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April 9, 2014

Doctors who take Medicare patients are just like the rest of society: The top 2 percent rake in the lion's share of the money, earning almost exactly the same amount as the bottom 75 percent. The top 1 percent alone takes about 14 percent of the pie. We know this because of detailed records released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on 880,000 doctors who received a total of $77 billion in 2012. Via The New York Times, here's how that money is distributed among physicians:

A single Florida ophthalmologist, Salomon Melgen, earned $20.8 million in Medicare payments in 2012, and nine other doctors brought in more than $10 million. Melgen, whose office the FBI raided in January 2013, is best known for political donations to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and lots of prominent Florida politicians. (Melgen maintains he did nothing wrong.) The New York Times has a searchable database if you're interested in how much your doctor is reimbursed by Medicare.

Why are we only getting this data now? The American Medical Association won a court injunction in 1979 to prevent the release of doctor-specific Medicare billing information. After a federal judge vacated that order in 2013, the AMA declined to challenge the ruling. The Wall Street Journal, which offers a more detailed history of that fight, also has this chart showing how much each type of specialist typically earns each year:

Every fiscal cycle Congress passes a "doc fix," which eases cuts in Medicare payments automatically scheduled under 1997 legislation designed to tame the budget deficit. (The latest "doc fix" was passed about a week ago.) Maybe this information will give lawmakers the tools to better target those cuts. Peter Weber

4:43 p.m. ET

Egypt's state-run news agency announced Thursday that aircraft manufacturer Airbus had detected locator signals from EgyptAir Flight 804, which crashed May 19 in the Mediterranean Sea. While debris from the plane, an Airbus A320, has been recovered in early search operations, the craft's fuselage, flight data, and cockpit recorders have yet to be found. The pings detected by Airbus are not coming from the plane's black boxes, which record crucial flight information, but instead from "locator transmitters" that are located throughout the aircraft. That the signals have been detected means the massive search area will shrink to just a 3.1-mile radius as officials try to recover the main segment of the plane. The cause of the crash is yet to be determined, though authorities have strongly suggested it was an act of terrorism. Kimberly Alters

3:55 p.m. ET
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) announced his intent to join the lawsuit filed by several states against the Obama administration's transgender bathroom directive, Reuters reports. Officials from 11 states filed a suit Wednesday in Texas against the administration over its stipulation that transgender students be allowed to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity rather than biological sex. "Our office has talked to the Texas attorney general's office and I intend, as soon as possible, to join the lawsuit against this latest example of federal overreach," Bryant said in a statement. Mississippi's Democratic attorney general Jim Hood has decided not to participate in the lawsuit, Reuters notes.

The lawsuit, filed in Wichita, Texas, specifically accuses the Obama administration of trying to "turn workplace and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment." The states that have currently signed on to Texas' lawsuit are Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, West Virginia, Utah, and Wisconsin, as well as Arizona's Department of Education and Maine's governor. Becca Stanek

3:13 p.m. ET
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Vince Foster's sister is none too pleased about the rumors that Donald Trump is resurfacing about her brother, a former White House deputy counsel during the Clinton administration. In an op-ed published Thursday in The Washington Post, Sheila Foster Anthony railed against Trump for suggesting that her brother's death was not a suicide, but rather a murder, and for saying that Hillary Clinton may have been involved in said murder because Foster "knew everything that was going on."

She then set the record straight in what marks the first time she's publicly spoken out about the tragedy:

This is scurrilous enough coming from right-wing political operatives who have peddled conspiracy theories about Vince's death for more than two decades. How could this be coming from the presumptive Republican nominee for president?

Five investigations, including by independent counsels Robert B. Fiske Jr. and Kenneth Starr, concluded that Vince suffered from severe depression that caused him to be unable to sleep, unable to work, unable to think straight, and finally to take his own life.

I know this to be true. [Sheila Foster Anthony, via The Washington Post]

Anthony wrote that while she "did not see a suicide coming," when she heard that her brother had died she "knew" that he'd committed suicide. "Never for a minute have I doubted that was what happened," she wrote. Because of that certainty, she said, she cannot let "such craven behavior" as Trump's "pass without a response."

Read the entirety of her response over at The Washington Post. Becca Stanek

2:26 p.m. ET
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Chinese developers might have just single-handedly solved both the country's traffic and air pollution problems with their latest invention. The country's state news agency, Xinhua, reported Thursday that developers have come up with a bus called the Transit Explore Bus, which is elevated off the ground so that cars can drive underneath it. The bus would glide along on rails straddling two lanes of traffic, offer enough space for cars less than two meters high to pass underneath it, and be able to travel at speeds up to about 37 miles per hour.

While the bus is still in the planning stages, developers say it could cut down big time on traffic and, subsequently, the country's increasingly worrisome air pollution problem. One of the project's lead engineers, Song Youzhou, estimates this project would cost just 16 percent of the theoretical cost of an entirely new subway, and that construction of the bus would be much quicker than other alternatives. Youzhou says the bus would be powered by electricity and could replace as many as 40 regular buses, thanks to its carrying capacity of up to 1,400 passengers.

The first bus is set to be tested at the end of July or in August outside of China's Qinhuangdao City. Becca Stanek

2:26 p.m. ET

In case there was any question that this is Trump's world and we're just living in it:

Clinton, meanwhile, is in Las Vegas discussing her plans to raise incomes for working families. Jeva Lange

2:03 p.m. ET
Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Ultraconservative Saudi cleric Saleh bin Fawzan al-Fawzan was recently shocked to learn that people take pictures with their cats, The Washington Post reports. Fawzan was then forced to clarify for his audience that, according to hard-line Islamic codes, cat selfies are strictly forbidden.

A member of the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars, Fawzan appeared on a television program in April that was recently translated into English by the Middle East Media Research Center. At one point in the appearance, someone off-screen tells the cleric that "taking pictures with cats has been spreading among people who want to be like the Westerners."

The cleric apparently can't believe his ears. "They are taking pictures with them," the person is forced to repeat.

Fawzan then stresses that such selfies are "prohibited," although "the cats here don't matter."

"Taking pictures is prohibited if not for a necessity, not with cats, not with dogs, not with wolves, not with anything," Fawzan says, citing a view held by some hard-line Islamic scholars who believe photos violate rules against depicting human or animal images.

However, it is not a view held by many in Saudi Arabia — in fact, ordinary Saudis take cat selfies a-plenty, just like anyone elsewhere. Jeva Lange

1:05 p.m. ET
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Baylor University fired head football coach Art Briles on Thursday as the program faces ongoing scrutiny following multiple allegations of assault and sexual assault. University President Ken Starr has also been removed, with the school announcing he will "transition to role of Chancellor."

Briles has been with Baylor for eight seasons, racking up a 65-37 record. However, the football program was engulfed in scandal when former Baylor student Jasmin Hernandez filed a lawsuit against Baylor alleging the university did not properly handle her 2012 report of rape by then-Baylor football team member Tevin Elliott. Elliot was later convicted, and is now serving a 20-year sentence. Two other former Baylor students also came forward during the trial to testify that they had been raped by Elliot.

In August 2014, another Baylor football player, Sam Ukwuachu, was found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman in 2013. Just last month, Shawn Oakman, also on the football team, was arrested on the suspicion of raping a woman although he has said the encounter was consensual. Additional allegations against Baylor football players have been revealed by Waco, Texas, police in the past week.

Law firm Pepper Hamilton was hired in September to look at the school's treatment of the sexual assault allegations, and reportedly presented its findings to the board of regents earlier in May. "We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus," regents chairman Richard Willis said in a statement. "This investigation revealed the University's mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive, and caring environment for students. The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us." Jeva Lange

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