2014 Watch
June 3, 2014
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The Tea Party has so far been unsuccessful in its attempts to pick off entrenched GOPers via primary campaigns this election cycle. That may all change Tuesday in Mississippi, where a strong challenger could knock off a sitting senator — and in doing so draw Democrats an easier route to maintaining their Senate edge.

The Tea Party vs. Establishment dichotomy is a bit reductive, but it fits the fight between state Sen. Chris McDaniel — endorsed by Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum, among others — and incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran. And unlike other upstart challengers, McDaniel has a decent chance to win; scarce polling on the race shows him running even with Cochran.

Though presumed Democratic candidate Travis Childers is a long shot to win regardless of who secures the GOP nomination, he'd certainly fare better against the more volatile, lesser-known McDaniel. In a best-case scenario for Democrats, McDaniel tanks his own campaign by turning into another Richard Mourdock, the former Indiana GOP Senate candidate who won the party primary, then bombed in the general election after saying pregnancies resulting from rape were "something that God intended to happen."

Is a repeat of that scenario unlikely? Absolutely. But Democrats would still rather see the Tea Party emerge victorious Tuesday, if only to make one more Senate race a little more winnable for them come November. Jon Terbush

So sue me
2:32 p.m. ET
Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for ESPN

ESPN on Monday filed suit against Verizon, alleging the communications giant violated its contract with the network by offering customers smaller, categorized subscription packages.

"We simply ask that Verizon abide by the terms of our contracts," ESPN said in a statement.

In a bid to lure cord-cutters and others interested in cheaper cable deals, Verizon debuted custom subscription plans this month that allow customers to purchase channels in genre-specific tiers, such as sports, entertainment, and kids. "Consumers have spoken loud and clear that they want choice, and the industry should be focused on giving consumers what they want," a Verizon spokesperson said in response to the suit, adding the company was "well within our rights under our agreements." Jon Terbush

2016 Watch
1:53 p.m. ET
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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) insists she is not running for president — but that doesn't mean she has no impact on the race.

Simply by remaining a vocal, visible progressive on major issues — Wall Street influence, international trade, student loan debt — Warren can shape the presidential debate from the outside. At least that's what Warren's camp is hoping, with one adviser telling The New Yorker Warren can "get [Clinton] on record and hold her feet to the fire."

"I think she's in a beautiful position right now," the adviser told the magazine, "because she can get Hillary to do whatever the hell she wants."

Check out the entire profile here. Jon Terbush

The future is here
1:17 p.m. ET
Julian Stratenschulte/dpa/Corbis

Google has released its first-ever trend report, offering its insight into which fashion trends are on the way out and which are here to stay.

The report looks at how often certain clothing styles are Googled to predict how popular they'll be that season. Not all searches are created equal, though: Google differentiates between "sustained growth" trends, such as jogger pants, which saw significant search increase in the past year, versus "seasonal growth" and "rising stars," which only have "fleeting" search popularity. Examples in the latter category include kale sweatshirts, which are already on their way out.

Google's report is a lot more powerful than just influencing your next Instagram post, too. The New York Times reports that Google executives can share trend information with fast-fashion retailers to help them determine what products customers want.

Even if you're not into fashion, the Google report has one tidbit everyone can take joy in: "Normcore" and "'90s jeans" are on the decline. Meghan DeMaria

This doesn't look good
12:32 p.m. ET
iStock

If there's a sudden increase in the cost of your prescription medication, behind-the-scenes deals could be the culprit.

A new investigation from The Wall Street Journal found that when drug companies see prescription drugs as "undervalued," they buy them out, only to drastically increase the prices. The investigation found increased costs whether or not the products were improved after the buyouts.

The Journal cites Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc.'s recent purchase of two heart medications as an example. The same day Valeant bought the drugs, their list prices increased by 525 percent and 212 percent, though nothing about the prescriptions had been changed.

It's easy to see why companies rack up the prices — they can increase their bottom line without spending money on research into new medicines. According to the Journal, name-brand drug prices have increased by 127 percent since 2008. Company spokespeople told the Journal that higher drug prices create funding for medical research, though doctors expressed frustration at the trend. Read the full report over at The Wall Street Journal. Meghan DeMaria

Let's not drink to that
12:14 p.m. ET
Global Health Data Exchange

The folks at the Global Health Data Exchange have all kinds of interesting maps. Here's one on general alcohol consumption of any kind. Red = relatively more drinkers, blue = relatively fewer:

Most people know Mormons are supposed to be teetotalers, so the fact that Utah doesn't drink much isn't surprising. But check out that blue zone in and around West Virginia! And while this is just measuring any sort of drinking, West Virginia also has a relatively low prevalence of binge drinking.

So contrary to the backwoods moonshine stereotype, it turns out that Appalachia tends to avoid drinking almost as much as Zion. Make sure to check out the interactive map here. Ryan Cooper

strong words
11:50 a.m. ET
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The debate over Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine that was attacked by terrorists in January, re-entered the spotlight today, after six prominent authors announced that they would not attend the Pen American Center's annual gala in May because the magazine would be awarded the foundation's Freedom of Expression Courage Award. The authors — who include Michael Ondaatje, Teju Cole, and Rachel Kushner — are reportedly uncomfortable with celebrating a magazine that is best known for its attacks on Islam.

The controversy has spread beyond the rarefied air of the literary award circuit to reignite debates about freedom of expression and religious tolerance. A polite example of this back-and-forth can be found at The Intercept, which has published a letter to PEN by the writer Deborah Eisenberg questioning the award, and a response by PEN Executive Director Suzanne Nossel defending it.

But others have been less civil, most prominently Salman Rushdie, who was famously the subject of an Iranian fatwa calling for his death. He asserted on Twitter that the objecting writers are "six pussies."

He later told The New York Times, "If PEN as a free speech organization can't defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name. What I would say to both Peter [Carey] and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them." Ryu Spaeth

This just in
11:35 a.m. ET
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Attorney General Loretta Lynch was sworn into office Monday, making her the first African-American woman ever to hold the Justice Department's top job.

"I am honored beyond words to step into this larger role today," Lynch said.

President Obama nominated Lynch in November to succeed Eric Holder, who announced last year he would step down after a six-year tenure. A longtime federal prosecutor, Lynch then had to wait months for a confirmation vote as the Senate stalled over an unrelated human trafficking bill. Last week, the Senate finally voted 56-43 to confirm Lynch. Jon Terbush

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