode, listeners ask what to do when they have political differences with their partners and in-laws. The hosts are joined by the liberal writer Samantha Dunn and her husband, Republican political operative Jimmy Camp, who help the Sugars understand how a politically divided relationship can work. Here, (Love)Stuck Behind Party Lines seeks guidance on just that.


Dear Sugars,

I am a 27-year-old female. My boyfriend and I have been together for two years, and we are stuck. Lovingly, oh so stuck. We often talk about our future together. We are open and honest. If I shared this letter with him today, not a word about it would surprise him. He is kind, affectionate, brilliant, generous, thoughtful, understanding, forgiving, patient and so beautifully sensitive — he tears up when he sees dead animals on the side of the road, every time.

And off the bat, we identified some differences in how we view the world: our definitions of purpose, financial goals, ambition, social justice, religion, health, taxes, world affairs and — of course — the boxes we check in the voting booth.

If I were to define myself, I would say first and foremost, I am a strong feminist. And it’s extremely important to me that my partner is a feminist as well. My boyfriend gushes about how much I’ve “taught [him] about the world” and opened his “eyes to new views.” But I can’t seem to get on board with some of his views. Am I simply stubborn and one-sided?

We try the “active sharing and learning” route: sending each other articles, and we end up in heated discussions for hours. He tells me these discussions are “exciting and energizing,” whereas I feel defeated, frustrated and angry. I often wind up in tears — cringing at the thought of him teaching our children ways about the world I don’t agree with.

I want a family and a big, deep love with my partner. I am 27, but I feel the clock ticking, in the sense of wanting to start defining if this is “the” relationship for me, or if I should move on. I don’t want to leave my boyfriend whom I love so much because of my own inability to connect with someone different than myself. How do I know if I should let go, or continue?

Sincerely,

(Love)Stuck Behind Party Lines

Cheryl Strayed: This is a hard one. Honestly, my feeling about her situation is I would have these same doubts. Those kinds of very different political views are a deal killer for me. And (Love)Stuck, for that reason, alarm bells are going off. The fact that you’re writing to us tells us that this is a big deal to you — it’s something that you’re haunted by.

Steve Almond: One thing that’s very odd to me is that you talk about the importance of feminism in your life, and you say it’s important that your partner’s a feminist as well. And then you don’t tell us, “and I’m glad to say, that when it comes to equality, my boyfriend is totally on board with that.” I’m unsettled that there’s no mention of it. I think it would be mentioned if he was affirmatively saying: Yes, you’re right, women — equal work, equal pay.

The other thing that’s unsettling is that the attempt at discourse, which I think is great — the sharing and learning approach — you find defeating and thwarting. And right after that is: I cringe at the thought of him inculcating our children with these values that I don’t agree with.

I wonder, you say your boyfriend would be OK with hearing this letter. Would he be OK with hearing that? You’re right, since you want to have a family, and your political views are really important to you, you need to figure out whether you can be compatible in this way.

Samantha Dunn: I actually didn’t know specifically what the issues were. She spoke more in abstractions. And I wondered if she was so attached to the abstraction of being a feminist — she didn’t look at what the relationship actually looks like. Is there equality, is there respect in the relationship? Is the practice there, versus the label? That’s what made me wonder if she should just abandon labels and just be with this person that she loves.

Steve Almond: Interesting. So, Cheryl and I were very focused on how defeated her interactions are with him around trying to align their values. And what you are saying is: Hold on a second, what about the whole beginning of the letter?

You can choose to focus on the parts of the relationship that are nourishing and supportive or you can get fixated on the places where you have political disagreements and maybe even moral disagreements. But that’s not ultimately what you should be focusing on for long-term happiness.

Samantha Dunn: That’s exactly it.

Cheryl Strayed: (Love)Stuck, only you know if you actually have common ground with your partner. It’s not clear to us from your letter if that’s the case. If you find yourself seriously at odds — feeling like you don’t have common ground, feeling like your ideas aren’t valued and you really can’t hear your partner’s ideas — that to me is a real red flag in a relationship. And it might be one that you want to take seriously.

You can get more advice from the Sugars each week on Dear Sugar Radio from WBUR. This week is the second in a two-part series about political differences with family and friends. They further consider this letter from (Love)Stuck Behind Party Lines and take a letter from Lefty Lucy, a progressive Democrat who has married into a conservative Oklahoma family and is finding it increasingly difficult to stay silent about her true beliefs.

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