The Daily Showdown
August 6, 2014

Ebola is a terrifying virus with a frighteningly high fatality rate and no known cure, and we're in the middle of one of the worst outbreaks on record. Jon Stewart, after hearing those facts, started out Tuesday night's Daily Show panicking and donning a silly looking hazmat suit. But by the end of several fits and starts of feigned terror — the disease is only in Africa, there may be a case in New York, an experimental cure is being used on two Americans, and the virus can only be spread through direct body-fluid contact — Stewart ends up decidedly on the don't-panic side of the see-saw.

This is a pretty good primer on the current Ebola outbreak, but the best part is when Senior Health Correspondent Jessica Williams uses the Ebola scare for her own purposes. --Peter Weber

Abortion Debate
10:13 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

At a Sunday campaign stop in Iowa, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called Friday's shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado "horrific," but also slammed "some vicious rhetoric on the left blaming those who are pro-life," The Texas Tribune reports.

The suspected gunman, Robert Dear, reportedly hinted at a motive after police apprehended him in Colorado Springs on Friday by saying "no more baby parts," according to an anonymous law enforcement official. When a reporter mentioned those reports to Cruz, he pushed back, arguing that we don't know enough about the gunman yet to make a judgment call about his political beliefs.

"It's also been reported that he was registered as an independent and a woman and a transgendered leftist activist," the presidential hopeful said. "If that's what he is, I don't think it's fair to blame on the rhetoric on the left. This is a murderer."

Cruz was referring to voting records that show that a Robert Dear with the birth year the same as the suspect was registered to vote as a woman in Hartsel, Colorado, as recently as 2014, according to BuzzFeed News. As for Dear's political beliefs, a New York Times profile described him as "generally conservative but not obsessed with politics," based on an interview with his ex-wife, Pamela Ross.

A campaign spokesman told the Times that Cruz was not making definitive claims about Dear's identity, but rather pointing out that people should not draw conclusions based on a story that's still developing. Julie Kliegman

nice try
10:03 a.m. ET

No election season is complete without a good scandal, and even those close to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio know that. According to an excerpt from McKay Coppins' forthcoming book The Wilderness, unsubstantiated rumors about Rubio have been swirling around him practically since he entered politics:

Jilted mistresses, sordid affairs, secret love children — Rubio’s team had heard it all […] One [rumor] that reporters in Florida had repeatedly tried to run down over the years dealt with a Tallahassee politico who Rubio had supposedly taken on several romantic out-of-state trips and paid for them with the state party's credit card. Another, even more pervasive rumor, held that Rubio was hiding a secret second family somewhere, and sending regular cash installments to support them (and keep them quiet). The details of this story varied substantially from one telling to another: sometimes the mother was a former Dolphins cheerleader; other times she wasn't. Sometimes there was one kid living with his mom in New York; other times there were two kids and they lived in Florida. [BuzzFeed]

To dispel any more talk of Rubio's alleged "zipper problem," Terry Sullivan, the head of a Rubio political action committee, went as far as to hire a firm to investigate. Nothing concrete was found — but that hasn't stopped Jeb Bush's allies from allegedly firing up the rumor mill once again, especially now that Rubio is a threat in the GOP presidential race. "Those who have looked into Marco's background in the past have been concerned with what they have found," a leaked document from Bush campaign reportedly warned last month.

But so far, it's all talk. "Everybody who runs against him says he has girlfriends, or financial problems. They throw a lot of s--t at the wall. It's the same thing from the Jeb Bush camp. They keep telling me, 'Oh, we've got the thing that's going to take him down.' But nobody's ever produced anything that we all haven't read in the Tallahassee Democrat," MSNBC host Joe Scarborough told BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins. Sullivan himself reportedly joked that Rubio is "Cuban and [...] from Miami, so of course he has mistresses." Jeva Lange

court reports
9:13 a.m. ET

Northern Ireland's abortion ban — which applies to cases of rape, incest, and fatal fetal abnormalities — is "incompatible with human rights," a high court judge ruled Monday. Unlike the rest of the U.K., the region only permits abortions in cases where the woman's life or health is seriously threatened, The New York Times reports.

"She has to face all the dangers and problems, emotional or otherwise, of carrying a fetus for which she bears no moral responsibility and is merely a receptacle to carry the child of a rapist and/or a person who has committed incest, or both," said Mark Horner, the judge who delivered the groundbreaking ruling for the Belfast High Court. "In doing so, the law is enforcing prohibition of abortion against an innocent victim of a crime in a way which completely ignores the personal circumstances of the victim."

Medical professionals convicted of performing illegal abortions in Northern Ireland face life in prison, The Guardian reports. The Department of Justice, which the region's Human Rights Commission had taken to court, has six weeks to appeal the ruling. Julie Kliegman

you're fired
9:03 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

After Donald Trump's campaign announced he would receive the endorsements of 100 black pastors, over 100 black religious leaders responded in an Ebony op-ed urging their colleagues to abstain from any such endorsement. Now, Trump's campaign has considerably scaled back what had looked to be a major event for their candidate.

While the 100 pastors are still meeting with Trump on Monday, some have since said they're unsure if they support the candidate. Moreover, the meeting will no longer be a news conference but an "informal meet-and-greet" — behind closed doors.

"This is not a press event, but a private meeting, after which, a number of attendees are expected to endorse Mr. Trump's campaign for president," Trump's spokeswoman explained in an email to The New York Times. Darrell Scott, an Ohio pastor who put together the event, added that the initial reports that the meeting would be a splashy event were the result of a "miscommunication on my part."

Recently, Trump came under harsh criticism for suggesting that a Black Lives Matter protestor who was punched and kicked at one of his campaign rallies in Alabama "maybe [...] should've been roughed up." Jeva Lange

ancient wines
8:19 a.m. ET

Israeli vintners have tapped into their ancient heritage to create wines 1,800 years in the making. Using money from the Jewish National Fund, oenologist Eliyashiv Drori and a group of scientists at Ariel University's research winery have identified 120 grape varieties distinct to Israel, around 20 of which are suitable for making wine, The New York Times reports. Other researchers have used DNA and a three-dimensional scanner to identify around 70 distinct grape varieties from Biblical times; their goal is to pair the ancient seeds with live grapes and, eventually, to genetically engineer and revive the lost varieties.

But enough about history — how does the resulting wine actually taste?

Itay Gleitman, the wine writer for Haaretz, called marawi "this year's most important Israeli wine," for its provenance, if not taste. He said it was "pleasant and easy-to-drink," and "opens slightly in the glass with gentle aromas of apple and peach." And, if expressly cultivated for winemaking, has potential that "piques the imagination."

Next up is dabouki, also white, which the well-known Israeli vintner Avi Feldstein plans to debut along with his new winery in a couple of months. Dabouki might be the oldest of the local varieties, a good candidate for what filled the glass of Jesus (who Mr. Drori believes drank white as well as red). [The New York Times]

Grape specimens are identified as "wine grapes" through extensive field research — say, finding grapes in a destroyed Jewish temple next to clay shards labeled "smooth wine" in an ancient Hebraic language, or picking out 10th century B.C. seeds from donkey droppings in a King Solomon-era copper mine. So far, however, the wine yields have remained relatively low — Recanati Winery produced only 2,480 bottles of the 2014 marawi — due in part to the difficulty obtaining the grapes, which are grown on Palestinian farms where workers face potential backlash for collaborating with Israelis or helping to make alcohol, which is typically forbidden in Islam.

But others dislike politicizing the ancient beverage. "These are not Israeli; they are not Palestinian. They belong to the region — this is something beautiful," vintner Ido Lewinsohn said. Jeva Lange

Pope Francis in Africa
7:49 a.m. ET
Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

On Monday, Pope Francis ended a three-nation African tour with a stop in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, in his first visit to a conflict zone. Before saying mass in a Bangui's sports stadium, the pope visited the besieged, once-vibrant Muslim neighborhood PK5 and met with the imam and 200 other men in the city's main mosque. Christian militias surround PK5, preventing the remnants of Bangui's Muslim population from leaving the neighborhood, and Pope Francis was under heavy guard as he traveled to the mosque in an open-air makeshift "popemobile."

Central African Republic has been split along religious lines since Muslim rebels toppled the Christian president in 2013, and Muslim militias followed, committing atrocities against Christians. Christian militias formed and savaged Muslim civilians starting in 2014, when the Muslim leaders were driven from power. Pope Francis reminded both sides that sectarian violence is something new in the country and that the conflict is really about power, not religion. "Christians and Muslims and members of traditional religions have lived peacefully for many years," the pope said at the mosque. "Together, we say no to hatred, to vengeance and violence, especially that committed in the name of a religion or God."

The chief imam, Tidiani Moussa Naibi, thanked the pope for his visit, calling it "a symbol which we all understand." Before the violence drove most of Central Africa Republic's Muslims away, the country was about 37 percent Catholic, 15, percent Muslim, 13 percent Protestant, and 35 percent practicing indigenous faiths. Pope Francis also preached peace during his visit to Uganda and Kenya, urging an audience of young people in Nairobi to stand up to divisive tribalism. He returns to Rome on Monday. Peter Weber

Paris Climate Summit
6:31 a.m. ET

A global climate change summit opened at a heavily guarded airport convention center outside Paris on Monday, with roughly 151 world leaders gathered to try and hammer out an agreement for 196 countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. "Never before has a responsibility so great been in the hands of so few," said United Nations climate chief Christina Figueres in her opening remarks. "The world is looking to you."

Before the summit opened, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping met and emphasized the important role their countries need to play in curbing climate change. "Nowhere has our coordination been more necessary and more fruitful," Obama said. "As the two largest carbon emitters, we have both determined that it is our responsibility to take action." You can watch Obama and Xi arrive at the summit below.

About 180 nations have already submitted their own plans to curb or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but some big disagreements remain. The biggest, The Associated Press says, is over how much developing nations will be expected to participate in cutting carbon emissions, and how to determine which countries are still "developing" — India, China, and Qatar (the world's richest nation, per capita) were classified as developing in the 1997 Kyoto climate change agreement. The U.S. and Europe insist that all nations pull their weight this time around, while India is pushing another two-tier system. Fights are also expected over how much aid poorer countries will receive to adopt clean energy sources, and what compensation, if any, small island nations will get if their land disappears due to rising sea levels. Peter Weber

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