LOS ANGELES (AP) — The 3-year-old birthday boy was in his pajamas, about to go to sleep on a cot inside a shelter packed with hundreds of evacuees affected by a damaged California dam.
With just three hours left on his big day, a group of California Highway Patrol officers showed up at the Chico shelter with a makeshift celebration: an ice cream cake, a balloon, a Captain America figurine, and of course, a song.
“We decided you needed a cake on your birthday. Happy birthday!” Officer Logan Callahan tells the boy as he places a cardboard crown on his head, according to a Facebook Live video that’s gotten more than 61,000 views and 1,100 shares since it was posted Monday night.
The video wasn’t part of the plan, said Callahan, a public information officer in CHP’s Chico office. It was taken by a community member who happened upon the scene and started shooting.
Callahan realized it was the boy’s birthday earlier in the day Monday when he was walking around handing out stickers to children staying at the shelter. The boy’s father mentioned that he and his wife had planned to make their son a cake.
“I’ve got a son that’s 2-and-a-half, and this young man is turning 3,” Callahan said. “I figured, ‘What would I want for my kid if he were in that situation?’ “
Mike Wrobel, who took the video, said other evacuees joined in singing “Happy Birthday” and seemed touched by the moment.
“It sure was a bleak setting. But I was grinning ear to ear, as was everyone else,” Wrobel said. “It was a little bit of joy in a situation filled with a lot of sadness.”
Neither Wrobel nor Callahan know much about the boy or his parents, just that the boy’s name is Junior. Wrobel was hoping to reconnect with them Tuesday to show them the video he took and how many people were enjoying it.
Nearly 200,000 people were ordered evacuated Sunday over fears that a damaged spillway at a Lake Oroville dam could fail and unleash a wall of water. The evacuees were allowed to return home Tuesday after two nights of uncertainty, but they were warned they may still have to again flee to higher ground on a moment’s notice if hastily made repairs to the battered structure don’t hold.
WARRI, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria lost between $50 billion and $100 billion in oil revenues to militant attacks on installations last year, the country’s petroleum minister said Tuesday.
At their worst point, the attacks cut production to 1.2 million barrels a day — a loss of 1 million barrels a day, Ibe Kachikwu said in a video posted on social media.
The video announced a 20-point plan to end decades of insurgency through investment in social and infrastructure development in the oil-rich Niger Delta.
Militants say careless oil production has impoverished residents by destroying agriculture and fishing grounds.
Kachikwu promised to work with state governments, communities and multinational oil companies to bring oil business opportunities to residents of Nigeria’s southern oil-producing states. His plans include building oil refineries.
“Nothing is as sad for people who produce resources to not have access to those resource opportunities,” he said.
Kachikwu stressed the “need to pull people from militancy and pull them back into schools.”
But he also said the government, operating on a budget strained by low international oil prices, cannot continue a 2009 federal amnesty program paying 30,000 former militants. The program included paying ex-militants to guard the installations they once blew up.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s government last year tried to end the program, which brought renewed attacks.
Kachikwu suggested having Nigeria’s states institute amnesty programs, but it was unclear where the money would come from. Nigeria is suffering its worst recession in 25 years.
Halting the militancy has “defeated every regime … a problem that seems to be intractable, seems to be never-ending,” Kachikwu noted. But he said Buhari’s government remains “very bullish” about resolving it.
Many militants want action to replace months of talks.
“The 20-point agenda is a welcome development, but it is high time the Nigerian government backs up its talk with action … not mere talks without actions that have being going on for donkeys of years,” Pastor Nature Dumale Kieghe, a former militant leader, told The Associated Press.
Faul reported from Johannesburg.
ATLANTA (AP) — More than a week after the Falcons fell victim to the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, an Atlanta zoo has named a cockroach after Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Zoo Atlanta says on its Facebook page that it had a bet with Rhode Island’s Roger Williams Park Zoo that called for the loser to name a baby animal after the winning team’s star quarterback. Both zoos figured the loser would be pretty bitter about the game, so they agreed the animal in question would be a Madagascar hissing cockroach.
The zoo introduced a whole family of cockroaches in a video Monday , including a tiny Tom Brady.
Brady and the Patriots came back from a 25-point deficit to defeat Atlanta 34-28 in overtime to win the team’s fifth Super Bowl title.
LONDON (AP) — A report based on a translated Islamic State group document says the extremists consider mainstream media to be an effective weapon for spreading its radical message.
The International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence in London said Monday that IS has a three-pronged media strategy to gain support that includes launching media “projectiles.”
The report by senior researcher Charlie Winter is based on “Media Operatives,” a 55-page document published online by Islamic State last year.
Winter, who translated the document from Arabic into English, said the extremists have three interwoven strategies: use media to project an attractive, positive alternative that offers something to replace the status quo; use media to repudiate the alleged lies told by so-called “crusader nations”; and use media to project spectacular events, like the assaults on Paris and Brussels and the filmed beheading of captives.
He said the group’s media operation has flagged as it has lost ground in Iraq and Syria in the last year.
“They are operating at below half capacity compared to this time last year and videos are few and far between,” he said. “But it manages through its propaganda to tell a very different story to true believers.”
The report finds effective use of mainstream media, “if leveraged correctly,” can have more “far-reaching” power than the most powerful bombs, the militants believe.
NEW YORK (AP) — Verizon, in a major reversal, has joined other carriers in offering an unlimited data plan.
As recently as January, Verizon’s chief financial officer said unlimited plans were “not something we feel the need to do” even though rivals had made inroads against Verizon by offering them. Verizon stopped offering such plans to new customers in 2012 and has been trying to push longtime customers off those old plans through rate hikes.
The arrival of the iPhone and other smartphones made unlimited plans more of a rarity as carriers saw opportunities to make money by charging customers based on how much data they use.
But Sprint and T-Mobile recognized in unlimited data an opportunity to snare customers from heavyweights Verizon and AT&T. Because carriers must poach each other’s customers to grow, the competition has intensified.
AT&T also started offering unlimited plans after discontinuing them, but they are available only to customers who also subscribe to DirecTV, which AT&T owns. Its prices are similar to Verizon’s for a family; Verizon is cheaper for an individual.
Verizon’s new unlimited plan replaces several higher-data plans and starts at $80 for one person, not counting fees and taxes. (Existing customers can keep their plans.)
For a family of four, unlimited costs $180 at Verizon. To compare, Sprint just launched a new promotion for new customers that costs $90 a month for four lines, and T-Mobile, which includes taxes and fees in its total price, is $160. AT&T costs $180 for four but also requires a TV subscription.
Verizon is trying to differentiate itself by letting customers watch high-definition video with the unlimited plan, while competitors run streaming video at DVD-level quality.
T-Mobile responded Monday by saying that it would include HD video as well starting on Friday. Before, customers had to pay extra for HD streaming.
T-Mobile also said that, like Verizon, it would offer 10 gigabytes of high-speed data for a mobile hotspot, so that people can connect on laptops or tablets on the go. After that, slower 3G data will be available for a hotspot.
Of course, like all so-called unlimited plans, Verizon’s is not really unlimited. If customers use more than 22 gigabytes of data in a month, their speeds may be slowed if the network is busy.
WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — Teachers from elementary school through college are telling students how to distinguish between factual and fictional news — and why they should care that there’s a difference.
As Facebook works with The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and other organizations to curb the spread of fake and misleading news on its influential network, teachers say classroom instruction can play a role in deflating the kind of “Pope endorses Trump ” headlines that muddied the waters during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“I think only education can solve this problem,” said Pat Winters Lauro, a professor at New Jersey’s Kean University who began teaching a course on news literacy this semester.
Like others, Lauro has found discussions of fake news can lead to politically sensitive territory. Some critics believe fake stories targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton helped Donald Trump overcome a deficit in public opinion polls, and President Trump himself has attached the label to various media outlets and unfavorable reports and polls in the first weeks of his presidency.
“It hasn’t been a difficult topic to teach in terms of material because there’s so much going on out there,” Lauro said, “but it’s difficult in terms of politics because we have such a divided country and the students are divided, too, on their beliefs. I’m afraid sometimes that they think I’m being political when really I’m just talking about journalistic standards for facts and verification, and they look at it like ‘Oh, you’re anti-this or -that.'”
Judging what to trust was easier when the sources were clearer — magazines, newspapers or something else, said Kean senior Mike Roche, who is taking Lauro’s class. Now “it all comes through the same medium of your cellphone or your computer, so it’s very easy to blur the lines and not have a clear distinction of what’s real and what’s fake,” he said.
A California lawmaker last month introduced a bill to require the state to add lessons on how to distinguish between real and fake news to the grade 7-12 curriculum.
High school government and politics teacher Lesley Battaglia added fake news to the usual election-season lessons on primaries and presidential debates, discussing credible sites and sources and running stories through fact-checking sites like Snopes. There were also lessons about anonymous sources and satire. (They got a kick out of China’s dissemination of a 2012 satirical story from The Onion naming Kim Jong Un as the sexiest man alive.)
“I’m making you guys do the hard stuff that not everybody always does. They see it in a tweet and that’s enough for them,” Battaglia told her students at Williamsville South High School in suburban Buffalo.
“It’s kind of crazy,” 17-year-old student Hannah Mercer said, “to think about how much it’s affecting people and swaying their opinions.”
Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy pioneered the idea of educating future news consumers, and not just journalists, a decade ago with the rise of online news. About four in 10 Americans often get news online, a 2016 Pew Research Center report found. Stony Brook last month partnered with the University of Hong Kong to launch a free online course.
“To me, it’s the new civics course,” said Tom Boll, after wrapping up his own course on real and fake news at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. With everyone now able to post and share, gone are the days of the network news and newspaper editors serving as the primary gatekeepers of information, Boll, an adjunct professor, said.
“The gates are wide open,” he said, “and it’s up to us to figure out what to believe.”
That’s not easy, said Raleigh, North Carolina-area teacher Bill Ferriter, who encourages students to first use common sense to question whether a story could be true, to look at web addresses and authors for hints, and to be skeptical of articles that seem aimed at riling them up.
He pointed to an authentic-looking site reporting that President Barack Obama signed an order in December banning the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. A “.co” at the end of an impostor news site web address should have been a red flag, he said.
“The biggest challenge that I have whenever I try to teach kids about questionable content on the web,” said Ferriter, who teaches sixth grade, “is convincing them that there is such a thing as questionable content on the web.”
Some of Battaglia’s students fear fake news will chip away at the trust of even credible news sources and give public figures license to dismiss as fake news anything unfavorable.
“When people start to distrust all news sources is when people in power are just allowed to do whatever they want, said Katie Peter, “and that’s very scary.”
Associated Press videojournalist Ted Shaffrey in Newark, New Jersey, contributed to this report.