The debate is over. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Director Tom Frieden said his agency’s research had passed a “turning point” where there could be no doubt the mosquito-borne illness results in microcephaly, a devastating birth defect. Worse, their research indicates that microcephaly may only be the “tip of the iceberg” in other brain abnormalities caused by the disease. Frieden said the CDC isn’t changing any of its guidelines for preventing the spread of Zika, but the agency will continue efforts to further understand and contain it.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They can hear them now. Deadlocked over job relocation, health benefit contributions and outsourcing, some 39,000 East Coast members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers land line workers walked off the job this morning. Nearly all of the strikers support land-based phone, Internet and video service, but enough work in the more profitable mobile phone sector that they can legally picket Verizon Wireless stores. The company has pledged uninterrupted service, but the action may delay customer calls as well as underline labor as a presidential campaign issue.
He’s going to pay. “You’re not getting out of jail today,” said Texas District Judge Wayne Salvant in handing down a 720-day sentence for Ethan Couch. He was originally given 10 years’ probation by a juvenile court following psychological testimony that his affluence mitigated his responsibility for a 2013 quadruple-fatal drunken driving accident. Turning 19 on Monday, he landed in Salvant’s adult court after fleeing to Mexico in violation of probation restrictions. But leniency’s still possible, as defense attorneys have two weeks in which to formulate arguments against the sentence.
They’re going for the gold. The Panamanian law firm, whose leaked records kicked off the Panama Papers scandal that led the prime minister of Iceland to step down over offshore holdings, tweeted that it’s cooperating with the investigation. Organized crime prosecutors with Panama’s government spent hours searching for documents that might prove Mossack Fonseca’s clients were involved in money laundering or financing terrorism. While the law firm insists there’s been no wrongdoing, Panama’s president has promised the international community that he’s willing to implement reforms of the nation’s financial sector.
He really means it. The speaker of the House flatly declared he won’t seek or accept the 2016 Republican presidential nomination: “End of story.” Some party establishment types had hoped the Wisconsin representative could sweep in during a contested convention and play the savior to a divided GOP. In remarks at the RNC, Ryan said anyone wanting to be the nominee should have run in the actual primaries. But his decisive comments immediately fueled speculation that he’s really looking ahead to 2020 in case his party should fall flat in November.
It’s a deadlock over wedlock. China’s first same-sex marriage case ended in a flat no, when a judge dismissed the lawsuit of Sun Wenlin and Hu Mingliang after only a few hours. Hundreds of LGBT activists had congregated at the courthouse in Changsha to await the verdict — and while their hopes for equal rights were denied, some believe the attention the case brought to China’s gay marriage movement will still be a huge step forward. Meanwhile, Sun and Hu say they’ll keep fighting for their right to wed.
Something had to be done. The Waller County jail became infamous after 28-year-old Sandra Bland, who had been pulled over for failing to use her turn signal, was found dead there in what the medical examiner ruled a suicide. Her death rallied activists, who say she was mistreated because she was Black. Now a panel says sweeping changes need to be made — including psychological evaluations and anger management courses for staff, zero tolerance for verbal abuse of prisoners, and a new building — to create a “model” system.
Russian Jets Fly ‘Dangerously Close’ to U.S. Warship, Witnesses Say Chicago Police Shot Fleeing Black Youth
Russian warplanes buzz U.S. desroyer in Baltic Sea. (Washington Post)
Chicago police face new uproar over killing Black youth. (Chicago Tribune)
No damage reports yet after 6.9-magnitude Myanmar earthquake. (AP)
Dispatcher charged with playing game, causing deadly German train crash. (NPR)
Spanish police arrest suspected Paris attacks gun supplier. (BBC)
Five big U.S. banks fail to submit proper “orderly failure” plans. (Reuters)
It didn’t come easy. The Warriors waited until the season’s final game to break the record they’ve been chasing all year: the magical 73rd win, the most in league history. Though they’ve shown unexpected vulnerabilities in the last two weeks, Wednesday’s 125-104 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies was rarely in doubt. Steph Curry notched his 402nd 3-pointer of the season, obliterating the previous record of 286 (also Curry’s, from 2014-15), and will now lead his team into the playoffs as the overwhelming favorite to repeat as NBA champs.
It’s a renters market. Chinese officials are concerned over the rise of new social apps that offer people, mostly women, for rent. Apps like “Quick Come Rent Me,” connect its half-million users with companions who want to chill — for an hourly fee. Users say sex is common on these dates, but stress that the apps aren’t markets for prostitution. Some users just want a dinner companion or a fake girlfriend to take home for the holidays. Authorities say they will shutter so-called “rent-people” marketplaces, but only if they actively support prostitution.
Douglas Adams saw it first. Like the battle fleet attacking Earth in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the tiny spaceships envisioned by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and Hawking could also be “swallowed by a small dog.” Known for bankrolling far-out tech, Milner’s investing $100 million in light-propelled nanocraft, which would travel at 20 percent of the speed of light and pass Pluto in three days, to explore neighboring star systems. But the gram-scale spacecraft will take time: Milner said the next generation might see them off.
You can’t get much greener. As plastic chokes the world’s oceans, taking centuries to biodegrade, a Japanese design team has just won the Lexus Design Award for new tech that could make packaging as friendly as algae. That’s because they opted for algae-based agar, a jelly-like substance long used to thicken Asian desserts, to make cushioning materials to replace eco-unfriendly bubble wrap. The three designers collected $23,000 in prize money and are now looking for a partner who can help package their invention for the market.
It’s a $13 billion industry, so why not share the love? Hump the Bundle, which says it’s grossed $250 million, offers artisanal smut, with some profits channeled to charities. Consumers can choose where they stick their donations, from helping set up disabled gamers to rebuilding earthquake-shattered Nepal. Another eco-porn store offers a chance to save the rainforest with each download. But while these filthy philanthropists are ready and willing, many recipients don’t want their honor sullied, forcing donors to be stealthy about the satisfying good they do.
The show has closed. The producer, TV personality and ex-husband of Liza Minnelli was found unresponsive in his London hotel room, police said, and the cause of death is still unclear. Gest was a lifelong friend of Michael Jackson and his 30th anniversary special for the late singer was reportedly the highest-rated in television history when it aired in 2001. He’d recently gained fame in Britain on Celebrity Big Brother — and was about to start touring his show, David Gest Is Not Dead but Alive With Soul.
Everyone wants to say goodbye. Tonight the five-time NBA champion suits up for his 1,566th and final game as a professional player. Love him or hate him, the 20-year veteran is a living legend, and up to 500 media members from 15 countries will be on hand as he closes out against the Utah Jazz. Though tickets are sold out, they’re being scalped online for as much as $27,500. Meanwhile, Bryant says his own finale hasn’t really sunk in yet, and he’s just thankful for his career.