Redistricting

Court finds Florida redistricting unfairly favors GOP

July 11, 2014

A Florida judge ruled Thursday that the state's congressional redistricting map favored Republicans and was therefore invalid, a decision that could impact 2014 elections. Leon County Judge Terry P. Lewis wrote in a scathing opinion that the GOP-controlled Legislature had "made a mockery" of the 2012 redistricting process, which was supposed to produce fair districts under state constitutional amendments voters approved in 2010. Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, called the ruling "a great day for democracy."

The Daily Showdown

Jon Stewart isn't impressed with Obama's side trip to Saudi Arabia

7:02am ET

Oddly, the Big Question on late-night comedy on Wednesday was: Why did President Obama cut short his trip to India to visit Saudi Arabia to pay his respects to the family of the late King Abdullah, when he skipped the big solidarity march in Paris, attended by other world leaders? David Letterman sort of shrugged at the question, but Jon Stewart spent a good part of The Daily Show pondering the quandary.

Well, he didn't ponder that much — he went for the obvious explanation: Oil. ("I can't say mad at you," Stewart said with mock doe-eyes after being informed the Saudis are responsible for our low gas prices.) After decrying Saudi Arabia's human rights shortcomings and the corrupting power of oil, though, Stewart did find one concrete example of how America's closest Arab frenemy is "a stabilizing force." —Peter Weber

Formalities

Malaysia declares Flight MH370 an accident, almost a year after disappearance

6:03am ET
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The world is not really any closer to knowing what happened to Malaysia Airline Flight MH370 than when it vanished on March 8, 2014, but on Thursday, Malaysia formally declared the disappearance an accident, with all 239 people on board presumed dead. The declaration is largely meant to clear the way for the airlines to start compensating the next-of-kin of the plane's passengers — a move strongly encouraged by China, the home country of most of the passengers.

Malaysia insisted that it is still investigating the crash and hasn't given up looking for the wreckage. There are four vessels currently searching the Indian Ocean for any trace of the Boeing 777.

Ebola

WHO: New weekly Ebola cases drop below 100, shifting mission from contain to destroy

5:08am ET
John Moore/Getty Images

The global fight against West Africa's Ebola pandemic is entering the cleanup phase, the World Health Organization suggested on Thursday. Last week, only 99 confirmed new Ebola cases were reported worldwide, the first time the number of new infections dipped below 100 since last June, the WHO said. That means, the U.N. agency explained in a statement, that "the response to the EVD (Ebola virus disease) epidemic has now moved to a second phase, as the focus shifts from slowing transmission to ending the epidemic."

The biggest reductions in reported infections and fatalities were in Sierra Leone and especially Liberia, where fewer than a person a day died of Ebola in the 21 days before Jan. 25. Guinea, the third epicenter of the pandemic, saw a slight uptick in cases last week. In all, 22,092 people have been infected with the Ebola virus and 8,810 have died in the pandemic, almost all of them in the three West African nations.

Smart takes

Kristen Schaal mansplains subway 'manspreading' to an uncomfortable Jon Stewart

4:42am ET

New York City's subway authority has recently tried to crack down on "manspreading," or the practice of occupying two seats by spreading your legs apart. But "what seems like a simple question of manners, taking up two seats when you could take up one, has somehow opened a new front in the culture war," Jon Stewart observed on Thursday night's Daily Show. He brought on Senior Women's Issue Correspondent Kristen Schaal to explain why the male backlash against the manspreading crackdown is misguided.

Schaal sides with the men. "The subway is the only place men have left — we have literally driven you underground to find that last inch of ball space," she said, feigning concern. "As a woman who has struggled her entire life to keep her knees together, I am your ally." Things got a little uncomfortable when Schaal insisted on giving a rousing pep talk directly to Stewart's testicles, and when she suggested her new male allies bare "a little ball cleavage" to "show us what you're fighting for." In other words, vintage Schaal. If that's your cup of tea, watch below. —Peter Weber

iLithuania?

This BBC video puts Apple's massive, crazy profits in perspective

3:56am ET

Apple reported incredible quarterly earnings this week, netting $18 billion largely on the back of robust iPhone sales. If you earned $40,000 a year, how long would it take you to earn what Apple did in three months? How many times over could Apple buy Lithuania (iLithuania, anyone)? The BBC tackles these questions and more in the video below, trying to make sense of Apple's recent success. Watch and wonder. —Peter Weber

needs more Hingle McCringleberry

Key & Peele returns with a timely spoof of football player names

2:36am ET

Key & Peele is back with yet another East-West Bowl sketch featuring fictional football players with outrageous names, and it is as over-the-top as ever (Stumptavian Roboclick, Swordless Mimeclown, and Triple Parakeet-Shoes are among the tamer ones). For this third installment, however, we're also treated to cameos from actual players with unique monikers — hey there, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and D'Brickashaw Ferguson — showing that they're pretty good sports off the field, too. —Catherine Garcia

Beauty and the beasts

Watch the latest beauty craze: Live snail facials

2:16am ET

For just $30 (plus airfare to Thailand) you can partake in the future of beauty regimens, now. The treatment features live snails making slime trails across your face — and according to The Associated Press' Denis D. Gray, it's actually pretty relaxing. The live-snail facial started in Tokyo in 2013, and has spread to London and spas in China, but helix aspera muller glycoconjugates — snail mucus — has been used for skin treatments since ancient Greece, Gray says.

The duo who run the spa in Chiang Mai, Thailand, that Gray visited are from France. "We take care of the snails as if they were our family, our babies," says one partner, Luc Champeyroux. "You can see they look very good." And if the thought of having snails crawl on your face, spreading their mucus and grazing with their 14,000 microscopic teeth sounds unpleasant, Gray offers this verdict: "If truth be told, I sort of missed my harmless, sensuous sextet when they were dislodged." To see the snails in action, watch the AP video below. —Peter Weber

on trial

In court, heroin dealer explains what it was like to sell on Silk Road

2:03am ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

On Wednesday, a heroin dealer shared with jurors in a Manhattan federal court what his experience was like selling on Silk Road, the anonymous online marketplace.

Michael Duch, 40, was a witness at the criminal trial of Ross Ulbricht, who allegedly ran Silk Road using the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts. Duch said he first started selling in April 2013 because he needed money for his own $2,000 to $3,000 a week heroin addiction, USA Today reports. He signed up using the name Deezletime, and was soon shipping heroin across the United States.

Duch said he would buy his supply from a street dealer in New Jersey, then double the price and sell it online as "East Coast style heroin," making $345.69 for each brick, or 50 small bags. Because so many customers wanted their packages quickly to avoid becoming "dopesick," he offered same-day shipping, following Silk Road instructions to wrap the product in moisture-barrier packets inside of plain mailing containers. Duch was paid in Bitcoin, the electronic currency used on Silk Road, and most of his money was going to his addiction or back into the business.

While trying to ship 25 packages of heroin at a post office in October 2013, Duch was arrested, the same month Ulbricht was nabbed in San Francisco. He agreed to cooperate with authorities right away, and said during his testimony that the whole thing seemed like a surefire way to make money and keep up his drug habit. "I saw the relative ease that came with it," he said. "There was a perceived level of safety and anonymity. I felt I could get away with it."

Negotiations not love songs

Raul Castro demands the U.S. return Guantanamo Bay before ties restored

1:23am ET
Diego Azubel - Pool/Getty Images

Well, this could complicate the U.S.-Cuban diplomatic thaw: On Wednesday, Cuban President Raúl Castro publicly issued some new demands before the two countries normalize bilateral relations. Among them: Ending the U.S. trade embargo, agreeing to "give back the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base," and paying Cuba hundreds of millions of dollars as "just compensation to our people for the human and economic damage that they're suffered" from the embargo.

Castro's demands, made in a speech at a Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit in Costa Rica, aren't likely to be met — especially the "just compensation" one and the return of Gitmo, which the U.S. has leased from Cuba since 1903.

But that doesn't mean the high-level talks to restore diplomatic and economic ties is doomed, recent U.S. Interests Section chief in Havana John Caulfield tells The Associated Press. In fact, it may signal that Castro is feeling the heat. Cubans have a "huge expectation of change" since Castro and President Obama announced their historic rapprochement plan in December, he said. And "the more the Cubans feel obligated to defend the status quo and to say that's nothing going to change, the more pressure it indicates to me is on them to make these changes."

nature

Extremely rare red fox makes an appearance at Yosemite

12:45am ET

For the first time in a century, the Sierra Nevada red fox was spotted in Yosemite National Park.

The rare animal — there are less than 50 in North America — was photographed by motion-sensitive cameras on Dec. 13 and Jan. 4, and Yosemite officials are now trying to figure out if the same fox was spotted twice. "The chance of running into them is very unusual," park spokeswoman Kari Cobb told the Los Angeles Times.

The red fox is one of 14 mammals protected by the state of California, and since sightings are so rare, not much is known about the animal beyond the fact that it's shy and burrows in soil and logs at 6,000 feet elevation. This is the first time one has been seen at the park since 1915, and Cobb is taking that as a good sign, thinking it might mean they will be able to "make a comeback."

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