The backlash continues
June 3, 2014
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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday assailed the Obama administration's decision to swap five Taliban prisoners for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, calling the move "ill-fated" and "a mistake." Given McCain's past — he was a POW for five years during the Vietnam War before being freed in a mass detainee exchange — his remark carried an added heft and, to some, more than a hint of hypocrisy.

McCain said earlier in the week that he was leery of the deal, though he did not condemn it in such striking terms. Jon Terbush

9:40 p.m. ET

Temperatures are rising in Boston, but it's not enough to melt the piles of snow that still dot the landscape.

The piles are filled with garbage and debris picked up by snow plows during the city's record-setting storms this winter and spring, and even with the sun beating down on them now, the piles aren't close to fully melting away. A pile in the Seaport District that was once 75 feet tall is now a mere three stories, with a hodgepodge of junk encapsulated inside the ice. "It's vile," Michael Dennehy, commissioner of the city's Department of Public Works, told The Boston Globe. "We're finding crazy stuff; bicycles, orange cones that people used as space savers. The funniest thing they found was half of a $5 bill. They're looking for the other half still."

Dennehy said crews capture the trash as it slowly breaks free from the mound, and so far they have removed 85 tons of debris. To lighten the mood, workers started a pool to guess when the pile might finally be gone for good, a game Dennehy knows he didn't win. "I said by May 30, but that's this weekend," he said. "It's still weeks away from melting." Catherine Garcia

get out your checkbook
8:54 p.m. ET
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The amusement park rides, elephants, and Bubbles are all gone, but Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch, now on the market for $100 million, still has plenty of extras, including a railroad station and tracks, a 50-seat movie theater with a private viewing balcony perfect for dangling your baby over, and a massive clock made of flowers.

The late entertainer purchased the Los Olivos, California, ranch for $19.5 million in 1987. Located 40 miles from Santa Barbara, the estate now has a new name, Sycamore Valley Ranch, and the buyer can moonwalk their way through 22 structures spread out across 2,700 acres. The main house is a 12,000-square-foot Normandy-style behemoth with six bedrooms and staff quarters, situated next to a lake. There are two guest houses on the property — one with four bedrooms, the other with two — as well as a swimming pool and cabana, basketball and tennis courts, barbecue area, and the Neverland Valley Fire Department Building, which sadly no longer employs full-time firefighters.

Jackson super fans who don't have an extra $100 million in the bank to purchase the ranch but still want to see it are out of luck; listing agent Suzanne Perkins of Sotheby's International Realty told The Wall Street Journal that "we're not going to be giving tours," and prospective buyers have to go through an "extensive pre-qualification." Catherine Garcia

7:55 p.m. ET
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A groups of researchers would like to find out if Ecstasy could help adults with autism deal with social anxiety.

The team wrote up a proposed study for Science Direct, stating that MDMA, the medical name for Ecstasy, in controlled doses could ease social anxiety. MDMA has been illegal in the U.S. since the 1980s, and is a popular party drug, with users experiencing euphoric highs. The researchers wrote that MDMA has the capacity to "help people talk openly and honestly about themselves and their relationships, without defensive conditioning intervening," and the team would look at using MDMA as a way to reduce social anxiety in adults with autism, not as a treatment for autism itself, Time reports. Catherine Garcia

6:48 p.m. ET

Researchers who analyzed data on 28 different types of cancer in 188 countries from 1990 to 2013 have found that worldwide, a greater percentage of deaths are now caused by cancer.

The report, conducted by the Global Burden of Disease Cancer Collaboration group and published Thursday in JAMA Oncology, found that between 1990 and 2013, the proportion of deaths caused by cancer rose from 12 to 15 percent, and the years of life lost to cancer increased by 29 percent. In 2013, there were 15 million new cases of cancer, 8 million deaths, and 196 million years of healthy life lost. The leading cause of cancer death for the year was tracheal, bronchus, and lung cancer, which killed 1.6 million people.

From birth to age 79, 1 in 3 men and 1 in 5 women developed cancer, researchers said. By taking a look at the data, they believe they can "guide intervention programs and advance research in cancer determinants and outcomes." Catherine Garcia

5:50 p.m. ET
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Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday for allegedly avoiding a requirement to report large cash withdrawals from banks and lying to the FBI, Bloomberg reports.

Hastert withdrew $952,000 in cash to give an unidentified person $3.5 million as a payoff for covering up "prior misconduct," U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors alleged. Starting in July 2012, the Illinois Republican allegedly withdrew money from the bank in increments less than $10,000 to avoid banks reporting large transactions, as required by law.

He then told the FBI he was keeping the money, Bloomberg reports. Julie Kliegman

court reports
4:59 p.m. ET
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Aurora movie theater gunman James Holmes was mentally ill but legally sane in July 2012 when he killed 12 people, psychiatrist William Reid testified Thursday, The Denver Post reports. He conducted a state-ordered exam on Holmes, from which jurors will watch 22 hours of footage.

"My opinion is that whatever he suffered from, it did not prevent him from forming the intent and knowing what he was doing and the consequences of what he was doing," Reid said.

Reid's statement came unexpectedly, since the district attorney had not asked for his opinion. Judge Carlos Samour Jr. held a bench conference and dismissed the jury for lunch, but afterward ruled there was no mistrial. For prosecutors to prove Holmes' sanity, they need to show he did not have a mental illness that prevented him from telling right from wrong. Julie Kliegman

2016 Watch
3:45 p.m. ET
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A new study from George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management found that, at least by social media standards, Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz are leading the 2016 presidential race. The report looked at how well candidates' campaigns fared by comparing the popularity of candidates' names and websites, as well as what words are shared in conjunction with candidates' names.

Of all declared 2016 presidential hopefuls' websites, Hillary Clinton's campaign website received the most shares, with 4.8 million social media and news mentions. And it wasn't just the number of times her campaign was mentioned that was significant: Clinton's name was frequently shared with words like "champion," "everyday," and "Americans," which the researchers believe demonstrates that people are taking her campaign messages seriously.

Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) campaign website received the second-most number of news and social media mentions, about 2.5 million. By social media posts alone, Clinton's website was shared 173,342 times, versus 85,235 for Cruz's website. The report looked at 10.3 million mentions of 2016 candidates' campaigns from March 15 to May 15.

On the losing end of the study, meanwhile, were Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), whose social media mentions most often had negative word associations. Read more on the report's candidate rankings over at Politico. Meghan DeMaria

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