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March 31, 2014

Baseball is finally back. Alright, so baseball has technically been back since the Dodgers and Diamondbacks squared off last weekend in Australia, but the season really gets going Monday with Opening Day games taking place stateside around the league.

The beauty of Opening Day is that every team still has a shot at winning it all — maybe even, with a lot of luck and a big bag of voodoo dolls, the lowly Astros. But of course a few teams are better positioned than others to win the World Series. So who's most likely to go the distance this year?

According to Baseball Prospectus' preseason playoff odds, the Dodgers have a league-best 19.1 percent chance to win the World Series. The Rays, at 10.3 percent, are a distant second. The Dodgers also have the best shot at a title per Fangraphs' calculations (12.9 percent) though the site pegs the Tigers (10.2 percent) as the best team in the American League.

Of course, anything can happen over the long 162-game season. Pretty much everyone picked the loaded Nationals to win the World Series last year; they flamed out and missed the playoffs. And pretty much everyone thought the Red Sox were destined for another disappointing season; they won the World Series. So who knows, maybe the Mets will shock the world and not stink for once. Then again, they are the Mets. So scratch that: I'll guess the Rays beat the Cardinals in the World Series. Jon Terbush

11:41 a.m. ET
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Women played the leading role in a record 29 percent of the top-grossing films of 2016, a study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film revealed. That marks a 7 percent increase from 2015 and the highest percentage ever since the study started in 2002, thanks to last year's female-fronted films including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Ghostbusters, Hidden Figures, and Arrival. "While audiences were still more than twice as likely to see male characters as female characters in top grossing movies, females fared better as protagonists and major characters in 2016," Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center, said in a statement.

Progress wasn't made across the board though. While more women took the spotlight than ever before, the overall number of female speaking roles dropped by 1 percentage point. The percentage of Asian female characters doubled and the percentage of black women increased slightly, but the percentage of Latina characters in films dropped from 4 percent to 3 percent.

That's why, while some of the numbers may appear promising, the Center isn't getting its hopes up just yet. "It is possible that this is something of a quirk that we will not see repeated in the future,” Lauzen said. "It is also possible that introducing female protagonists is somehow an easier, less threatening fix than hiring women directors and writers." Becca Stanek

11:39 a.m. ET
Courtesy image

Ever dreamed of running a food-truck business? Realize your barista fantasies with the Wheelys 5, a high-tech coffee cart created by Wheelys Café, a Stockholm-based company whose mobile café business has spread to more than 60 countries in just three years. The bike-mounted cart costs $8,999 and has running water, a refrigerator, a gas stove, a solar roof, a stereo system, integrated Wi-Fi, and even a miniature greenhouse for growing organic coffee beans. Its customizable layout can accommodate a juicing station, a creperie, and an ice-cream bar, and it can brew anything from espresso to nitro coffee. The Week Staff

10:48 a.m. ET

President Trump denounced anti-Semitism and declared that it is "going to stop and it has to stop" while speaking Tuesday at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. "The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible, and are painful, and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil," Trump said. He said the FBI and the Justice Department will investigate "possible civil rights violations in connection with threats" to Jewish community centers across the U.S.

The Anti-Defamation League has called on Trump to address anti-Semitism in the wake of recent threats on Jewish community centers. Since early January, 54 Jewish community centers in 27 states have reported threats. Most recently, a community center in Wisconsin was evacuated Monday after a bomb threat was called in, the second in just three weeks.

On Tuesday, Trump heartily agreed when a reporter asked him if he was denouncing anti-Semitism "once and for all." "Oh of course," Trump said. "And I do it — wherever I get a chance, I do it." But when he was asked about the rise of anti-Semitic violence at a press conference last week, Trump did not address the violence directly but rather simply assured reporters he was the "least anti-Semitic person you have ever seen."

Trump received a similar question during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also last week, and only vaguely responded by saying he would "stop racism."

Trump's comments followed a tweet from his daughter Ivanka Trump on Monday night reminding America that it is a "nation built on the principle of religion tolerance," and a tweet from Hillary Clinton early Tuesday urging him to speak out against the violence. Watch Trump's denouncement below. Becca Stanek

10:01 a.m. ET
NASA/APL/SwRI via Getty Images

Pluto might get a second chance at being a planet. A group of NASA scientists has submitted a request to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to broaden the definition of what classifies as a planet. If the new definition were to win IAU's approval, Pluto — presently considered a "dwarf planet" — and 109 other space objects would become planets.

Pluto lost its planetary status in 2006 after the IAU voted in favor of a new, three-part definition of what it takes to be a planet. Pluto met two of the three criteria, as it orbits around the sun and has sufficient mass to maintain the round shape characteristic of planets. However, Pluto is just not big enough to clear other objects out of its orbital space, and thus it was downgraded from the planetary status it had held since 1930.

Alan Stern, head of NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto and one of the scientists behind the new definition, has deemed Pluto's demotion "bulls--t." The scientists argue the definition determined in 2006 is too narrow, and suggest it should be expanded to include all "round objects in space that are smaller than stars." "In the mind of the public, the word 'planet' carries a significance lacking in other words used to describe planetary bodies," the proposal reads. "In the decade following the supposed 'demotion' of Pluto by the International Astronomical Union, many members of the public, in our experience, assume that alleged 'non-planets' cease to be interesting enough to warrant scientific exploration." Becca Stanek

9:39 a.m. ET

Restaurant Brands International is buying Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen to add to a portfolio that includes Burger King and Tim Hortons, The Associated Press reports. Popeyes will be purchased by the company for $1.8 billion.

Many Popeyes fans expressed their outrage over the acquisition:

Popeyes was founded in New Orleans in 1972, but bought by AFC Enterprises in 1992. It has more than 2,600 locations, and joins Restaurant Brands' 20,000 restaurants worldwide. Jeva Lange

9:27 a.m. ET

On Sunday, The New York Times reported that President Trump's personal legal counsel, Michael Cohen, met last month with a colorful Russian-American former Trump business associate, Felix Sater, and a pro-Moscow Ukrainian lawmaker, then delivered a sealed envelope from them to Michael Flynn, Trump's then-national security adviser, with a "peace plan" for Ukraine. The peace deal, proposed by Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko, would lead to formalizing Russia's occupation of Crimea as a lease and lifting U.S. sanctions against Russia.

Cohen and Sater confirmed the meeting and the envelope delivery. Then on Monday, Cohen backpedaled, telling The Washington Post and NBC News that "the brief meeting took place," but "emphatically" denying "discussing this topic or delivering any documents to the White House and/or General Flynn." He agreed to meet with Sater for coffee, he added, because he's "known Felix for years," and didn't know Sater's friend "would be a guy who wants to run for president of Ukraine." The Times stood by its story, telling The Washington Post that Cohen said "in no uncertain terms that he delivered the Ukraine proposal to Michael Flynn's office at the White House."

The back-channel diplomacy effort is not illegal, though it is unusual and maybe inconvenient amid federal investigations into Trump's business and political ties to Moscow. The reappearance of Sater is interesting, in any case, not least because he has a colorful history that includes arrests for stabbing a man in the face with a broken glass in a bar fight and for a Mafia-linked stock-fixing scheme, and avoiding jail by working for the CIA and FBI.

Sater's long business history with Trump includes working on several Trump-licensed projects, including the Trump SoHo building and — a decade ago and again in 2015 — a proposal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Sater's name has popped up a couple of times in the campaign, but despite evidence of their close ties, Trump has sworn in depositions that he wouldn't even recognize Sater's face, as shown in this December 2015 report from ABC News.

The peace proposal did not meet with a positive response in either Kiev or Moscow; Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the plan "absurd," and Ukrainian Ambassador Valeriy Chaly said that Artemenko "is not entitled to present any alternative peace plans on behalf of Ukraine to any foreign government." Peter Weber

9:00 a.m. ET

It might not be all in your head after all. A small team of biopsychologists from Ruhr University Bochum, in Germany, believes they have found evidence proving that whether you are right- or left-hand dominant comes from genetic activity in the spine, not just the brain, Science Alert reports.

Previously, researchers believed that gene activity in the right or left hemisphere of the brain resulted in a person's handedness. Scientists knew that such a preference starts in the eighth week of pregnancy, with unborn children preferring to suck on his or her right or left thumb by week 13.

That's where the new research comes in:

Arm and hand movements are initiated via the motor cortex in the brain. It sends a corresponding signal to the spinal cord, which in turn translates the command into a motion. The motor cortex, however, is not connected to the spinal cord from the beginning. Even before the connection forms, precursors of handedness become apparent. This is why the researchers have assumed that the cause of right respective left preference must be rooted in the spinal cord rather than in the brain. [Ruhr-Universität Bochum]

"These results fundamentally change our understanding of the cause of hemispheric asymmetries," the authors of the study wrote.

And as Science Alert notes, the study is still very small and early to throw out all previous assumptions. That being said, "it's definitely intriguing new evidence that scientists will need to investigate further." Jeva Lange

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