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July 18, 2014
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On Thursday, a federal grand jury indicted FedEx, accusing the shipping company of knowingly delivering controlled substances from illegal pharmacies.

"FedEx is accused of conspiring to distribute prescription drugs to people who never met with doctors — a violation of the Controlled Substances Act," NPR's Carrie Johnson said. According to USA Today, the indictment stated that FedEx knew for more than 10 years that these pharmacies used their services, having been warned by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, and members of Congress. The company went ahead and set up special credit policies for the pharmacies so money wouldn’t be lost if the sites were shut down.

The indictment also shared stories from FedEx employees in Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, who told their managers they did not feel safe delivering packages of pills to parking lots, vacant homes, and schools, where carloads of people waited. On several occasions, drivers reported being stopped by people on the side of the road, looking for pills.

In a statement, Patrick Fitzgerald, senior vice president of marketing and communications for FedEx, said, that there was no way the company could know the contents of all 10 million packages that are delivered every day. "We are a transportation company — we are not law enforcement," he said. "We have no interest in violating the privacy of our customers. We continue to stand ready and willing to support and assist law enforcement. We cannot, however, do the job of law enforcement ourselves."

Representatives from FedEx will appear in court July 29. Catherine Garcia

10:17 a.m. ET

57-year-old NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson broke the record for the most spacewalks ever performed by a woman when she ventured out of the International Space Station on Thursday. Whitson, who The Associated Press noted is "the world's oldest and most experienced spacewoman," has now completed eight spacewalks, surpassing former space station resident Sunita Williams' record of 50 hours and 40 minutes of spacewalking time.

Whitson also holds the record for the most time a woman has ever spent in space, as she's now up to more than 500 days away from Earth. Whitson departed for her third space station trip in November to set up a docking port for commercial crew ships being developed by Boeing and SpaceX. She is slated to return in June.

Catch a glimpse of Whitson's Thursday morning spacewalk below. Becca Stanek

10:10 a.m. ET
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Depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability around the world, the World Health Organization announced Thursday. "A better understanding of depression and how it can be treated, while essential, is just the beginning," explained Dr. Shekhar Saxena, who serves as the director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO. "What needs to follow is sustained scale-up of mental health services accessible to everyone, even the most remote populations in the world."

More than 300 million people live with depression, an uptick of more than 18 percent between 2005 and 2015. But worldwide, there is still very little support for mental disorders. On average, governments only spend 3 percent of health budgets on mental health, despite the fact that "every $1 [U.S. dollar] invested in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return of $4 in better health and ability to work," WHO writes. But even in high-income countries, only about half of people suffering from depression get treatment.

Depression is strongly linked to the increased risk of substance abuse as well as diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Hundreds of thousands of people every year additionally commit suicide.

"These new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to re-think their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency that it deserves," said WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan. Jeva Lange

10:07 a.m. ET
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Senate Democrats are weighing whether to filibuster or otherwise make trouble for the confirmation vote of President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. But new NBC News/Survey Monkey poll results released Thursday indicate a majority of Americans would prefer that they didn't.

Only 37 percent of respondents said they would like to see Senate Democrats block the Gorsuch vote, while 54 percent were ready to move ahead to an up-or-down ballot on the SCOTUS candidate. The poll had a 1.7 percent margin of error.

Gorsuch needs 60 votes to take a seat at the court: 52 Senate Republicans plus eight centrist Democrats or independents. While his qualifications for the position are generally not disputed, Democrats are still smarting over Republicans' refusal to allow a vote on President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland. Bonnie Kristian

9:33 a.m. ET
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After "very sensitive" negotiations, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Thursday that Malaysia has agreed to release the body of Kim Jong Nam, the assassinated half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to North Korea. Kim died in February after a woman sprayed him in the face with the banned, lethal VX nerve agent at Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur airport. In exchange for Kim's body, North Korea has agreed to release the nine Malaysian citizens who had been blocked from leaving the country.

Kim's assassination last month, which The Associated Press noted is "widely suspected" to be the work of North Korea, has ratcheted up tensions between North Korea and Malaysia. After the incident at the airport, Malaysia demanded North Korea hand over suspects who were believed to be "hiding in North Korea's embassy in Malaysia," BBC reported. North Korea denied its involvement in the assassination, and called for Malaysia to release Kim's body.

The standoff prompted both countries to remove their ambassadors. After North Korea prevented nine Malaysians from leaving the country, Malaysia responded by barring North Korean citizens from leaving Malaysian soil.

Razak did not say if Kim's body has already left Malaysia. Becca Stanek

9:30 a.m. ET
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Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is expected to announce a 25-year, $6.5 billion contract with AT&T to build a nationwide wireless network for first responders, The Wall Street Journal reports. The project, called FirstNet, was first proposed following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but the Trump administration's deal marks the first major step toward it becoming a reality.

First responders use the same wireless networks that regular people do, meaning police channels can get clogged by heavy usage from civilians. This was a problem during 9/11, and many experts believe it was a major reason why so many first responders died. The proposed wireless broadband network would instead allow police, firefighters, and other officials to have their own space for communications during emergencies.

"Public safety has no priority right now," said Nebraska's Buffalo County sheriff, Neil Miller. "We are just another user. We look the same in the network as everybody else."

But others are critical of FirstNet, including the Fraternal Order of Police, which worries that AT&T will neglect rural areas where there is a more limited use of the network. "AT&T is a reputable company. But they're a reputable company doing what reputable companies do: They're trying to make a profit," said Fraternal Order of Police senior adviser Jim Pasco.

"Do you want to be line item 1? Or line item 4,363?" asked Declan Ganley, the chief of Rivada, an upstart that lost the federal contract to build the network to AT&T. "That's where public safety is for the budgets of these carriers." Jeva Lange

8:26 a.m. ET
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President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday aimed at unraveling former President Barack Obama's climate change policies: "My action today is the latest in steps to grow American jobs," Trump said. But some of America's biggest companies are saying thanks but no thanks — and vowing to stick to environmental pledges made to Obama, Bloomberg Politics reports.

Walmart, for example, has already vowed to get half of its power from renewable energy sources by 2025. "This work is embedded in our business," said Walmart spokesman Kevin Gardner. "[It's] good for the business, our shareholders, and customers; if ultimately we are able to positively impact the environment in the process, that's a win too."

The world's biggest beer company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, pledged Tuesday to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and Mars Inc. wants to eliminate its emissions altogether by 2040, with vice president of corporate affairs Andy Pharoah saying the company is "disappointed the [Trump] administration has decided to roll back climate regulations."

Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Ikea, Levi Strauss & Co., and Best Buy also said they would stick to climate change promises made to the Obama administration. And in a joint statement responding to Trump's executive order, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google's parent company, Alphabet, wrote: "We believe that strong clean energy and climate policies, like the Clean Power Plan, can make renewable energy supplies more robust and address the serious threat of climate change while also supporting American competitiveness, innovation, and job growth."

"Most big companies in the U.S. recognize that climate change is real," Columbia Business School professor Geoffrey M. Heal explained to Bloomberg Politics. "They need to move ahead on the climate change front no matter what Trump's government does." Jeva Lange

8:13 a.m. ET

The Senate Intelligence Committee is holding open hearings Thursday on Russian interference in the U.S. election through technology and disinformation, with a slate of academic and cybersecurity experts scheduled to testify, including former NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander. Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) says the committee has requested interviews with 20 individuals, five of which have been scheduled, but he named only one of the 20, President Trump's son-in-law and top aide Jared Kushner.

The Senate Intelligence Committee — which presented itself Wednesday as the quieter, more responsible older sibling of the House Intelligence Committee — is in talks to interview former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele, who compiled the mostly unverified dossier on Trump's connections with Russian officials, NBC News reported Wednesday, citing "three sources with direct knowledge." But Steele is wary to leave London. He's reportedly worried about his safety and how he will be treated by the Trump administration. The FBI was in talks to pay Steele for information last fall, "sources familiar with the matter" told NBC News, but that fell through.

Other people who have agreed to testify include Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and Roger Stone, but the committee has not yet reached an agreement on when to interview them or the terms, two congressional officials tell NBC News, adding that criminal immunity for talking is not likely on the table.

On Thursday, the Senate Intelligence Committee will explore the various ways Russia tried to influence the U.S. presidential election and is meddling in other elections, too. "There were upwards of 1,000 paid internet trolls working out of a facility in Russia, in effect, taking over series of computers, which is then called a botnet," ranking Democrat Sen. Mark Warner (Va.) said Wednesday. One line of inquiry is whether Russian fake news was served to voters in key states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, he added. "We are in a whole new realm around cyber that provides opportunity for huge, huge threats to our basic democracy." Peter Weber

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