Israeli air strikes against Hamas-controlled Gaza have been wreaking havoc all week, and scores of Palestinians are believed to have died as a result. Hamas rockets aimed at Israeli cities and Israel’s aerial response have put both the nation and the world on alert. President Obama offered to negotiate a truce between the Palestinians and Israelis, but Israel refuses to halt its campaign until Hamas stops firing rockets, and it’s feared many more will suffer before peace is restored.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The trial to determine the L.A. Clippers’ future got uglier this week with co-owner Donald Sterling calling his estranged wife a “pig.” In May, Shelly Sterling persuaded her husband to undergo an evaluation, which revealed his early-stage Alzheimer’s, before moving to take control of the team and negotiating its $2 billion sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. With the trial continuing, a July 15 expiration on Ballmer’s offer and the NBA threatening to auction the team, the Clippers’ fate remains uncertain.
Conservative groups in some red states are supporting efforts to reduce jail terms for drug-related offenses as a means to save taxpayer dollars and offer offenders a chance at redemption. But prosecutors in Louisiana, which has the country’s highest incarceration rate, are resisting reform, arguing that the threat of 10- to 20-year drug sentences is essential for getting habitual offenders to accept plea deals. Reform advocates claim allowing prosecutors such room to “bitch” defendants undermines due process.
The war in Syria is not just taking a toll on its current residents but on the nation’s history as well. In November, a mortar shell devastated priceless mosaics at the eighth-century Great Mosque in Damascus. In March, a 900-year-old Crusader castle was badly damaged by MiG fighters trying to dislodge rebels hiding within its ancient walls. Such destruction compounds the misery many face: The bombing of the Aleppo souks, for example, saw the livelihoods of 35,000 people go up in flames.
Tommy Ramone, of punk band The Ramones, dies aged 65. (BBC)
Two U.S. disease labs temporarily close after accidents. (NYT)
Separatist rocket attack reportedly kills dozens of Ukrainian troops. (NPR)
LeBron to Cleveland: I’m coming home. (SI)
Rio authorities gear up for World Cup final. (BBC)
Feeling anxious or unfocused? Your doctor may soon prescribe a course of gaming. Many puzzle games claim to keep brains nimble, but medical gaming could help treat conditions from autism to Alzheimer’s. EVO, a video game in clinical trials, is designed to promote cognitive functioning through foreign world exploration. And Pear Therapeutics in Cambridge, Mass., hopes to improve drugs’ efficacy by matching them to complementary gaming experiences. With virtual reality around the corner, such interactive treatments are likely to grow.
Ever stood in an airport security line mentally cataloging your bag’s contents in fear of having broken a rule? Apparently some don’t, and the Transportation Security Administration’s Instragram feed hilariously highlights their mistakes. Photos of confiscated items include a grenade, guns, switchblades, mace and even bomb assembly parts. The implication isn’t criminal intent, so much as poor judgment, and social media is being used to remind travelers that these are prohibited items. Rule of thumb? Don’t pack the heat.
Students struggling to recall the short, corrupt presidency of Warren G. Harding in the 1920s now have the benefit of a fun fact: The 29th president called his penis “Jerry.” In 106 letters to longtime mistress Carrie Fulton Phillips, which his family fought to suppress, Harding’s salacious prose rivals the Starr Report. Harding’s requests to “bury my face on your pillowing breasts” and “take you to Mount Jerry” will become public record when the Library of Congress releases the letters on July 29.
An Internet hoax last year stated that Pope Francis declared hell incompatible with God’s message of love. It wasn’t true, but it fired the imaginations of young Christians who’d prefer to see their religion embrace, rather than condemn. Through the years, many Christians have sought unsuccessfully to dispense with the notion of hell. Today, only 58 percent of U.S. adults believe in everlasting torment, but the pope and most believers are hell-bent on clinging to Christianity’s carrot and its stick.
Germany’s epic 7-1 demolition of host Brazil in the World Cup semifinal may have been more than a decade in the making. Since 2002, the Deutscher Fussball Bund has conducted a thorough search to find and train the nation’s best young soccer talent, and three of Tuesday’s scorers came from this generation. By some estimates, the current squad is just the tip of a very large iceberg of youthful talent that could keep Germany on top for years to come.