The blast shook buildings miles away. A rocket has exploded on the SpaceX launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. SpaceX, a private aerospace company headed by Elon Musk, was preparing the Falcon 9 rocket for a satellite launch flight this weekend. But shortly after massive plumes of dark smoke blasted over the launch pad, NASA announced that the rocket had exploded during an engine test. No one was hurt in the blast, and the fault appears not to have been with the rocket itself. But a launch pad malfunction is already drawing scrutiny.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Where’s the pivot? Despite speculation that he’d be softening his stance, Donald Trump’s much-anticipated immigration policy speech Wednesday night turned out to be the same platform he’s pushed throughout the campaign — a Mexico-funded border wall, no path to legal status and a tightening of immigration rules. The speech, which delighted the Arizona crowd, followed Trump’s cordial meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto — who says he told the GOP nominee that Mexico won’t be paying for such a wall, though Trump says they didn’t discuss it.
Libreville’s on fire. Yesterday, results of the weekend’s presidential election were announced: Incumbent Ali Bongo won with 49.8 percent of the vote over Jean Ping’s 48.2. Moments after the announcement, protesters reportedly tried to storm the election commission, shouting “Ali must go!” and refusing to accept the result. They set fire to the parliament building, then government security forces set upon the opposition headquarters, allegedly killing at least two. Gabon’s constitutional court must finalize the results, but questions about high turnout have the opposition vowing to fight for a recount.
He’s got his work cut out for him. As expected, Brazil’s Senate voted 61-20 to remove president and former Marxist guerrilla Dilma Rousseff. Her reign was tainted by connections to deeply entrenched corruption scandals, but many turning to interim President Michel Temer are realizing that his Brazilian Democratic Movement Party has similar ties, and Temer himself’s been convicted of violating campaign finance rules. But for many Brazilian conservatives, Temer, who’s expected to hold the post until elections in 2018, is also seen as a hope for the nation’s economy.
The sun might be setting on SolarCity. Musk first proposed combining Tesla with his cousins’ solar power venture in June, saying the solar technology would be a boon to his electric car business. But many saw it as a bailout, given that SolarCity’s cash reserves had declined by $275 million in a year. Now Tesla must pay $422 million to bondholders and has announced a new fundraising round — in which it’s expected to raise as much as $2 billion, despite a yearly stock slide of nearly 12 percent.
Know This: Researchers say early trials show promising results for a new Alzheimer’s treatment. Apple’s CEO says the company will return some cash to the U.S. after the EU’s “maddening” tax ruling. And an 88-year-old Australian has asked the country’s immigration minister if he can switch places with a refugee in offshore detention.
Listen to This: Think you’re average? You’re not: 99 Percent Invisible dives into the history of figuring out what’s average — and how that influences the design of society.
Read This: “I’m just waiting for the royal family from the United Arab Emirates to arrive and for their security detail to come in.” OZY investigates the life of a celebrity chauffeur.
From hair on in, change is coming. Pretoria High School for Girls only integrated in 1994, at the end of apartheid, and it showed: Students turned out last weekend to protest pressure from school officials to chemically straighten their hair and stop speaking native African languages. “Where can we be Black if we can’t be Black in Africa?” asked alumna Tiisetso Phetla, who said she was forced to change her “untidy” natural hair. Now the Department of Education has suspended hair-related rules and ordered an investigation into the school.
It’s a bridge over once-troubled water. JetBlue Flight 387 — the first passenger flight to Cuba in more than 50 years — made the hop from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Santa Clara yesterday, with a salsa band welcoming the 30 ticketholders aboard. Two more airlines begin Cuban flights this month, and though it’s not expected be a moneymaker for airlines, it’s a major step toward expanding diplomatic relations. But don’t grab your passports yet: Americans still need visas in categories like journalism or education to enter Cuba.
The birds and the bees, meet IUDs. American teenagers are not having any less sex, according to a new study from the Guttmacher Institute and Columbia University, even as pregnancy rates plummeted 57 percent from 1991 to 2013. Instead the drop coincided with a rise in contraception, with 86 percent of teens reporting at least one type of birth control in their most recent sexual encounter. They’re also using more effective types, such as the pill and implants, that the federal government is now working to make more accessible.
Nostalgic nerds rejoice! Bill Nye Saves the World will bring the former PBS star who made chemical reactions fun to Netflix in spring 2017. The bow-tied host says the new show will include experiments, demonstrations and special guests while aiming to puncture some of the political and societal myths around hot scientific topics like vaccinations, climate change and genetically modified foods. For Netflix, the move aligns with efforts to capture a 1990s-raised audience — remember the Full House reboot? — while continuing to experiment with formatting.
It’s an uphill climb. Long criticized as an elite bastion of white competitors, pro cycling is getting a shakeup. This year’s Tour de France — which had its first ever Black rider only five years ago — had more cyclists of color than ever in its 113-year history, largely due to South African team Dimension Data’s seven nonwhite riders. Charities getting quality bicycles into impoverished parts of Africa are helping to build the pipeline, but equipment costs remain prohibitive and there’s a lot of history to overcome.