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August 14, 2014
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Protesters of the police killing of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri this week have been met with a heavily militarized police response, which the Pentagon has now confirmed was made possible in part by its donation of two tactical vehicles, a trailer, and a generator to the Ferguson police.

The equipment — which may represent one of several such transfers — was assigned via a federal program through which hundreds of millions of dollars of military equipment is given annually to local police departments. This equipment includes everything from side arms to armored vehicles resembling tanks which are more typically used in war zones.

Civil libertarian critics have suggested that bulking up police equipment can itself lead to increased police brutality. "Give a man access to drones, tanks, and body armor, and he'll reasonably think that his job isn't simply to maintain peace, but to eradicate danger," writes Greg Howard for The Concourse. "Instead of protecting and serving, police are searching and destroying." Bonnie Kristian

2:18 p.m. ET

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer doubled down on President Donald Trump's false assertion that millions of illegal immigrants voted in the 2016 U.S. election. "The claim, which [Trump] has made before on Twitter, has been judged untrue by numerous fact-checkers," The New York Times wrote of the statement, going as far as to label the accusation a "lie." Trump nevertheless repeated the claim Monday at a reception with congressional leaders.

Spicer was asked directly about voter fraud during his White House press briefing Tuesday, and replied "the president does believe that …based on studies and evidence people have presented to him." Spicer did not elaborate on what those studies are or what the evidence might be. Watch below. Jeva Lange

1:47 p.m. ET
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Eighteen-year-old Paris Jackson was just 11 when her father, pop legend Michael Jackson, died. The cause of Jackson's death is attributed to cardiac arrest brought on by drugs administered by his doctor; Jackson's physician was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

But according to Paris Jackson, something even more sinister was going on. "[Michael Jackson] would drop hints about people being out to get him," Paris told Rolling Stone. "And at some point he was like, 'They're gonna kill me one day.'"

She goes on:

Paris is convinced that her dad was, somehow, murdered. "Absolutely," she says. "Because it's obvious. All arrows point to that. It sounds like a total conspiracy theory and it sounds like bulls--t, but all real fans and everybody in the family knows it. It was a setup. It was bulls--t."

But who would have wanted Michael Jackson dead? Paris pauses for several seconds, maybe considering a specific answer, but just says, "A lot of people." Paris wants revenge, or at least justice. "Of course," she says, eyes glowing. "I definitely do, but it's a chess game. And I am trying to play the chess game the right way. And that's all I can say about that right now." [Rolling Stone]

Read the full interview with Paris Jackson at Rolling Stone. Jeva Lange

1:26 p.m. ET
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President Trump's administration has temporarily suspended all new contracts and grants at the Environmental Protection Agency, and blocked EPA employees "from providing updates on social media or to reporters," The Associated Press reported Tuesday. The freeze extends to "task orders and work assignments," an EPA contracting officer indicated, and ProPublica reported the move "could affect a significant part of the agency's budget allocations and even threaten to disrupt core operations ranging from toxic cleanups to water quality testing."

Myron Ebell, who was tasked with running the EPA transition for Trump's administration, said the freeze was enacted to ensure the new administration has a say in any regulations, hiring, or contracts moving forward, as they await the confirmation of Trump's pick for EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt. Ebell said administrations prior to Trump have taken similar actions. "This may be a little wider than some previous administrations, but it's very similar to what others have done," he said.

An employee of the EPA, however, told ProPublica that he has "never seen anything like it in nearly a decade with the agency." The EPA employee said it is not yet clear how long the suspension will last. Becca Stanek

12:42 p.m. ET
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It has proven to be very much a mistake to underestimate Kellyanne Conway during a campaign. But to underestimate her in a fistfight? That too might prove to be painful, the New York Daily News reports.

Allegedly, Conway intervened when two men at Trump's inauguration ball went at each other with fists last Friday. "But the two men wouldn't break up the fight and Conway apparently punched one of them in the face with closed fists at least three times, according to the stunned onlooker," the Daily News writes.

Fox News senior correspondent Charles Gasparino relayed the scuffle in a Facebook post. "Inside the ball we see a fight between two guys in tuxes, and then suddenly out of nowhere came Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, who began throwing some mean punches at one of the guys," he said. "Whole thing lasted a few [minutes], no one was hurt except maybe the dude she smacked. Now I know why Trump hired her."

Aren't convinced? "[By the way], I exaggerate none of this," Gasparino reassured. Jeva Lange

12:19 p.m. ET
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Bigger storms and rising seawater aren't the only bad things about climate change. Birds are reportedly going to get a lot "uglier" as the Earth warms, The Independent reports.

Most of what makes birds interesting or even spectacular comes from characteristics used for attracting mates or intimidating rivals. But in the case of male flycatchers, who have a brilliant white patch on their forehead during mating season, the warming habitat has resulted in the birds having smaller and smaller patches. “Just as climate change will lead to winners and losers in terms of species' abundance and distribution, it seems it may also lead to winners and losers in the global beauty pageant," researchers Cody Dey, of Windsor University, and James Dale, of Massey University, wrote for Nature Ecology & Evolution.

And it's not just the flycatchers: "The researchers said other studies suggested this reduction in 'ornamentation' could be happening all over Europe and that more species could be similarly affected," The Independent reports, although the direct link between the vanishing mating characteristics and the warming global temperatures isn't yet clear. Jeva Lange

12:05 p.m. ET

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday warned President Trump that continuing to make baseless claims about voter fraud could "undermine his ability to govern this country." In a statement released the day after Trump repeated claims at a meeting with congressional leaders that he lost the popular vote because of the millions of illegal votes cast against him, Graham said he is "begging" the president to either offer up evidence of this alleged fraud, or stop talking about it.

"As a matter of fact, I'd like you do more than stop saying it, I'd like you to come forward and say, 'Having looked at it, I am confident the election was fair and accurate and people who voted voted legally,'" Graham said.

Read Graham's statement in full below. Becca Stanek

12:00 p.m. ET
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President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he plans to announce his "truly great" Supreme Court nominee next week. Trump said he would make the decision on the nominee this week; the president is meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley, and Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the vacancy.

President Trump's shortlist is believed to include conservative judges Neil Gorsuch, Diane Sykes, Joan Larsen, Steven Colloton, Thomas Hardiman, and William Pryor Jr., who many believe is Trump's frontrunner for the position. Jeva Lange

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