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July 7, 2014
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Target Field was already one of the best ballparks in baseball, and it just got even better — assuming you love beer and hate social interaction.

The home field of the Minnesota Twins, which will host this year's All-Star Game, debuted a new self-serve beer machine on Sunday. Patrons who want to get drunk will still need to speak with another human being to prove they are of legal drinking age. But after that, they're free to choose from among four AB InBev offerings and pour up to 48 ounces of brew every 15 minutes, at least until the seventh inning.

Target Field will reportedly have a second self-pouring beer machine installed before the All-Star Game.

I, for one, welcome our new beer robot overlords. Jon Terbush

3:18 p.m. ET
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China is easing the government's 2,000-year-old monopoly on table salt by letting producers set prices and sell directly to the market. The monopoly has supported Chinese rulers from the Han dynasty to the Communist Party, even helping to pay for the construction of the Great Wall, The Financial Times reports.

Beginning this year, salt producers will have the freedom to set their prices based on normal market factors like cost, quality, supply, and demand — though the country's top economic planning agency still encourages state officials to keep those prices somewhat stable by tapping a "strategic reserve." The salt producers will also be able to sell without going through government-owned distribution companies, which used to absorb most of the industry's profits.

Nonetheless, most Chinese salt producers still work for the Chinese government, which has also said it will not grant any new licenses into the market until the end of 2018. The Week Staff

2:58 p.m. ET

At his final press conference Wednesday, President Obama defended his decision to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks. "I feel very comfortable justice has been served," Obama said. He noted that Manning has already served "a tough prison sentence" lasting seven years, proving to other possible leakers that the crime does not "go unpunished."

Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison, a term Obama said was "disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received." She will now be released in May 2017, instead of in 2045.

Watch Obama defend his decision below. Becca Stanek

2:57 p.m. ET

President Obama began his last press conference as president Wednesday by thanking the reporters who assembled week after week to pepper him with questions. "Some of you have been covering me for a long time," Obama said. "I have enjoyed working with all of you. That does not of course mean that I have enjoyed every story that you have filed, but that's the point of this relationship. You're not supposed to be sycophants, you're supposed to be skeptics, you're supposed to ask me tough questions. You're not supposed to be complimentary."

Hmm, wonder what inspired that? Watch Obama's full appreciation of the press — including a great quip about that suit — below. Kimberly Alters

2:19 p.m. ET

What does the Confederate flag have to do with health care? Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) thinks there's a connection, as he brought up during Rep. Tom Price's (R-Ga.) Senate confirmation hearing for secretary of health and human services Wednesday.

"When you were a member of the Georgia legislature, you fought pretty hard to keep the Confederate battle flag as part of the Georgia state flag," Kaine began. "And you sponsored resolutions to make April 'Confederate History Heritage Month' in Georgia, 'urging schools to commemorate the time of Southern independence' … I read the resolution with interest because of the phrase 'commemorate the time of Southern independence,' and I pulled it up, and I note that the resolution that commemorated the time of Southern independence mentions nothing about slavery."

After Price responded, Kaine made the connection: "You're aware that there's an office of minority health at HHS that was created in the Affordable Care Act … If the ACA is repealed, unless it's separately reauthorized, that office would also expire." Price assured the committee that all Americans will be protected:

Republican Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) also raised concerns about the coverage of minority communities. "South Carolina, like Georgia, has a high percentage of African-Americans. As you probably know, breast cancer deaths are approximately one and a half times higher in African-American women. Prostate cancer deaths are approximately two and a half times higher in African-American men, and new diagnoses are approximately twice as high. I would love to hear your perspective on addressing some of the health disparities in communities of color specifically," Scott said. Price's answer to that is below. Jeva Lange

2:12 p.m. ET

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Wednesday that 2016 is officially the hottest year on record. That makes the third consecutive year that the previous record temperatures were surpassed; 2014 and 2015 were also declared the hottest years on record upon their conclusion.

The average surface temperatures recorded in 2016 were 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than 2015's temperatures, The Washington Post reported, and each month from January through August was successively the warmest on record.

NASA and the NOAA are the nation's leading scientific agencies. On Wednesday, Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump's choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he does not believe climate change is a hoax after Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) asked him about NASA and the NOAA's announcement. Kimberly Alters

1:43 p.m. ET

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) went into the hearing for President-elect Donald Trump's health and human services nominee Wednesday with guns ablazing.

Throughout the hearing, Democrats raised a fuss about the fact that Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) bought between $1,001 and $15,000 worth of shares in medical device manufacturer Zimmer Biomet Holdings Inc. last March, CNN reported, and then just days later introduced legislation that would have stalled a regulation that could have hurt the company. Warren seized on that point: "I'm not asking you about what you supported, I'm just asking: Did you buy the stock and then did you introduce a bill that would be helpful to the companies you just bought stock in?"

"The stock was bought by a broker who was making those decisions, I wasn't making those decisions," Price explained.

After a short back and forth, Warren sought to clarify: "Let's just be clear … This is someone who buys stock at your direction. This is someone who buys and sells the stock you want them to buy and sell."

"That's not true, senator," Price said.

"Well, because you decide not to tell them?" Warren fired back. "Wink wink, nod nod? And we're all just supposed to believe that?"

Warren even got into a short spat with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the committee chairman, when he tried to tell her that her time was up. Watch the exchange below. Jeva Lange

1:26 p.m. ET

Former President George H.W. Bush will not be attending Donald Trump's inauguration this Friday, but not for the same reasons some other politicians are skipping the event. In fact, Bush sent a warm letter to the president-elect last week apologizing for his absence:

On top of his existing conditions, Bush was hospitalized early Wednesday morning for "shortness of breath" and is currently being monitored "for precaution." Local media reports indicate he will be able to leave Houston Methodist Hospital in a few days — but skipping an event that requires sitting outside for several hours in the rain and cold expected Friday in Washington, D.C., is still probably a good move for the 92-year-old, wheelchair-bound Bush.

Nonetheless, Bush emphasized his support for the "honorable" president-elect: "I want you to know that I wish you the very best as you begin this incredible journey of leading our great country," he wrote. Kelly Gonsalves

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