July 29, 2014

A Rossen Reports investigation has found that a number of department stores, including Macy's and JCPenney, are marketing gems filled with lead glass as "real" rubies.

Rossen Reports staffers, along with a professional gemologist, visited Lord & Taylor, Macy's, JCPenney, and Littman Jewelers, purchasing items that contained "rubies." Salespeople at all of the stores told them the rubies were "real," "natural," and "genuine." But when they sent their purchases to two different labs, all of them contained "high contents of lead glass."

One of the purchase rings was essentially "fish tank gravel," Christopher Smith, president of American Gemological Labs, told Today. Smith explained that lead glass includes air bubbles, while natural rubies don't have bubbles. He suggests shoppers have jewelry appraised by a gemologist to avoid being duped.

JCPenney and Lord & Taylor are offering refunds for "dissatisfied customers." Watch Today's report on the ruby investigation below. --Meghan DeMaria

get out your checkbook
8:54 p.m. ET
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The amusement park rides, elephants, and Bubbles are all gone, but Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch, now on the market for $100 million, still has plenty of extras, including a railroad station and tracks, a 50-seat movie theater with a private viewing balcony perfect for dangling your baby over, and a massive clock made of flowers.

The late entertainer purchased the Los Olivos, California, ranch for $19.5 million in 1987. Located 40 miles from Santa Barbara, the estate now has a new name, Sycamore Valley Ranch, and the buyer can moonwalk their way through 22 structures spread out across 2,700 acres. The main house is a 12,000-square-foot Normandy-style behemoth with six bedrooms and staff quarters, situated next to a lake. There are two guest houses on the property — one with four bedrooms, the other with two — as well as a swimming pool and cabana, basketball and tennis courts, barbecue area, and the Neverland Valley Fire Department Building, which sadly no longer employs full-time firefighters.

Jackson super fans who don't have an extra $100 million in the bank to purchase the ranch but still want to see it are out of luck; listing agent Suzanne Perkins of Sotheby's International Realty told The Wall Street Journal that "we're not going to be giving tours," and prospective buyers have to go through an "extensive pre-qualification." Catherine Garcia

7:55 p.m. ET
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A groups of researchers would like to find out if Ecstasy could help adults with autism deal with social anxiety.

The team wrote up a proposed study for Science Direct, stating that MDMA, the medical name for Ecstasy, in controlled doses could ease social anxiety. MDMA has been illegal in the U.S. since the 1980s, and is a popular party drug, with users experiencing euphoric highs. The researchers wrote that MDMA has the capacity to "help people talk openly and honestly about themselves and their relationships, without defensive conditioning intervening," and the team would look at using MDMA as a way to reduce social anxiety in adults with autism, not as a treatment for autism itself, Time reports. Catherine Garcia

6:48 p.m. ET

Researchers who analyzed data on 28 different types of cancer in 188 countries from 1990 to 2013 have found that worldwide, a greater percentage of deaths are now caused by cancer.

The report, conducted by the Global Burden of Disease Cancer Collaboration group and published Thursday in JAMA Oncology, found that between 1990 and 2013, the proportion of deaths caused by cancer rose from 12 to 15 percent, and the years of life lost to cancer increased by 29 percent. In 2013, there were 15 million new cases of cancer, 8 million deaths, and 196 million years of healthy life lost. The leading cause of cancer death for the year was tracheal, bronchus, and lung cancer, which killed 1.6 million people.

From birth to age 79, 1 in 3 men and 1 in 5 women developed cancer, researchers said. By taking a look at the data, they believe they can "guide intervention programs and advance research in cancer determinants and outcomes." Catherine Garcia

5:50 p.m. ET
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Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday for allegedly avoiding a requirement to report large cash withdrawals from banks and lying to the FBI, Bloomberg reports.

Hastert withdrew $952,000 in cash to give an unidentified person $3.5 million as a payoff for covering up "prior misconduct," U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors alleged. Starting in July 2012, the Illinois Republican allegedly withdrew money from the bank in increments less than $10,000 to avoid banks reporting large transactions, as required by law.

He then told the FBI he was keeping the money, Bloomberg reports. Julie Kliegman

court reports
4:59 p.m. ET
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Aurora movie theater gunman James Holmes was mentally ill but legally sane in July 2012 when he killed 12 people, psychiatrist William Reid testified Thursday, The Denver Post reports. He conducted a state-ordered exam on Holmes, from which jurors will watch 22 hours of footage.

"My opinion is that whatever he suffered from, it did not prevent him from forming the intent and knowing what he was doing and the consequences of what he was doing," Reid said.

Reid's statement came unexpectedly, since the district attorney had not asked for his opinion. Judge Carlos Samour Jr. held a bench conference and dismissed the jury for lunch, but afterward ruled there was no mistrial. For prosecutors to prove Holmes' sanity, they need to show he did not have a mental illness that prevented him from telling right from wrong. Julie Kliegman

2016 Watch
3:45 p.m. ET
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A new study from George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management found that, at least by social media standards, Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz are leading the 2016 presidential race. The report looked at how well candidates' campaigns fared by comparing the popularity of candidates' names and websites, as well as what words are shared in conjunction with candidates' names.

Of all declared 2016 presidential hopefuls' websites, Hillary Clinton's campaign website received the most shares, with 4.8 million social media and news mentions. And it wasn't just the number of times her campaign was mentioned that was significant: Clinton's name was frequently shared with words like "champion," "everyday," and "Americans," which the researchers believe demonstrates that people are taking her campaign messages seriously.

Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) campaign website received the second-most number of news and social media mentions, about 2.5 million. By social media posts alone, Clinton's website was shared 173,342 times, versus 85,235 for Cruz's website. The report looked at 10.3 million mentions of 2016 candidates' campaigns from March 15 to May 15.

On the losing end of the study, meanwhile, were Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), whose social media mentions most often had negative word associations. Read more on the report's candidate rankings over at Politico. Meghan DeMaria

3:42 p.m. ET
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Street artist Shepard Fairey, who designed the iconic "Hope" poster for President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign, told Esquire he doesn't have much, well, hope for Obama anymore.

When asked if the president has lived up to his iconic poster, he replied "Not even close." Fairey continued:

Obama has had a really tough time, but there have been a lot of things that he's compromised on that I never would have expected. I mean, drones and domestic spying are the last things I would have thought [he'd support]. I've met Obama a few times, and I think Obama's a quality human being, but I think that he finds himself in a position where your actions are largely dictated by things out of your control. I'm not giving him a pass for not being more courageous, but I do think the entire system needs an overhaul and taking money out of politics would be a really good first step. [Esquire]

Fairey also said fault lies with the American public, which he called "uneducated and complacent." Check out the entire interview here. Julie Kliegman

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