Nature's Nightmares
March 31, 2014
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For years, experts have been saying "The Big One" — a high-magnitude earthquake that is bound to hit Southern California and cause a devastating amount of death and destruction — will likely occur on the San Andreas fault, which meanders its way through the fringes of the Los Angeles suburbs. But recent activity on the Puente Hills fault has scientists worried that The Big One could be even more catastrophic.

The U.S. Geological Survey and Southern California Earthquake Center have estimated that a large-scale quake on the Puente Hills fault — which runs from northern Orange County through downtown Los Angeles to Hollywood — could kill anywhere from 3,000 to 18,000 people and cause up to $250 billion in damages, the Los Angeles Times reports. The intense destruction would be due to the vulnerability of older buildings in downtown L.A. and Hollywood, and the fact that Puente Hills is a horizontal fault, which means shaking is likely to be felt over a larger area.

By contrast, if a magnitude 8 were to strike on the San Andreas, the damage would still be terrible, but not as severe — the number of estimated deaths is 1,800. To further terrify all Southern California residents, experts think that the Puente Hills fault has a giant quake about every 2,500 years, and they aren't sure when the last one was; Puente Hills was an "invisible" fault until 1999, and was discovered only after scientists put sensors underground. Read more about the fault and the damage it could cause at the Los Angeles Times. Catherine Garcia

gay rights
8:35 a.m. ET
Adrien Barbier AFP / Getty Images

Mozambique revised its penal code on Wednesday to decriminalize homosexuality, making it one of a few African countries where gay and lesbian relationships are not illegal. This new revision drops a clause dating back to the colonial era that prohibited "vices against nature," the BBC reports.

While Mozambique has not had many issues with violence against gay and lesbian couples, activists hope that the country's decriminalization will set an example for other African countries where homosexuality is a divisive and controversial subject. However, even in Mozambique where people have a relatively relaxed stance on homosexuality, the promotion of gay rights is still viewed as an affront to religion. Becca Stanek

rich people
8:30 a.m. ET
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Here's someone whose heart is in the right place: The nephew of Saudi Arabia's late King Abdulluh, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, has announced plans to spend the entirety of his $23 billion fortune on charitable projects in the coming years, Agence France-Presse reports. Alwaleed cited the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other U.S. philanthropic organizations as his model.

Alwaleed's billions "will help build bridges to foster cultural understanding, develop communities, empower women, enable youth, provide vital disaster relief, and create a more tolerant and accepting world," the prince said in a statement. And even if the cash outlasts him, Alwaleed says the money will continue toward humanitarian projects after his death. Jeva Lange

Marijuana legalization
8:10 a.m. ET
Miguel Schincariol AFP / Getty Images

As of Wednesday, it is now legal to possess and grow marijuana in Oregon. The state is the fourth in the country to adopt laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for people over the age of 21. However, there is one catch to the law: While Oregonians can smoke and grow marijuana, they cannot purchase it. Marijuana activists say that the law is still the first step in a path toward state-licensed pot stores. A bill allowing dispensaries to sell is making its way through the Oregon legislature and, if passed, could make the sale of marijuana legal by October 1. Becca Stanek

only human
7:44 a.m. ET
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Unfortunately, real life never turns out to be as interesting as it appears on TV. Digging through Hillary Clinton's emails, for example, The New York Times turned up that she's — pretty normal? Boring, even? Only two dozen correspondences were flagged as confidential, with the rest of this month's batch relating mostly to logistics, scheduling, and calendar rearrangements. Who'd have thought that behind the scenes was so dull?

The emails did reveal, though, that Paul Begala — a CNN political commentator and former advisor to Bill Clinton — needed a couple talking points about Hillary before he went on air to rate her:

Mr. Begala [asked] for talking points before he went on CNN to rate Mrs. Clinton's early performance. Ms. Marshall referred him to several State Department aides. After his appearance, Mr. Begala emailed back: "I gave Sec. Clinton an A+ in our dopey CNN report card last night." Ms. Mills forwarded that to Mrs. Clinton with an "FYI." [The New York Times]

An A+! You go, Hill. Jeva Lange

Sinai
7:33 a.m. ET
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At least 35 people have been killed in simultaneous attacks in Egypt's northern Sinai region. Militants apparently targeted six military checkpoints, utilizing at least one suicide car bomb as well as mortars and RPGs, and took soldiers captive in addition to seizing weapons and armored vehicles, The Associated Press has learned. Mines were also placed in the region to prevent Egyptian military vehicles from quickly accessing the sites of the attacks, Wael Abbas, an Egyptian journalist, told Al Jazeera.

Egyptian military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir reported to the media that fighting is ongoing between the Egyptian army and the militants, and claimed a much lower number of casualties — only 10. However, the Egyptian army has deployed fighter jets to the region for support, Al Jazeera says. Additionally, in response to the Sinai attacks, Israel has closed off two of its border crossings into Egypt, Haaretz reports.

As of yet, no one has taken responsibility for the highly coordinated attacks, although the suspicion is that they were committed by an Islamic State affiliate. There were reportedly around 70 militant fighters involved. Jeva Lange

Gas Wars
7:27 a.m. ET
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On Wednesday morning, Russian state gas company Gazprom cut off gas supplies to Ukraine, after Ukraine declined to make an advance payment for July's shipment amid failed pricing negotiations. "Gazprom is not going to send gas to Ukraine at any price without the advance payment," said CEO Alexei Miller, as quoted in Russian media.

Talks between Ukraine and Russia's energy ministers broke down on Tuesday, and Ukrainian state energy company Naftogaz said it wouldn't agree to Russia's offer. Russia and Ukraine fight over gas imports with some frequency, and Ukraine said it will buy gas from elsewhere in Europe until Russia lowers its price. Ukraine assured Europe that Russian gas deliveries to the rest of the continent through Ukrainian pipelines won't be interrupted. Ukraine uses far less gas in the summer than the frigid winter months, strengthening Kiev's bargaining position. Peter Weber

Grexit Watch
6:19 a.m. ET
Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

Greece effectively defaulted on its debt obligations at midnight Wednesday, skipping a $1.7 billion payment to the International Monetary Fund. But the Financial Times reports that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, in a letter to Greece's creditors, has now agreed to European conditions for a new bailout, with just minor modifications. Greek national broadcaster ERT is reporting a similar capitulation.

The reports were enough to send European stocks sharply higher early Wednesday, and bond yields dropped in Greece's southern European neighbors Italy and Spain. Tsipras had previously rejected the demands from the European Central Bank and eurozone finance ministers, defiantly scheduling a July 5 referendum. Peter Weber

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