FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
Whatever You Say
March 25, 2014
Transformers/Facebook

Forget about The Godfather, James Bond, or Star Wars. According to Mark Wahlberg, one movie series is more iconic than any of them: Michael Bay's Transformers.

In an appearance at CinemaCon, Wahlberg explained why he agreed to a starring role in this summer's Transformers: Age of Extinction. He conceded that he was initially afraid that he wouldn't be able to top the noted thespians of the previous Transformers films, including Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, and the Victoria's Secret model they hired to replace Megan Fox after she compared Michael Bay to Hitler.

In the end, Wahlberg said he "had to jump at the opportunity" because Transformers is "probably the most iconic franchise in movie history." But if you're worried that Age of Extinction could never equal the "noisy," "bloated" standard set by the original Transformers trilogy, never fear: Wahlberg promises that Age of Extinction is "bigger and better than the other three combined." Don't set the bar too high, Mark. Scott Meslow

are we there yet?
11:14 a.m. ET
Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

Congress is only a few weeks away from a mid-September vote on the Iran nuclear deal, which the White House claims will "verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and ensure that Iran's nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful going forward." Critics, meanwhile, say the deal does not do enough to keep Iran from getting a bomb. Ten Senate Democrats remain undecided, but the Obama administration at this point basically only needs one more senator to back the deal, tipping the number of supporters to the vital 34 required for Obama to sustain a veto against the passage of a resolution of disapproval.

Thirty Democratic senators are standing as solid "yes" votes on the deal, with an additional three "leaning toward voting for the deal," by The Washington Post's count. There is even speculation that Democrats might get 41 senators in favor of the deal, which would prevent the resolution of disapproval from even coming to an up-or-down vote in that chamber.

Still, several Jewish Democrats have come out against the deal, exposing a divide in the party. "I've been accused of being treacherous, treasonous, even disloyal to the United States," Rep. Nita M. Lowey of New York told The New York Times on her decision to vote against the White House's wishes.

For more, check out this massive graphic over at The Washington Post, which shows who falls where. Jeva Lange

Clinton Emails
11:00 a.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Well, this could explain a lot: Hillary Clinton is the only secretary of state since 1957 to complete her time in office without ever operating under the supervision of a permanent inspector general (IG), an independent watchdog who is tasked with rooting out misconduct in the agency. There was an acting IG during Clinton's tenure, but the Obama administration never made a permanent appointment.

"Every agency needs a permanent, independent inspector general," says Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who is pushing the State Department to release records explaining the lapse. "The position is too important to assign to a placeholder. An acting inspector general doesn’t have the mandate to lead, and he or she might not be able to withstand pushback from an agency that doesn’t want to cooperate with oversight."

Grassley also argues that "it’s fair to say some of the problems exposed lately probably could have been prevented with a permanent inspector general in place." He is referring to ongoing allegations that Clinton regularly used her position for personal gain and convenience, and that her use of a private email server for State Department business may have compromised classified information. Bonnie Kristian

The future has arrived
10:55 a.m. ET
DAVID J. PHILLIP/AFP/Getty Image

Meteorologists get a lot of flak for getting the weather wrong, but 10 years ago, one meteorologist made a forecast that was eerily prescient. As Hurricane Katrina brewed in the Gulf of Mexico, National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Ricks of Slidell, Louisiana, predicted that it would be "a most powerful hurricane with unprecedented strength...rivaling the intensity of Hurricane Camille of 1969."

Unfortunately, Ricks' prediction was largely ignored in the run-up to the hurricane. As he told NBC News years later, "I would much rather have been wrong in this one. I would much rather be talking to you and taking the heat and crying wolf. But our local expertise said otherwise."

It wasn't just the strength of the hurricane that Ricks predicted either — he also forecasted the breadth of damage the monstrous storm eventually wreaked. Ricks wrote:

"Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks...perhaps longer. At least one half of well constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fail...leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed.

The majority of industrial buildings will become non functional. Partial to complete wall and roof failure is expected. All wood framed low rising apartment buildings will be destroyed. Concrete block low rise apartments will sustain major damage...including some wall and roof failure.

High rise office and apartment buildings will sway dangerously...A few to the point of a total collapse. All windows will blow out." [Twitter]

Ricks went on to detail the spread of airborne debris and its devastating effects: a power outage that "will last for weeks," and water shortages that "will make human suffering incredible by modern standards." For once, it would've been nice if the weatherman had been wrong. Becca Stanek

For those who have everything
10:48 a.m. ET
Courtesy photo

"The only thing better than a remote-controlled plane is a remote-controlled boat" — unless you can find a toy that handles both functions, says Adam Clark Estes at Gizmodo. Parrot's Hydrofoil Minidrone ($179) is the first mini-drone that can capture video by air or sea. In a pool or lake, the vehicle acts like a fan boat: Four copter blades propel it to a speed of 6 mph as it skims across the water under the control of a smartphone or tablet. When you remove the quadcopter, that component can fly in the air at double the speed. It's not a game changer, but "it's a really cool new trick." The Week Staff

Democracy in action
10:28 a.m. ET
iStock

This past spring, the city of Columbia, Missouri created a very gerrymandered community improvement district (CID), a special designation of territory within which voters can levy extra taxes to fund projects like roadwork or landscaping of public green spaces. Per state law, if there are no voters registered in a CID, property owners get to make the tax decision instead.

That was property owners' plan in Columbia until they found out that a single University of Missouri college student, 23-year-old Jen Henderson, is actually a registered voter in the new district. While the CID was carefully designed to exclude residences, Henderson lives in a guest house in the area and registered to vote at that address.

Now, Henderson is the sole deciding voter in a referendum to impose a 0.5 percent tax on goods — including groceries — sold within the CID. She's leaning toward a "no" vote, especially after the CID's director asked her to unregister and forfeit her vote. "Taxing [nearby residents'] food is kind of sad," too, Henderson says, particularly when the CID director "is going to be making like $70,000 a year off of this whole deal. These people make a quarter of that. They can barely afford to go buy food, and you’re taxing their food."

The architects of the CID are considering canceling the vote altogether if Henderson commits to voting no. Bonnie Kristian

2016
9:58 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Jeb Bush better watch his back — and not just for Donald Trump's incessant stabs. While Bush and Trump have been noisily duking it out, another Republican presidential contender has been "quietly rising in the polls in New Hampshire," The Hill reports. That candidate? Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

With many an eye in the Republican Party turned to Trump's antics and Bush's reactions to said antics, Kasich has been "capitalizing on a strong debate performance," as evidenced by his second place showing in New Hampshire in a Public Policy Polling survey released this week. Moreover, the PPP poll also showed that Kasich might just be Hillary Clinton's toughest competition in the state.

Kasich's numbers are potentially bad news for Bush. The Hill reports that if Kasich manages to top Bush in New Hampshire, that could shake up the remainder of the primary. "Of all the candidates out there in terms of corralling the establishment voters, Kasich is a clear and present danger of taking them," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told The Hill. While Bush won't be an easy one to beat, O'Connell said, "if [Kasich] can actually win New Hampshire, then the game board changes." Becca Stanek

This just in
9:35 a.m. ET
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Vester Flanagan (also known as Bryce Williams, the name he used as a television news anchor) appeared to have planned to make an escape after murdering Virginia's WDBJ7 journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward, The Washington Post reports. New details revealed that Flanagan had a wig, a briefcase with three license plates, a shawl, an umbrella, and sunglasses in his car.

The car itself was also an indication that Flanagan hoped to get away with murder. It was a rental he had checked out weeks ahead of time, indicating the killing of Parker and Ward was premeditated.

Flanagan was likely tracked down by the police due to a text message he sent to a friend, in which he mentioned "having done something stupid"; the signal from his number could have aided police in finding his location and chasing him down the highway, CNN reports. While police were in pursuit, Flanagan pulled off the road and shot himself, then died after being taken to the hospital.

A Glock pistol, ammunition, 17 stamped envelopes, and a "to do" list were also found in Flanagan's car. Jeva Lange

See More Speed Reads