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August 4, 2014
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Sunni militants on Sunday captured the largest hydroelectric dam in Iraq as they continued to seize more ground across the country, according to state-run media and multiple reports. After a day-long battle, ISIS fighters also claimed an oil field and three northern towns in the region after sweeping aside Kurdish defense forces.

ISIS militants destroyed a Shiite shrine, forced an estimated 200,000 to flee, and executed those who stood in their way as they overran the area, according to The New York Times. Yet the capture of the dam, which provides power to Mosul, was the group's most alarming victory as it will allow ISIS to cut off water to or flood the region.

"If you control the Mosul Dam, you can threaten just about everybody," Daniel Pipes, the president of the Middle East Forum, told CNN. Jon Terbush

2:46 p.m. ET

It seems tennis star Serena Williams' accuracy is better on the court than on Snapchat. A week after surprising the world with the news that she's pregnant, Williams admitted during an interview Tuesday at the 2017 Ted Talks Conference that she didn't actually mean to send out that selfie of her growing baby bump. The photo of a swimsuit-clad Williams, with the simple caption "20 weeks," almost immediately made headlines.

"I was on vacation just taking some time for myself and I have this thing where I've been checking my status and taking pictures every week to see how far along I'm going," Williams said. She said she hadn't told "a lot of people to be quite honest" because she was "saving" the news.

"You know how social media is, you press the wrong button and ... ," Williams said. When she checked her phone 30 minutes later, she was surprised to see several missed calls. "But it was a good moment," she said. "I was going to wait, literally, just five or six more days [to share the announcement]."

Williams said she found out she was pregnant just two days before the Australian Open, where she bested sister Venus Williams to claim her 23rd Grand Slam singles title.

Watch Williams get candid about her pregnancy reveal below. Becca Stanek

2:15 p.m. ET
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After a long back-and-forth with the University of California, Berkeley, over her slated April 27 speech, conservative commentator Ann Coulter gave her final answer on Wednesday, a day before she was originally scheduled to speak. "There will be no speech," Coulter wrote in an email to Reuters.

The hubbub over Coulter's speech started last week, when Berkeley announced it was cancelling the event because of security concerns amid threats of protest. The school had been forced in February to cancel alt-right media figure Milo Yiannopoulos' appearance after violent protests erupted hours before it was scheduled to begin. Despite the uncertainty, Coulter had maintained that, nevertheless, she would persist and give her critical speech about pro-immigration policies.

Coulter's insistence that she would go ahead and speak prompted Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to reconsider. The school later re-invited Coulter to speak, though at a more "appropriate, protectable venue" and on a later date.

But Coulter put the kibosh on giving a Berkeley speech at all Wednesday, which she declared a "sad day for free speech." Coulter credited her decision to the fact that Young America's Foundation, one of two groups helping Coulter in her legal battle to speak at Berkeley, had decided to step down due to concerns about risking "the safety of its staff or students."

"I looked over my shoulder and my allies had joined the other team," Coulter told Reuters. She also noted to The New York Times that it seemed as though "everyone who should believe in free speech fought against it or ran away." Becca Stanek

1:59 p.m. ET

President Trump unveiled a broad tax proposal Wednesday, including a sharp cut in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent. For individuals, the administration proposed reducing the seven tax brackets to three, at 10, 25, and 35 percent. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the proposal is the "biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country."

"We are going to double the standard deduction, so a married couple will not pay any taxes on the first $24,000 they earn," chief economic advisor Gary Cohn added. The proposal would additionally repeal the estate tax, or so-called "death tax," as well as "the catch-all alternative minimum tax, and the 3.8 percent tax on investment income from President Barack Obama's health-care law," The Associated Press reports. While Republicans had wanted a border adjustment tax on imports, it was not included in the White House's plan.

The White House reportedly hopes some of its family-friendly provisions, such as adjustments that help with child-care costs, will give Democrats a strong incentive to negotiate a deal, but Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez has argued that "Trump's latest proposal is another gift to corporations and billionaires like himself." Jeva Lange

1:34 p.m. ET

In virtually every state across the U.S., Blockbuster Video has become a relic of the past, from a time way back when it was necessary to physically go to a store to rent a movie rather than cueing one up with the click of the button. Alaska is the exception.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that while most Blockbuster stores have shut down after a period of ubiquity in the 1990s ended in a declaration of bankruptcy, there are still at least 10 Blockbusters left in existence. Most of those are in Alaska.

The Alaska stores there aren't just surviving — they're thriving, Blockbuster licensee-owner Alan Payne told The Washington Post:

[A] great deal of the business' endurance has come from the core customer base in Alaska, primarily made up of older people. Alaska ranks high in disposable income among the states, due to good-paying jobs, exceptionally low taxes, and payments from reinvested oil savings. Moreover, Internet service is substantially more expensive than in most states, since most data packages are not unlimited. Heavy Netflix streamers could end up paying hundreds of dollars per month in Internet bills, Payne said. [The Washington Post]

Alaska's weather also makes it the prime place for binge-watching. The Washington Post noted the "most profitable Blockbuster store" in existence is in Fairbanks, where "temperatures can reach 50 below zero."

Payne plans to keep his eight Blockbuster stores (seven of which are in Alaska, with the eighth in Texas) in existence for as long as his employees are willing to stick around. He argued there's a certain magic that's lost when picking out a movie on Netflix. "When you go in the store, walk down the aisle, you're going to see all kinds of things you never thought of," he said.

Read more about the remaining Blockbusters at The Washington Post. Becca Stanek

1:32 p.m. ET
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The House Freedom Caucus announced Wednesday that it is onboard with the latest version of the GOP's American Health Care Act. The convincing factor for the far-right Republican faction, which opposed President Trump's first pass at repealing and replacing ObamaCare, was a new amendment negotiated by centrist Tuesday Group co-chairman Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.).

The MacArthur Amendment enables states to waive the requirements to cover ObamaCare's essential health benefits and to not charge higher premiums to people with preexisting conditions. The amendment was intended as an olive branch of sorts to the Freedom Caucus, which was dissatisfied with what it saw as a moderate first stab at health-care reform.

Freedom Caucus members argued the first iteration of the bill, which they deemed "ObamaCare lite," didn't go far enough to undo former President Barack Obama's signature health-care bill. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) pulled the GOP's bill when it became clear it did not have enough Republican votes to pass. Becca Stanek

1:11 p.m. ET

Your best friend might tell you that your expensive, faux-mud-splattered jeans are "cute," but when it's the hard truth you want, you need to turn to artificial intelligence. Amazon announced Wednesday that is will be releasing the "Echo Look," a camera that will rate your outfits based on data from "machine learning algorithms with advice from fashion specialists."

A part of Amazon's "Echo" line of home assistant gadgets, Echo Look can be asked to take full-length photos of you and can record videos of you turning or walking so you can see how you look from angles that you can't catch by craning your head in the mirror. Echo Look also integrates the app Style Check that will compare two different outfits for you and let you know which is more flattering. Hey, who needs friends anyway?

The Verge adds, "The device appears to be Amazon's way of expanding its fashion retail shop, as it will store your lookbook and recommend outfits that suit your style. From a fashion and lifestyle perspective, the camera could be a way to enter the fitness realm as well — soon, the Echo Look might have an app that could take daily photos of you to compare weight loss progress, for example."

Right now, Echo Look is available by invite only for $199.99. You can request one here. Jeva Lange

12:30 p.m. ET
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The White House is reportedly in the late stages of finalizing an order that would withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement, also known as NAFTA, Politico reports. President Trump vowed to renegotiate the 1994 trade deal on the campaign trail, arguing that NAFTA is "very, very bad for our country," a "job killer," and "the single worst trade deal ever." NAFTA, which was originally signed by President Bill Clinton, allows for the free flow of goods and services between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico without tariffs.

Based on information from two White House insiders, Politico writes that "the approach appears designed to extract better terms with Canada and Mexico." Politico adds: "But once Trump sets the withdrawal process in motion, the prospects for the U.S. pulling out of one of the largest trade deals on the globe become very real."

The draft was reportedly authored by Trump's National Trade Council head, Peter Navarro, who worked with White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon. Jeva Lange

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