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10 things you need to know today: September 5, 2014

Harold Maass
Guilty. (Getty/Alex Wong)
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McDonnell convicted on corruption charges

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and his wife, Maureen, were convicted Thursday on corruption charges. Prosecutors said the McDonnells sold the power of the governor's office for $177,000 in gifts, golf outings, and cash from dietary supplements executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. When the verdicts were announced, McDonnell, who left office in January after one term, bawled openly at the defense table. His lawyers said they were shocked by the verdict and planned to appeal. [The New York Times]


Iconoclastic comedian Joan Rivers dies at 81

Comedy legend Joan Rivers died Thursday in a New York hospital after complications from outpatient throat surgery. She was 81. Rivers' career took her from the Ed Sullivan Show in the 1960s to years of withering red-carpet commentary, which led to her last show, Fashion Police, on E! Rivers was known for her fearless and acerbic put-downs — which she often aimed at herself. "I've had so much plastic surgery," she once said, "that when I die they'll donate my body to Tupperware." [Los Angeles Times]


Court rules two more gay-marriage bans unconstitutional

A federal appeals court in Chicago on Thursday upheld lower-court rulings overturning gay marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin. Defenders of the bans argued that marriage should be linked to the ability to have children. Judge Richard Posner, writing in a unanimous opinion, said that argument "so full of holes that it cannot be taken seriously." He said the bans amounted to discrimination that was "irrational, and therefore unconstitutional." Both states said they would appeal to the Supreme Court. [Chicago Tribune]


Fast-food employees protest for higher pay

More than 450 fast-food workers were arrested across the country on Thursday while protesting for higher wages. Sit-ins and demonstrations were held in 150 cities to demand that restaurant chains hike wages to $15 an hour. Organizers said the protests were the largest yet in a series of rallies and demonstrations that have been gaining momentum since late 2012. The fast-food workers also have helped call attention to efforts to raise the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25. [Reuters]


Father indicted for murder in his toddler's hot-car death

A Georgia grand jury on Thursday indicted Justin Ross Harris on murder charges for the death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper, who perished after Harris left him in a hot car for seven hours. Harris could face the death penalty if convicted. Prosecutors believe Harris killed his son to get out of the burdens of family life. A defense lawyer said the boy's death was "a horrible, gut-wrenching accident." [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]


Nevada wins Tesla factory with $1.25 billion in tax incentives

Nevada officials revealed Thursday that they won the competition to lure Tesla Motors' battery "Gigafactory" to their state by offering $1.25 billion in tax incentives over 20 years. The figure was double the amount Tesla CEO Elon Musk had projected would be needed to secure the $3.5 billion plant; five states were vying for it. If Nevada's legislature approves the package next week, Tesla won't have to pay state taxes on the plant for a decade. [USA Today]


Judge says BP's recklessness was the main cause of 2010 Gulf oil disaster

A federal judge on Thursday ruled that BP was primarily responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which sent millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. BP had argued that its contractors, Halliburton and Transocean, were equally if not more to blame, but the judge said BP's "gross negligence" and "willful misconduct" caused the spill, the biggest in U.S. history. The ruling could expose the company to $18 billion in new fines under the Clean Water Act. [The Washington Post]


Hackers infiltrate HealthCare.gov, but get no data

HealthCare.gov, the federal online insurance marketplace, was targeted by hackers this summer, the Obama administration said Thursday. The intruders implanted malicious software on the website's server, and it went undetected for six weeks. Administration officials said that no personal data was compromised in the cyberattack. Nevertheless, Republicans said the attack confirmed fears that the site was launched without adequate security testing, putting consumers at risk. [Politico]


Ukraine cease-fire talks get underway

Representatives from Ukraine, Russia, and pro-Russia rebel groups are preparing to begin cease-fire talks in Belarus on Friday. Ahead of the meeting, there were reports of renewed shelling by rebels in parts of eastern Ukraine, where more than 2,600 people have died over the last five months. NATO leaders wrapping up a two-day summit in Wales are expected to tighten sanctions on Russia for allegedly sending the rebels arms and troops — something Moscow denies. Ukrainian President Petro Pereshenko said a peace deal could be signed Friday. [BBC News]


Researchers find huge new dinosaur, possibly the biggest ever

Paleontologists have unveiled a newly discovered dinosaur, Dreadnoughtus, that was one of the largest land animals ever. A team from Drexel University found the fossil — the most complete skeleton of a giant titanosaur on record — in Argentina's Patagonia region, and calculated that the beast was 86 feet long and weighed nearly 60 tons. The scientists wrote in an article published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports that the giant herbivore, once full-grown, would have been "nearly impervious to attack" by predators. [Scientific Reports, National Geographic]

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