2016 bummer games
May 19, 2014
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A new report from The New York Times describes the water in Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay as one of the most vile places on earth. That's particularly bad, since in two years, the body of water is supposed to play host to the sailing and windsurfing events of the 2016 Summer Olympics. But with reports of floating dog carcasses, sewage contamination, and piles of trash contaminating the water, athletes are becoming increasingly skeptical that this mess of sewage will be a safe environment come 2016.

Several problems, including allegations of corruption and mismanagement, have derailed the bay's cleanup projects since the country pledged to get the water in top shape five years ago. Officials said 80 percent of the water flowing into it would be treated come 2016, but so far, less than 40 percent has been, and what is treated is still extremely tainted.

Those who have dared to dip their feet in Guanabara Bay have blasted the country's cleanup efforts. "Welcome to the dump that is Rio," remarked one German athlete, while Brazilian sailing legend Lars Grael said it was "dark, brown, and stinking." He added that he's spotted human corpses on four different occasions in it.

Rio's top environment official Carlos Portinho dismissed the claims as exaggerated and said the the fecal contamination in the area ranks as "satisfactory" in Brazil. He said new sewage treatment plants, floating "ecobarriers," and high-tech boats will improve the water before the Olympics begin. Jordan Valinsky

Supreme Court
10:36 a.m. ET

Analysis of Supreme Court justices' voting habits from FiveThirtyEight finds that the older a SCOTUS judge becomes, the further to the left his or her voting record will drift:


This is especially the case for justices nominated by Republican presidents: While Democratic nominees become more liberal as well, the transformation is more significant for GOP picks. The trend holds true for the current justices, though in his short tenure, Justice Samuel Alito has actually moved slightly to the right.

As for why this happens, FiveThirtyEight posits no less than seven theories, the most convincing of which may be research which suggests (contrary to popular wisdom) that it's fairly common for people to become less strictly conservative with age. Bonnie Kristian

I'll drink to that
10:22 a.m. ET
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A bipartisan group of senators and representatives have partnered to introduce the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (S.1562) to simplify and lower taxes and regulations on the production of beer and other alcoholic beverages in America.

The bill would reduce excise taxes from $7 to $3.50 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels of beers from the smallest breweries, and reduce it from $18 to $16 for the first 6 million barrels from bigger outfits. Other proposed changes include expanding the list of allowable ingredients in hard cider and making it easier for breweries to collaborate without paying extra taxes. Home hobby distillation, which is currently subject to a dubious legal situation, would also be decriminalized on a small scale should the bill pass.

Not surprisingly, the craft brewing industry is supportive of the legislation. This "could drive the industry to greater heights," said Wisconsin brewer Fish Hamilton. "Really, this is something that the cost is minimal, the benefit is substantial and, again, I think it is something that has long been needed." Bonnie Kristian

This just in
10:03 a.m. ET

A missing cargo ship carrying 33 crewmen reportedly sunk during Hurricane Joaquin, NBC News reports. El Faro, which vanished Thursday in the Bermuda Triangle, had 28 Americans on board.

A 225-square-mile debris field was discovered over the weekend, including a life ring from El Faro, but no lifeboats have been found. The ship was expected to have been facing 20- to 30-foot waves; a distress call indicated that the ship had lost power and was taking on water. The 735-foot cargo ship was en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Jacksonville, Florida, when it lost contact during the height of the hurricane. Jeva Lange

This just in
9:54 a.m. ET
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The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Monday that Afghan forces had called for the deadly Saturday morning airstrikes that hit a Doctors Without Borders hospital, ABC News reports.

The Kunduz hospital, reportedly the only advanced facility in the region, closed Sunday after the strikes killed at least 22 people and damaged the building. U.S. forces have repeatedly targeted Kunduz since the Taliban took control of the city last week.

"If errors were committed, we will acknowledge them," Gen. John Campbell said.

The U.S. military is investigating the incident, but the non-governmental organization called for an independent review and accused the U.S. of committing a war crime. Doctors Without Borders has also disputed the claim from Afghan officials that Taliban fighters were using the hospital as a base. Julie Kliegman

Clinton Emails
9:43 a.m. ET

As Hillary Clinton sees it, she's made history for releasing her emails. In a town hall meeting hosted by NBC's Today show Monday morning, the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate not only defended her use of a private email server — she gave herself a pat on the back for her transparency throughout the ordeal.

"I have gone further than anybody that I'm aware of in American history," Clinton said, referring to her release of emails. "Now it's not a long history since we haven't had emails that long — as long as we've had them, I've gone longer and farther to be as transparent as possible. Nobody else has done that."

Clinton also once again emphasized the fact that her use of a private server was allowed, and that "every government official gets to decide what is personal and work-related." The only thing she's embarrassed about in this whole email snafu, she says, is that "the emails are so boring." Watch Clinton's full response below. Becca Stanek

too many jobs
9:29 a.m. ET

Twitter named co-founder Jack Dorsey as its CEO on Monday, a job he'll take on in addition to running Square, the mobile payment company he also co-founded. Dorsey, 38, has served as interim Twitter CEO since July, when Dick Costolo stepped down.

Dorsey founded Square after being ousted as Twitter CEO in 2008. After some hesitation, investors in both companies reportedly now support his permanent return to Twitter.

"Deion Sanders played in both the World Series and the Super Bowl," venture capitalist Keith Rabois told The New York Times in September. "I don't see any reason why Jack can't do that."

For what it's worth, Dorsey himself doesn't seem terribly concerned about his workload, either. Julie Kliegman

it's the end of the world as we know it
9:25 a.m. ET

The only thing preventing a possible nuclear reactor meltdown could be the password "1234," according to a new global study of power plant security systems, the Financial Times reports. Hacking into a power plant's computers could allow a malicious individual to tamper with cooling systems and back-ups to induce a nuclear meltdown. While the risk of damage is exponentially high in the case of a hack, new research has found that nuclear facilities have few measures in place to prevent a destructive cyber attack.

"Cyber security is still new to many in the nuclear industry," said Caroline Baylon, who authored the report. "They are really good at safety and, after 9/11, they've got[ten] really good at physical security. But they have barely grappled with cyber."

Baylon and her team at the nonprofit NGO think tank Chatham House studied 50 power plant cyber attacks and interviewed senior officials in Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the U.K., Ukraine, and the U.S. The findings are a bit terrifying:

Most facilities still do not take cyber security seriously enough in spite of such instances, Ms. Baylon said. Officials interviewed for the report, for example, described default vendor logins — the standard factory-set passwords such as "1234" — as being "everywhere" when it comes to the computer systems that regulate nuclear processes. [Financial Times]

Baylon added that many engineers and officials believe that because their computer systems aren't connected to the internet, they're immune to attacks — a mindset Baylon called "a culture of denial."

"Many people said it was simply not possible to cause a major incident like a release of ionizing radiation with a cyber attack... but that's not necessarily true," she said. Jeva Lange

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