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Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect Captured

After a 24-hour-long manhunt that paralyzed the city of Boston, authorities have captured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the second suspect in last Monday's bombing at the Boston Marathon.

The manhunt was initiated when Tsarnaev and his older brother, 26-year-old Tamerlane Tsarnaev, gunned down an MIT police officer and hijacked a car, fleeing to Watertown, a Boston suburb. There, the brothers engaged in a running gun battle with police officers, lobbing homemade pipe bombs and at least one pressure-cooker bomb like the ones they allegedly used at the marathon.

The older brother was killed in the gunfight, but the younger Tsarnaev managed to escape in the confusion, after the pair wounded a Boston transit police officer in the firefight.

Terrified residents were ordered to stay indoors, public transportation stopped running, and the entire city shut down for all of Friday as one of the largest manhunts in US history searched for the fugitive Tsarnaev.

The hunt appeared to have reached a dead end, but a short time after Massachusetts authorities lifted the stay-inside order for Boston residents, a Watertown man noticed blood in his backyard leading to his boat. Police used thermal imaging to confirm that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was in the boat, wounded, and closed in, negotiating for several hours before capturing Tsarnaev and taking him to a nearby hospital for medical care.

In the days leading up to the manhunt, as authorities sifted through the wreckage of the marathon in search of suspects, a parallel search happened online, with members of Reddit analyzing security footage of the bombers in an attempt to discern their identity. That, in turn, led to false accusations, as a pair of names allegedly pulled from police scanner traffic proliferated online to the point that outlets like Gawker were reporting that it appeared those names belonged to suspects.

That online/traditional news parallel continued on Friday evening as police closed in on the younger Tsarnaev brother. Even as reporters for major news networks such as CNN were held well back from the scene by police officers, twitter was flooded with information gleaned from police scanners, often outpacing network news coverage. Rumors that Tsarnaev was in a boat (CNN referred to is as a “structure” long after most networks had confirmed it was a boat) and that he was still alive spread long before major news outlets could confirm that; the Boston Globe in particular was providing minute-by-minute updates to Twitter from the scene that were much more pertinent than what many networks were reporting.

It's illustrative of just how much news coverage is evolving, as traditional news outlets like CNN and The New York Post (which also published the names of the falsely accused suspects) failing, or falling on their faces, in attempts to keep up with the pace of online reporting. Traditional organizations are still trying to adapt to social media and changing habits of news consumption, and it hasn't been a smooth transition so far.

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Upsets Abound In Early Rounds Of NCAA Tournament

After a season of volatility in the top 25 rankings, and with a talent pool that lacks transcendent stars in the mold of Kentucky's Anthony Davis last year, it's no surprise that the first week of the NCAA tournament was as full of upsets as fans could hope.

It was an especially bad year for 5 seeds, three of which—Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, and UNLV—were bounced in the first round. (The other No. 5, VCU, lost in the second.)

That alone would be enough for a dramatic first week. But it doesn't even scratch the surface of what has the makings to be one of the most exciting tournaments in recent memory.

14-seed Harvard, whose program has steadily improved since changes in its financial aid rules made it easier to offer scholarships to athletes (the university does not give athletics-based scholarships), downed New Mexico in the round of 64 behind a barrage of 3-pointers. It was the first NCAA tournament victory for the school, and the second year in a row the Crimson appeared in the big dance after a drought of more than half a century.

Perhaps no single player captured the public's—or at least the internet's—imagination than Ole Miss's junior gunner Marshall Henderson. Henderson built a reputation for himself during the season by trash talking and unabashedly trolling opposing fan bases, as when he performed Florida's famed “Gator Chomp” after the Rebels came from behind to beat the Gators in the finals of the SEC tournament this year. Mississippi knocked off the joyless Wisconsin Badgers in the first round behind Henderson's late-game heroics before losing to La Salle (a 13 seed who knocked off Kansas State in the first round) in the round of 32. Henderson went out in typical fashion, flipping off the arena as he walked down the tunnel after the loss.

Of course, this is all ignoring the single biggest story of the tournament: the upstart Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, in just their second year of Division I play, knocking off 2-seed title contender Georgetown in the first round, then running past San Diego State in the round of 32 to become the first 15-seed ever to make the Sweet 16.

The Eagles' first round tilt with Georgetown was revelatory, as FGCU ran, jumped and dunked their way past a stolid Big East powerhouse, flinging up alley-oops with abandon and generally playing with a joy and excitement not always seen in the upper echelons of college basketball. #DunkCity trended on Twitter; Fort Myers, FL to briefly rebrand itself the same in honor of the team.
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With four more rounds to play, there's still plenty of time for more excitement and upsets—but on the strength of the early rounds, this is the best NCAA tourney in a long time.

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Botched Rollout of Sim City Leaves EA Scrambling

Electronic Arts' relaunch of its classic Sim City videogame has hit some serious speed bumps due to the requirement that players be connected to the internet and logged into an EA server at all times. EA's servers have proved unable to handle the influx of traffic, leaving thousands of gamers unable to play a game they paid for.

Even if they do manage to play the game, many players find themselves unable to save any of their progress.

Angry gamers took to social media to castigate EA for the server problems, as well as the online requirement itself. While EA said the online-only play is meant to enhance the gameplay—neighboring cities affect one another, so other players' actions have consequences on a player's city—many gamers see it as a crude method of copy protection.

EA didn't help matters with its attempts to fix the problems, which included stripping key features from the game and, several days after launch, hadn't solved anything. Amazon removed the game from its online store, citing the ongoing unplayability.

Chris Kohler of Wired called the online component “a draconian step to crack down on piracy of this PC-only game,” but concluded that “maybe EA is willing to suffer through weeks of terrible optics if it means achieving the long-term goal of converting traditionally single-player genres into online experiences.”

This isn't the first time this has happened in the gaming world—a close parallel was Blizzard's launch of Diablo III in 2012, which experienced similar problems that were fixed within days and quickly forgotten about by consumers. Likely there won't be any long-term consequences for EA. Still, even as it's the third-largest gaming company in the world by revenue, the company increasingly is finding itself at odds with consumers.

The gaming industry at the moment finds itself in a situation not dissimilar to Hollywood. Like many Hollywood blockbusters, big studio games cost more and more to produce, with more and more people involved in development, as processors grow faster and graphics improve to nearly photorealistic levels. EA, perhaps more than any other company, is emblematic of this shift, as it focuses on blockbuster titles and franchise sequels over original gaming experiences, aiming for mass appeal over innovation.

Perhaps not coincidentally, EA was voted Worst Company In America in a 2012 Consumerist poll, beating out the reviled-post-financial-crisis Bank of America in the final round of voting.

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Google Reveals More Info About Glass Functionality; Rumors of Apple Watch Intensify

Google has released a video giving the public its first real glimpse at the company’s hotly anticipated Glass, the glasses that many believe to be the next step in smartphone evolution.
 
The video shows, from a first person perspective, users performing a variety of functions with the glasses, such as taking realtime video, snapping and sharing photos, conducting Google searches, and taking part in Google Hangouts. The device is also shown superimposing map directions over the wearer’s field of view, and updating them in real time.
 
While there is no set timetable for the release of Glass, Google is expecting to ship a limited number of prototypes sometime this year, at a price of $1,500 each. The prototypes were offered to attendees of Google’s 2012 developer conference, where a group of skydivers broadcast video of their jump using a prototype of the glasses.
 

Meanwhile, in other wearable computing news, rumors are flying that Apple might be developing a “smart watch” that would interface with the iPhone via Bluetooth.
 

The idea of a smart watch isn’t new—notable examples include the recent Kickstarter-funded Pebble, which raised millions of dollars and has recently begun shipping—but many believe Apple is poised to make the idea their own. The Spot watch, a Microsoft-produced smart watch, notably flopped when it was introduced in 2004. Still, Apple has a history of bucking industry trends; the iPad jumpstarted the tablet computer market after a string of failures from other companies.
 

One piece of evidence that the tech giant may be poised to debut a watch is its patent, filed in 2011, for curved smart glass of the type used for its iPhone screens. The curved glass could fit the curvature of a human wrist, and would have obvious utility for a watch.
 

Functionality remains based on speculation. However, some possibilities include the ability for a user to find their iPhone using the watch as well as automatically unlock the phone when the watch is in close proximity. And, rather than necessarily using a touchscreen, the watch could be voice-activated using Apple’s Siri system.
 
Apple has thus far refused to respond to rumors that they are developing such a watch.
 

Wearable computing is unexplored territory, but one tech giant—and possibly a second—may potentially spark an explosion in the industry.

Pope Announces Resignation

In a move with virtually no historical precedent, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation today in a statement at the end of a meeting of cardinals. Translated from Latin, it reads in part:


After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

The last Pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415, but that resignation was part of a deal to repair a schism within the church. The decision to resign because of age is essentially unprecedented.

Benedict's tenure was dogged by challenges, as the Catholic Church sought to recover from the wide-ranging sexual abuse scandal that broke two decades ago but has yet to be resolved. Indeed, prior to being elected Pontiff, Benedict himself was directly responsible for efforts to stymie investigations and cover up the abuse. The Church has also seen rapidly declining membership in recent years, including in previous bastions such as Ireland.

Elected in 2005, Benedict was extremely conservative, taking hard-line stances on social issues such as contraception and gay marriage. It remains to be seen what direction the Church will take in the wake of his resignation, which will take place at the end of the month. There will be a great deal of pressure to appoint a successor quickly due to the impending Easter holiday. How much influence Benedict may have over the choice of his successor is also an open question, with some analysts believing that he may have managed to hand-pick the next Pope.

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President Obama Invokes Progressive Agenda At Inauguration

One day after taking the oath of office for the final time, President Obama went before the nation to be formally inaugurated for his second term in office.

Though he was constitutionally mandated to take the oath of office on January 20, because that date fell on a Sunday this year the formal inauguration was delayed until Monday, January 21. The crowds were smaller than in 2008, but some 800,000 people still converged on Capitol Hill to witness President Obama’s swearing in.

In his acceptance speech, the President laid out a case for a progressive agenda, and notably formally invoked the struggle for gay rights, a historical first for an inauguration address.

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still,” he said. “Just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”

The nation’s first black president’s invocation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was appropriate, as the inauguration fell on the holiday that bears his name. President Obama took the oath of office, in fact, on a King family Bible.

President Obama also touched on a number of initiatives held dear by progressives: equal pay for women, gun safety, voting rights, and immigration reform. He also spoke strongly about climate change, a topic mostly absent from his campaign that has been thrown into stark relief by devastating weather events like the recent superstorm Sandy:

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations… Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms,” he said.

As he left the stage, the President paused to look back at the assembled throngs. “I want to take a look one more time,” he said. “I’ll never see this again.”

Internet Activist Aaron Swartz, 26, Found Dead of Apparent Suicide

26-year-old Aaron Swartz, who helped create RSS when he was in his teens and co-founded the social website Reddit, committed suicide last night. He was reportedly found by a friend, according to the New York Times.
 

Swartz, a steadfast crusader for internet freedom and free information, had in the past year run afoul of the federal government. In 2011, he snuck into MIT and used a laptop computer to download 4.8 million academic articles from a database called JSTOR, which he then put online for free. Though JSTOR did not seek to press charges, the government was pursuing a case against Swartz that could have resulted in 35 years in prison and fines of $1 million dollars.
 

Swartz had talked in the past about fighting with depression. His family released a statement that seemed to explicitly blame the government’s aggressive prosecution for his death. The statement read, in part:

 

Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.

 

Since helping write RSS when he was just 14, Swartz, a preternaturally gifted programmer, had drifted from project to project, ultimately embracing the cause of information freedom. Through an organization he founded, Demand Progress, Swartz was instrumental in defeating the Stop Online Piracy Act, a piece of legislation backed by Hollywood that would have had drastic consequences for internet freedom.
 

2011 wasn’t the first time Swartz had run afoul of the law, however. In 2008, he wrote a program to quickly download 20 million documents from the PACER database, a collection of legal records available to the public at 10 cents a page. Swartz and a partner posted the documents online, free to access. Swartz was investigated by the government, but ultimately wasn’t prosecuted.
 

Millionaire Antivirus Pioneer John McAfee Taken Into Custody in Guatemala

John McAfee, the millionaire computer antivirus pioneer, was taken into police custody in Guatemala this week after a months-long international chase. He is expected to be extradited to Belize, where he is wanted in connection with the murder of his neighbor, fellow American expatriate Gregory Faull.
 
McAfee’s flight from the police took place on a bizarrely public stage. He surrounded himself with journalists, blogged and tweeted regularly, and sat down for interviews with journalists from CNN and other television networks.
 
McAfee claimed he was being framed by the government of Belize over his refusal to capitulate to extortion.
 
This affinity for the spotlight proved his undoing. Vice magazine sent reporters to Guatemala to travel with him, then inadvertantly published a photograph, taken with an iPhone, that still had GPS metadata attached. Though McAfee—and the photographer—claimed the data was falsified to throw pursuers off the scent, he was forced out of hiding and taken into custody. He was also hospitalized with chest pains, though neither he nor doctors believed he had suffered a heart attack.
 
Now, his future is uncertain. Very little is known about the circumstances surrounding his neighbor’s death, and even less is known about his potential involvement.
 
However, McAfee has a history of shady connections. A Nov. 8 article published on Gizmodo by Jeff Wise shows an eccentric, paranoid billionaire with a gift for manipulating people.  One of the first entrepreneurs to recognize the potential in anti-virus software, McAfee made over $100 million before cashing out stock in his own company in the early ’90s.  From there he was involved in a string of bizarre ventures and adventure-seeking including a Colorado yoga compound and an extreme sport called aerotrekking.
 
He moved to Belize to flee a lawsuit, and once there, became increasingly paranoid and increasingly involved with local gangsters.  He claimed knowledge to Wise of over a dozen plots to kill him and was afraid to venture out after dark.
 
As a colorful, eccentric millionaire, McAfee is an understandably popular figure with reporters; but, as his flight and past actions demonstrate, he knows how to take advantage of this. Wise wrote an article for The New York Times detailing McAfee’s relationship with the media.  As Joel Johnson of Gizmodo put it:
 

“As soon as reporters start to think, ‘Wait a minute, we’re sort of jeopardizing our objectivity and reputation for this guy,’ he’ll just burn them, and go to the next one.  That’s what he did to me, that’s what he’s done to a lot of journalists, and he’s going to do it to the Vice guys, if he hasn’t done it already.”

Election Night Trends: Drunk Nate Silver

On Election night, Nate Silver, the statistician derided by Mitt Romney supporters for his statistical model that consistently predicted that Barack Obama would win the Presidency, signed off of his New York Times live-blog having correctly predicted results in all 50 states, as well as all but one Senate race.

“There’s a lot more to unpack in the coming days, but first, we’re going to get some sleep and grab a beer,” he wrote.

Afterwards, Dan Levitan (@levitandan), a New York based campaign consultant, tweeted, “Drunk Nate Silver is riding the subway, telling strangers the day they will die.”

Levitan’s tweet, which was retweeted over 3,000 times, spawned easily the best post-election meme, sending #drunknatesilver trending across Twitter. Some of the best:

“Drunk Nate Silver counting out exactly five hundred and thirty-eight french fries at McDonalds, then slowly dipping 206 of them in ketchup”
– Ben Jackson (@benjaminjackson)

“Drunk Nate Silver changes a broken light bulb and mutters to himself, ‘one person’”
– Jeff Tiedrich (@jefftiedrich)

“Drunk Nate Silver crashing weddings, yelling out the number of years until divorce”
– Ben Keegan (@BKTM)

“Drunk Nate Silver stumbles through traffic on the Jersey Turnpike, screaming out what time each driver will get home.”

– Dave Levitan (@davelevitan)

“#DrunkNateSilver goes to Africa, finds the butterfly, asks it not to flap its wings, prevents the hurricane.”
– Harrison Mooney (@harrisonmooney)

“Drunk Nate Silver knows what you did next summer.”
– Simon Says (@sayethsimon)

“Drunk Nate Silver in the parking lot of Yankees stadium, spray painting the spots where next years’ home runs will land.”
– Christopher Hooks (@cd_hooks)

Silver’s models were a source of comfort to Democrats and ire for Republicans, who believed polls favorable to the President must be biased due to party identification statistics they thought signified oversampling. One man even launched a site, unskewedpolls.com, dedicated to re-weighting polls based on what he felt were more accurate party ID numbers. Many pundits, insisting that the race was too close to call, took issue with Silver’s analysis, which never showed the President in serious danger of losing.

Now, after the election, Silver finds himself a mini-celebrity. And, in addition to his flawless predictive track record, he also has one of the funniest Twitter trends in recent memory to his name.

Former Senator, Presidential Candidate George McGovern Dies At 90

George McGovern, the progressive senator and 1972 Democratic nominee for President who was soundly beaten by Richard Nixon, died early Sunday in Sioux Falls, SD. He was 90.

McGovern is best known for the landslide defeat he endured at the hands of Nixon, who won the Electoral College by a margin of 520 to 17 after successfully portraying his opponent as a weak-willed liberal destined to undermine free trade and the military. McGovern, for his part, ran a disastrously disorganized campaign, famously replacing his running mate in mid-race. (It was during that election that Nixon’s campaign burglarized the Democratic Party’s campaign headquarters, which led to the Watergate scandal and Nixon’s resignation from the Presidency.)

McGovern has largely been a punchline and a cautionary tale in the popular imagination due to this lopsided defeat, but Nixon’s absurd margin of victory in 1972 served to obscure the legacy of a man who was a decorated bomber pilot in World War II and a champion of progressive causes.

“I always thought of myself as a good old South Dakota boy who grew up here on the prairie,” he told the New York Times in a 2005 interview for his obituary. “But we probably didn’t work enough on cultivating that image. We were more interested in ending the war in Vietnam and getting people out of poverty and being fair to women and minorities and saving the environment.”

Born and raised in South Dakota, McGovern flew dozens of missions in a B-24 during World War II, including one in which his plane was hit and he was forced to crash land in the Atlantic.

McGovern was a staunch progressive, opposing the Vietnam War as well as the more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also championed a vision of government that would protect the weak, firmly believing in a social safety net. His election to the House of Representatives in 1956 marked the first time in over two decades that a Democrat was elected to Congress in South Dakota.

“George McGovern dedicated his life to serving the country he loved,” President Obama said in a statement, calling McGovern a “hero of war [and] a champion for peace…. George was a statesman of great conscience and conviction.”