On Thursday morning, Angela "Big Ang" Raiola died at the age of 55 after a year-long battle with cancer.
If you don't know who Big Ang is, you haven't seen the VH1 reality series Mob Wives, which follows a tight-knit group of women in Staten Island, New York, with alleged mob ties.
I was skeptical of the show, which in the first season seemed to be mostly quick-tempered and distrusting women screaming and clawing at each other. And while that drama doesn't let up, the second season saw a light in the catty darkness. Granted that light was this big-breasted, pinched-nosed, orange-hued, crushed-gravel-voiced hot mess named Big Ang, but there was no looking away. While the rest of the women plotted and fought, Big Ang just wanted to have fun. She would brush off tension with a mimosa, try to unite quarreling women with a house party, often act as the optimistic negotiator, and offer a surprisingly patient ear to any enraged mob wife who needed it.
Big Ang was the best part of this ridiculous reality series (so popular, in fact, that after appearing in the second season, she became a regular cast member through season six and even got her own breakout reality series, Big Ang) because she was fun to watch, sure, but also because she was surprisingly down to earth, warm, friendly, and open in a community that thrived on fortifying its walls. She embodied the "you do you" ethos and taught us all, if you've got it flaunt it.
Powerball officials say a sole ticket-buyer in Massachusetts has won the massive $758.7 million jackpot, the second-largest Powerball win in U.S. history, after correctly picking all six numbers for Wednesday night's drawing — 6, 7, 16, 23, 26, and Powerball 4. The lucky Bay Stater snapped a streak of 20 jackpot-less Powerball draws. There were also some lesser winners — two tickets sold in Florida matched the first five numbers, earning $1 million apiece, while four people won $200,000 and 24 players won $50,000. Powerball tickets — sold in 44 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands — cost $2, and the odds of winning the jackpot were about 1 in 292.2 million. The winner can take a lump sum of $480.5 million or opt for 30 payments over 29 years. Most winners choose the cash payout. Peter Weber
On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) declared a pre-emptive state of disaster for 30 counties and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) set up a crisis task force to prepare for Tropical Storm Harvey, expected to make landfall in Texas on Friday night or Saturday morning as a Category 1 hurricane. The National Weather Service and state and local officials are especially worried about Harvey because it is slow-moving and expected to dump 10-15 inches of rain or more on Houston and surrounding areas over the weekend as it crawls northeastward. The National Weather Service issued its first-ever storm surge watch for Calhoun County, Texas, some 150 miles southwest of Houston, meaning that water could rise 4 to 6 feet above ground.
Harvey "could become the first major natural disaster of the Trump presidency," warns Eric Holthaus at Grist. "This is the kind of storm you drop everything to pay attention to." It has already been a wet August for the Texas Gulf Coast, and so the ground is saturated and primed to flood, while Houston is especially vulnerable to devastating floods because of poor city planning and lots of pavement, he notes, and the worst models have 20 to 40 inches of rain dumping on parts of Texas and Louisiana.
— Ryan Maue (@RyanMaue) August 23, 2017
Then there's the warming climate, Holthaus says:
Floods like the one in the worst Harvey forecasts have come at an increasingly frequent pace. Since the 1950s, the Houston area has seen a 167 percent increase in heavy downpours. At least four rainstorms so severe they would occur only once in 100 years under normal conditions have hit the area since May 2015. With a warmer climate comes faster evaporation and a greater capacity for thunderstorms to produce epic deluges. ... If Harvey's rains hit the coast with anywhere near the force of the most alarming predictions, we'd be in for disaster. And judging by how New Orleans and Houston have handled recent rains, coupled with the state of federal disaster relief, we're not ready for it. [Grist]
For their first wedding anniversary, Susan Landis gave her husband, Sam, a gift that changed his life: A DNA kit that connected him to the family he'd spent decades wondering about.
Sam Landis was adopted in 1974 by a couple in Cincinnati. He was six months old at the time, and because it was a closed adoption, he was never able to find any of his biological relatives. After Susan gave him the DNA kit, they waited for the results and ultimately connected with a cousin, leading Landis to his birth father, Greg Baker. "I don't have any regrets and I know he doesn't either, and the time was just right for us to meet," Landis told WLWT. "It was God's timing."
Landis and his wife flew to Orlando, where they met Baker, his mother, and his wife; Landis also found out that his birth mother died in 1997 and that he has a half-sister. "When I saw him and he looked just like me, there's no doubt," he said. "A DNA test wasn't even needed. I can't even explain the joy that I felt and then when I got to hold him and hug him. I felt that we belonged together." Baker told WLWT he always wanted to search for his son, but respected the fact it was a closed adoption. "I always thought about him, always prayed for him," he said. Catherine Garcia
They didn't speak the same language, but it didn't matter — two young baseball players at the Little League World Series used technology to communicate.
— bob holtzman (@Bob_Holtzman) August 20, 2017
Former ESPN anchor Bob Holtzman was at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on Sunday when he stumbled upon a familiar scene: Two boys glued to their phones. But it turned out they weren't focusing on a game or surfing the internet — the players, one from South Dakota and the other from the Dominican Republic, were using Google Translate to talk to each another. Holtzman tweeted that watching these kids form a new friendship was the "coolest thing" he saw that day. Catherine Garcia
One of the peculiarities of baseball is that in some of the most memorable games, very little happens. So it was in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night. Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill pitched eight perfect innings, until Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer got to base on an error in the bottom of the ninth. Hill still had a no-hitter when the 0-0 game went into extra innings, and then Josh Harrison stepped up to plate in the bottom of the 10th.
An incredible way to lose a no-hitter for Rich Hill. Josh Harrison, walk it off pic.twitter.com/Fds5GlirhK
— Dugout Nation (@DugoutNation) August 24, 2017
Harrison's leadoff homer ended the game and Hill's (9-5) no-hitter, giving Pittsburgh the win and Hill the loss.
After 8 innings: Perfect game
After 9 innings: No-hitter
After 10 innings: A loss
Life comes at you fast.
— YourSports (@YourSports) August 24, 2017
According to ESPN's statisticians, Hill still walked away with a record of sorts, albeit one he probably didn't want.
Rich Hill is the first pitcher in the last 100 seasons to throw at least 9 innings, allow 1 or fewer hits with no walks, and get a loss.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 24, 2017
The last perfect game — where a pitcher doesn't allow any runner to reach base — in the major leagues was in 2012, when Seattle's Felix Hernandez shut out Tampa Bay. Los Angeles could have retired Hill after nine innings, but according to The Associated Press, "to get official credit for a no-hitter under Major League Baseball rules, a pitcher must complete the game — going nine innings isn't enough if it goes into extras." Still, cold comfort though it may be, Hill isn't alone in coming close and losing it all, AP notes: "Back in 1959, a Pirates pitcher had perhaps the most famous near-miss of all when Harvey Haddix lost his perfect game and the game itself in the 13th at Milwaukee." Peter Weber
More than 1,000 demonstrators marched to the National Football League's headquarters in Manhattan on Wednesday, in support of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick was criticized by some people for his decision to not stand during the national anthem, in protest of police brutality against blacks. In March, he opted out of his contract with the team he led to a Super Bowl, and he remains unsigned; supporters say he is being punished for his activism. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has denied that the league is blackballing him.
The demonstrators want to see Kaepernick signed by the start of the regular season in September. Many wore jerseys with Kaepernick's name on the back, The Associated Press reports, and chanted, "Boycott! Boycott!" Several people spoke, including Rev. Jamal Bryant, who asked the crowd: "How in the world can we call ourselves the land of the free, the home of the brave, and you get vilified and criminalized just for speaking your mind? The NFL has proven with their treatment of Colin Kaepernick that they do not mind if black players get a concussion, they just got a problem if black players get a conscience." Catherine Garcia
The White House is preparing to send the Pentagon a memo with instructions on how to implement President Trump's proposal to ban transgender people from serving in the armed forces, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The new policy will let Defense Secretary James Mattis consider a service member's ability to deploy when deciding whether to remove him or her from the military, the Journal reports, and it gives Mattis six months to re-establish the ban on transgender soldiers. The memo also directs the Pentagon to stop paying for gender dysphoria treatments for transgender military members currently serving. Trump announced on Twitter last month he would reinstate the ban on transgender individuals serving in the military, a year after it was abolished by former President Barack Obama. Catherine Garcia