May 12, 2014

"Is it just me," said John Oliver on Sunday night's Last Week Tonight, "or between Conchita and Michael Sam, did the world — did the whole world feel like it became a better place to live in the last 24 hours?" If you are a supporter of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights, the answer is almost certainly yes. You probably already know about at least one of these four firsts (Oliver mentioned two), but together they make for a pretty great weekend for the LGBT camp:

1. The St. Louis Rams drafted Michael Sam, the first openly gay pro football player in the NFL, on Saturday. He celebrated by kissing boyfriend Vito Cammisano on camera.

2. A judge in Arkansas struck down the state's ban on gay marriage, and a Carroll County clerk performed the state's first same-sex marriages on Saturday.

3. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he is open to reviewing the U.S. military's ban on transgender service members.

4. And finally, bearded Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst won the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest, very pointedly beating the Russian entrants and sending a not-so-veiled message to Russia regarding its anti-gay laws: "This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. You know who you are. We are unity and we are unstoppable." Oliver explains the geopolitical importance of Wurst's win below. --Peter Weber

7:42 p.m. ET
Yuri Gripas/AFP/Getty Images

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), is investing $25 million in six key races, with the fund's president saying they'll "go out guns blazing."

Steven Law told Politico Tuesday that Republicans won't have an easy time keeping their majority, and in many close races, Democrats are outspending GOP candidates by millions of dollars. "Democrats feel like the presidential race is in the bag for them and are looking for fresh game in the Senate," he said. The fund will send $7.5 million to Nevada, where Republican candidate Joe Heck recently announced he is no longer supporting Donald Trump. More than $5 million will be spent in to Pennsylvania, $4 million in Indiana, $3 million in North Carolina, and $2 million in New Hampshire and Missouri. Most of the money will go to purchase commercials, which are very expensive this late in the campaign season. "This isn't a cheap date," Law said.

Karl Rove, a former adviser to George W. Bush, assisted the Senate Leadership Fund with its fundraising efforts. Law would not reveal the names of any donors to Politico, but did say they are aware "we're going to take casualties but we're going to go out guns blazing." Catherine Garcia

6:55 p.m. ET
Eric Thayer/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Apple announced annual sales fell to $216 billion in the 2016 fiscal year ending September 30, the company's first annual sales decline since 2001, the year the iPod was introduced.

Apple had a record $234 billion in sales in 2015. The company's largest source of revenue is the iPhone, CNN Money reports, and only 45.5 million were sold in the September quarter, down from 48 million during the same time in 2015. Analysts say because the newest iPhone is very similar to the previous two models, customers are not clamoring to upgrade. The company says it is projecting it will have sales of $76 to $78 billion in the upcoming quarter, up from $74.8 billion last year. Catherine Garcia

6:12 p.m. ET
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The 2016-2017 NBA season is upon us, with the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers kicking things off Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena in Ohio. Later Thursday, the Utah Jazz face off against the Portland Trail Blazers in Oregon, while a matchup of Western Conference heavyweights rounds out Opening Night as the San Antonio Spurs take on the Golden State Warriors in Oakland.

It's been four long months since LeBron James tearfully hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy, and lots of big names have changed jerseys this offseason. So what should you be looking out for as NBA basketball finally tips off? Below, four stories to watch for. Kimberly Alters

1. Can we just fast forward to the Cavaliers-Warriors Finals rematch?
You may have heard that a young man named Kevin Durant moved from Okahoma to California this summer. So you might be wondering: Can't we just skip the 82 games of regular season melodrama and get to the inevitable, which is a Finals reprise? While, yes, a supercharged Warriors team looks like the prohibitive favorite — especially when you swap the underwhelming Harrison Barnes for four-time scoring champion Durant — and LeBron James seems as dominant as ever, there's plenty of fun to be had in among the other 28 teams. Like:

2. Will the New York Knicks surge to relevance as "super-team," as their new legally-challenged point guard predicted?
The short answer here is: No. When your franchise cornerstone starts the offseason saying it's totally cool if he never wins an NBA championship, you know things are dicey. But the great Phil Jackson experiment continues, and this latest version involves betting on Derrick Rose's famously unreliable knees and Joakim Noah's aging defensive chops. But they still have this guy.

3. Is where the heart is also where the fun is?
Both Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard made high-profile moves home this season. Wade joins the jammed Chicago Bulls backcourt of Jimmy Butler and fellow new addition Rajon Rondo, while Howard follows a string of tumultuous temporary stays by parking himself with the Atlanta Hawks. Just two years ago the Hawks topped the Eastern Conference, but they sputtered last season, leading them to significant roster changes this summer. Home may be where the heart is, but will it be where Wade and Howard find peace for the rest of their careers?

4. Will the Los Angeles Lakers win the championship?
Yes. Absolutely yes.

5:25 p.m. ET

Writer Paul Beatty became the first U.S. author to win the Man Booker Prize on Tuesday, in recognition of his critically acclaimed 2015 novel, The Sellout. The novel is set in Beatty's hometown of Los Angeles, and, per BBC's recap, "tells the story of a young black man who tries to reinstate slavery and racial segregation." The five judges unanimously chose Beatty's book as the winner ahead of five other finalists.

The chair of the judges, Amanda Foreman, hailed Beatty's racial satire for managing to "eviscerate every social taboo" and displaying "an absolutely savage wit" akin to that of Jonathan Swift or Mark Twain. "This is a book that nails the reader to the cross with cheerful abandon," she said. "But while you are being nailed you are being tickled."

Though the award was first given out in 1969, it wasn't until 2014 that it was opened to authors outside of Britain, Ireland, and the Commonwealth nations. The winner gets £50,000 — nearly $61,000. Becca Stanek

4:57 p.m. ET
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The New York Giants announced Tuesday that they've cut kicker Josh Brown from the team. The announcement followed last week's release of journals, letters, and emails in which Brown admitted he'd been abusive toward his wife, Molly Brown. ABC News reported that in one journal entry, Brown wrote, "I have abused my wife."

The Giants have maintained they did not know about the documents before they were released last Wednesday. "We believed we did the right thing at every juncture of our relationship with Josh," team president John Mara said in a statement. "Our beliefs, our judgments, and our decisions were misguided. We accept that responsibility."

In a statement Tuesday, Brown apologized and said he has "never struck his wife, and never would." "I am sorry that my past has called into question the character or integrity of the New York Giants, Mr. Mara, or any of those who have supported me along the way," Brown wrote, promising to tell "more of the pain I had caused and the measures taken to get help so I may be the voice of change and not a statistic."

The NFL placed Brown on the commissioner's exempt list Friday, which meant he couldn't attend practice or games, but could still collect his base salary of $1.15 million. Prior to that, he served a one-game suspension, sitting out the first game of the 2016 season for "violating a protective order against his wife in 2015," Sports Illustrated reported. Though Brown was arrested over that incident, he was not charged.

Brown and his wife have filed for divorce. Becca Stanek

4:20 p.m. ET

In case the thought of Election Day doesn't already fill you with dread, this political ad should do the trick. The apocalyptic spot — created by former Sen. Bill Bradley's (D-N.J.) new super PAC, 52nd Street Fund — reminds the people of Ohio that a Donald Trump presidency could mean the death of a million people. "That's more than all the men, women, and children living in Columbus, Ohio," the ad booms, while a mushroom cloud explodes onscreen.

The cause of death, the ad suggests, would be a nuclear weapon placed within reach of Trump. Watch the imagining of nuclear destruction, below. Becca Stanek

3:55 p.m. ET

With Apple users not yet recovered from the devastating elimination of the headphone jack, Apple has just deleted yet another staple of our modern lives. Photographs of the new MacBook Pros obtained by MacRumors appear to show that Apple has now taken the escape key away from us, too:

RIP ESC. Jeva Lange

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