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June 16, 2014

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is not just one of the smartest people on Earth; he's also very funny. On Sunday night's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver traveled to Cambridge to interview Hawking, the first chat in his "People Who Think Good" series. They discuss the danger of robots, Charlize Theron, alternate universes, drug deals, and the tenuous future of humanity, among other things. Hawking is at least as funny as Oliver, probably funnier, showing a quick wit (and quick typing skills).

It's not all laughs, though. When Oliver asked Hawking the one thing about his research he'd like people to understand, Hawking answered: "Imaginary time. People think it's something you have in dreams, or when you're up against a deadline. But it's a well-defined concept. Imaginary time is like another direction in space." This is the one part of Hawking's work that science fiction writers haven't used, he said, "because they don't understand it." They're not alone. --Peter Weber

What's in a name? That which we call a Birkin.
11:57 a.m. ET

The Birkin bag, made by high-fashion brand Hermès and long a celebrity staple, may have to find a new name to carry its clout.

Jane Birkin, the British singer and inspiration behind the handbag, told AFP in a statement that after learning of the "cruel" methods used to make the crocodile version of the status symbol, she wants her name back.

"I have asked Hermes to debaptise the Birkin Croco until better practices in line with international norms can be put in place," Birkin said.

Animal rights group PETA recently reported on how the bags are made — alleging that it takes up to three crocodiles to make just one Birkin Croco and that the animals are often conscious as they are "crudely hacked" for their skin. Sarah Eberspacher

trump mania
11:30 a.m. ET

The one criticism you can make of The Daily Beast's big story this week about Donald Trump — in which the site reported that Trump's ex-wife, Ivana, once accused The Donald of "rape" in a legal deposition — is that it takes Trump's candidacy too seriously, putting him in a category of candidates who actually have to be vetted. But there's no denying the fact that he's leading the GOP primary polls, which means his past life is fair game.

So it has been downright bizarre to see the story dismissed in some very high-profile quarters of the media, with outlets as diverse as Fox News and MSNBC expressing deep skepticism about whether the substance of the story is even relevant. Megyn Kelly at Fox News, for example, grilled reporter Tim Mak on just that question, noting that the story, which she said read like a "hit piece," is decades old. She also asserted that "divorce proceedings are notoriously ugly."

Not to be outdone, the hosts of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, all but kicked Mak off their set on Wednesday morning. "Okay, you guys let me know when you uncover something new," Brzezinski huffed. A panelist said the report was "arcane." In the most surreal bit, Scarborough went off on a tangent about how reports like this keep "successful" people with "colorful lives" from running for office. "They know that a nasty thing that an ex-wife said in a moment of anger 20, 25 years ago will be dug up, brought out, put into articles, and it reads horribly," he said.

Of course it reads horribly — the allegation is horrible. And of course it's relevant that a leading presidential candidate was accused of rape, no matter how long ago the accusation was made, no matter who made the accusation, and no matter if the accusation was withdrawn. But it seems we've entered a new phase of the Donald Trump circus, in which even mainstream media outlets have been drawn into his funhouse mirror reality. Ryu Spaeth

FIFA Under Fire
11:17 a.m. ET
Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

The FIFA scandal is going down in history as a classic case of organized crime. So classic, in fact, that the Mob Museum in Las Vegas — which is home to artifacts like Bugsy Siegel's glasses, John Gotti's suit, and a "St. Valentine's Day Massacre Wall" — is installing a permanent display on FIFA that will include a "breakdown of the kickbacks, secrecy, and match-fixing associated with the scandal."

“This exhibit is ripped right from today's headlines about the globe's most popular sport," The Mob Museum's Executive Director Jonathan Ullman said in a press release, referring to the scandal that rocked soccer's governing body after the U.S. indicted several top FIFA officials on corruption charges in May. "To our growing number of visitors from places like the United Kingdom, Mexico, Brazil, and Italy, the FIFA scandal provides an especially resonant example of the different shapes organized crime can take."

"The 'Beautiful Game' Turns Ugly" exhibit will open on September 1. Jeva Lange

11:16 a.m. ET
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

One day after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell upheld New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's four-game suspension for his role in the "Deflategate” scandal, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick gave a rather icy press conference during which Kraft made clear that he was displeased with Goodell's decision. It's no surprise Kraft would disagree with the league's suspension of his franchise player — but could the decision spell the end of Roger Goodell's commissionership?

Kraft's ire is likely drawn from the fact that he decided to accept the original punishment Goodell levied against the Patriots in May, which cost the team $1 million in fines and two future draft picks. (Brady's appeal of his own suspension was a separate effort initiated through the NFL Players Association.) Some thought Kraft's concession to the league would pave the way for a downgrade in Brady's post-appeal suspension — especially because Kraft and Goodell have long been friends — but that didn't turn out to be the case.

Now, Brady will likely file a federal suit against the NFL, which could spell disaster for Goodell by forcing him to air dirty laundry in court, The Daily Beast reports. Explaining his seemingly arbitrary punishments — two games for knocking a woman unconscious in an elevator, three games for driving a car under the influence and crashing into a pole, four games for maybe ordering up deflated footballs — could tie Goodell in knots in front of a judge. Under league policy, Kraft would have to convince 23 other team owners besides himself to vote Goodell guilty of actions "detrimental to the best interests of the league" in order to oust him — but with a federal lawsuit from Brady on the horizon, and with Kraft alienated as his biggest supporter, it's safe to say Deflategate will continue to haunt Goodell for months to come. Kimberly Alters

Gone to pot
10:54 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Colorado's marijuana dispensaries will be packing up shop if Chris Christie were elected president, the New Jersey governor promised at a New Hampshire town hall meeting on Tuesday.

"If you're getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it," Christie said. "As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws." The recreational use of marijuana is currently legal in Colorado, Washington, D.C., Oregon, Alaska, and Washington state, but, under a Christie presidency, federal laws that criminalize marijuana would be enforced, he says.

Christie is staunchly opposed to marijuana, which he believes "alters the brain and serves as a so-called gateway to the use of harder drugs," Bloomberg reports. In his opinion, if marijuana is going to be legalized, it should be changed at the national level, rather than perpetuating "lawlessness" by allowing elected officials to pick and choose which federal statutes they abide by.

Christie's opinions on pot don't exactly fall in line with that of most Americans, however. A majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, with 53 percent in favor and 44 percent opposed, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center found. Moreover, marijuana legalization is dominating the national conversation in ways that might make Christie want to reconsider his stance. At this point in the presidential elections, as The Week previously reported, marijuana is "more popular than any presidential candidate in national match-up polls," and over 20 marijuana ballot initiatives are already slated for 2016. Becca Stanek

A for Effort
10:10 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

We all know the Republican presidential field is really, really crowded. That's why Fox News long ago announced that in the first primetime GOP presidential debate, which will be held at 9 p.m. on August 6, it would only make room onstage for the top 10 Republicans, according to the five latest national polls. That leaves also-rans like Lindsey Graham and Carly Fiorina, who are polling above 1 percent, but outside of the top 10, to settle for a secondary consolation-prize debate to be held at 5 p.m., in the shadow of the main attraction. It's all a little sad, with the early event serving almost as a band-aid for wounded pride. And the media knows it. Here are 12 ways they're referring to the debate for weak-polling Republicans. Jeva Lange

Politico: "Undercard"

Majority Report: "The loser debate"

Newser: "The 'consolation prize' debate"

CBS: "The second-tier debate"

International Business Times: "The lower-tier debate"

The Hill: "The lower-profile debate"

Hot Air: "The kids' table"

WND: "The 5 p.m. show"

Huffington Post: "Another event"

Conservative Daily News: "The 'also-ran' stage"

Gambit: "The pre-show"

CNN: "An appetizer before the main event"

Coming Soon
9:39 a.m. ET

With movies like Bad Boys, Armageddon, and the Transformers series, Michael Bay has spent decades cultivating a reputation for using a sledgehammer when a gentle tap would do. But Hollywood's blockbuster-iest director is going smaller and more human-sized for his next movie, 13 Hours, which offers a dramatized version of the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya in 2012:

Bay has definitely toned down his usual excesses for his take on the still-controversial story, which avoids being overtly political by focusing on the U.S. soldiers who defended the embassy from the Islamic militants who attacked it. "When everything went wrong, six men had the courage to do what was right," says the trailer, amid footage of the carnage at the embassy.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi hits theaters in January. Scott Meslow

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