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July 23, 2014
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On Tuesday, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted, 6-4, to propose a tax on soft drinks, energy drinks, and other high-calorie beverages on the November ballot. This fall, then, San Francisco voters will decide whether to tax their sugary drinks at two cents an ounce, with the money going toward health and exercise programs for teens and children. The measure will only pass if two-thirds of voters approve it.

City lawmakers say they are proposing the soda tax because sugar consumption has been tied to rising obesity and diabetes rates, especially among black and Latino youths. At NBC Bay Area, Sam Brock and Kinsey Kiriakos argue that tying the tax to calories, not fluid ounces, would be more likely to cut sugar consumption and improve public health.

The American Beverage Association is already gearing up for a big fight. If San Francisco — or Berkeley, whose voters will consider a similar penny-an-ounce tax — approves the measure, it will be the nation's first soft drink tax based on public health concerns. Peter Weber

3:45 p.m. ET
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Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington was found dead Thursday morning at a private residence in Palos Verdes Estates, a suburb of Los Angeles. He was 41. TMZ reported Bennington's death was a suicide, but the case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

Bennington was married and had six children. During his more than two decades in the music industry, he also fronted for Stone Temple Pilots.

Variety noted Bennington was a close friend of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, who committed suicide in May. Thursday would have been Cornell's 53rd birthday.

"Shocked and heartbroken, but it's true," Bennington's Linkin Park bandmate Mike Shinoda tweeted. "An official statement will come out as soon as we have one." Becca Stanek

3:21 p.m. ET
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Cows have given humanity cheese, steak, and milk, and now the bovine species might help scientists develop a vaccine against HIV. A study published Thursday in the journal Nature explained that while cows can't contract HIV, they can produce antibodies to block infections like HIV, providing scientists a long sought-after opportunity to better understand how the immune system develops such antibodies.

One of the biggest conundrums for researchers working to develop an HIV vaccine is figuring out why people with HIV do not produce enough effective antibodies to battle the virus. Cows, scientists discovered after injecting four calves with HIV immunogens, produce powerful antibodies against HIV — and rapidly. Researchers were then able to isolate antibodies from the cows to study individual antibodies' effectiveness against HIV and investigate how they could trigger the production of such antibodies in the human body.

"As a scientist, this is really exciting," said study author Devin Sok. "To put it into perspective, the first broadly neutralizing antibodies were discovered in the 1990s. Since then, we've been trying to elicit these antibodies through immunization, and we've never been able to do it until now, until we have immunized a cow. This has given some information for how to do it so that hopefully we can apply that to humans."

John Mascola, director of vaccine research at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted the study isn't a straight shot toward developing the vaccine for HIV. However, he said, "it does tell us how the virus evades the human immune response" — which is certainly a step in the right direction. Becca Stanek

3:13 p.m. ET
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O.J. Simpson was granted parole Thursday. After a brief hearing, the Nevada Board of Parole commissioners voted unanimously in favor of Simpson's release, which could happen as soon as Oct. 1.

The 70-year-old former football star has served almost nine years of a 33-year sentence, the minimum requirement, for charges of kidnapping and armed robbery stemming from a 2007 confrontation with two sports memorabilia collectors. Simpson and five other men confronted the collectors at a Nevada hotel room.

Simpson said during his parole hearing that he did not know the men he was with were armed and that he regretted that "things turned out the way they did." "I had no intention to commit a crime," Simpson said, insisting that he's "spent a conflict-free life" and is a "good guy" who has had "problems with fidelity."

Simpson was granted parole based on his age and his compliance with prison rules. In 1995, Simpson was acquitted for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Becca Stanek

2:09 p.m. ET

At his parole hearing Thursday, O.J. Simpson made the case for why he's a "good guy" who has just had some "problems with fidelity." The 70-year-old former football star has served nearly nine years of a 33-year sentence for kidnapping and armed robbery, stemming from an incident in which Simpson and five other men confronted two sports memorabilia collectors to allegedly reclaim stolen heirlooms. The incident happened in 2007, more than a decade after Simpson was acquitted in 1995 for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

Simpson insisted during his hearing before the Nevada Board of Parole that he did not know that the men he was with were armed. He also claimed that "nobody's ever accused me of pulling any weapon on them." "I've always thought I've been pretty good with people. I basically have spent a conflict-free life," Simpson said, describing himself as a guy "that pretty much got along with everybody."

Catch a snippet of Simpson's statement below. Becca Stanek

1:11 p.m. ET

President Trump's explanation of health insurance in a recent interview with The New York Times raised some questions about his basic understanding of how health insurance functions. Here's Trump on why "pre-existing conditions are a tough deal":

Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you're 21 years old, you start working and you're paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you're 70, you get a nice plan. Here's something where you walk up and say, "I want my insurance." [President Trump, via The New York Times]

The Washington Post took a whack at what Trump was trying to say:

Trump is arguing, it seems, that an insurance system is supposed to be based on people paying in over a lengthy period of time so that, when they need coverage, they've already helped offset the costs. He thinks of it, in other words, a bit like life insurance, or Social Security.

His point, it appears, is that a system where people suddenly have the need for new coverage or coverage that's expensive from the outset "was not supposed to be the way insurance works." That's not really true, of course; for someone born with a heart condition, for example, there was no halcyon period in their 20s when they could pay into the system without needing more back in coverage.

That's how health insurance differs from life insurance. Instead of one person paying against his own future needs, it's a pool of people paying in against their collective future needs. [The Washington Post]

This, coming from the man who claimed senators "couldn't believe" how much he knows about health care. Becca Stanek

12:31 p.m. ET

After being diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) vowed Thursday morning on Twitter that he would "be back soon" to his Senate duties in Washington, "unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress." McCain, 80, was diagnosed with a type of tumor known as a glioblastoma after a surgery last week, his office announced Wednesday.

But in addition to his feisty Thursday morning tweet, McCain is hardly slouching on the job while he recovers from the operation — he also issued an official statement Thursday morning regarding President Trump's reported decision to end a CIA program that covertly arms moderate rebels in Syria. That relentless energy is why CNN commentator and former McCain staffer Ana Navarro has faith in McCain's recovery fight, she said on CNN on Thursday morning. "I know that if there's one word that he stands for, it's 'fight,'" Navarro said. "That guy has never given up in his life."

"I have never heard John McCain complain once," Navarro continued. "He is so much more than Sen. McCain. He is a friend, he is a mentor, he is a buddy, he is an adviser, he's a confidante. He's a critiquer — he's honest, he's blunt. He will open doors for you, and he will tell you when you're making mistakes."

Watch Navarro share her touching thoughts on her former boss below. Kimberly Alters

11:19 a.m. ET

Japan's first lady Akie Abe's silence at a recent G-20 summit dinner has left President Trump convinced that she can't speak English. In an interview with The New York Times published Wednesday night, Trump said he found Abe to be a "terrific woman," but noted the fact that she "doesn't speak English" made it "hard" to sit next to her at the dinner that lasted nearly two hours.

"Like, nothing, right? Like zero?" The New York Times' Maggie Haberman clarified. "Like, not 'hello,'" Trump said.

But this keynote address Abe gave in 2014 suggests not only can she say hello in English — she can deliver an entire speech:

Perhaps Abe just wanted to avoid nearly two hours of dinnertime conversation with Trump? Becca Stanek

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