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August 31, 2018

Most Americans likely have no idea that over the last 10 days, the United States has hosted the 2018 Women's Baseball World Cup — much less that women play baseball at all. But the athletes of Team USA have an ally in Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, whose winery's Diamond Collection was one of a handful of sponsors at the event.

"I am convinced baseball would be a much more wonderful game if it were men and women playing together," Coppola, who was in attendance at a number of games, told The Week.

Coppola fell in love with baseball when he was a child, but was prevented from playing seriously due to a bout of polio that left him practically paralyzed for three years. "For Christmas one year, hearing that story, my wife gave me a Christmas present of a baseball field in the back of the winery," Coppola said. "And the tradition started to happen where whenever anyone got married, the two families would play a game — and I was always astounded with somebody's aunt or somebody's cousin or … sister who was the great star of the game."

Baseball-playing women in the U.S. face intense pressure after Little League to switch to softball, although Coppola dismissed it as an equivalent sport: "Women have been playing baseball for 150 years. Softball was invented by a lot of drunken college boys who apparently tied up a boxing glove." (Fact check: true).

Coppola played a pivotal role in encouraging the integration of the Sonoma Stompers, an independent league team, during the 2015 offseason: He promised to make his nearby winery a sponsor if it recruited female players. Two of Sonoma's stars, outfielder/pitcher Kelsie Whitmore and pitcher Stacy Piagno, played with Team USA in the exciting bronze-medal nail-biter earlier in the day. "For awhile there it was pure baseball," Coppola marveled. "I didn't know if it was boys, girls. Whoever they were, it was an exciting game of baseball." Jeva Lange

5:37 p.m.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) has exactly one touchy subject.

The 2020 contender isn't too worried that he didn't make the first Democratic debates, he told Politico in a Q&A published Wednesday. He's happy to say he thinks he was "Taylor Swift's No. 22" in reference to the number of Democrats who entered the 2020 race before him. And he won't shy away from his record of pushing ObamaCare to small-town Montanans while also promising to work with Republicans in Washington, D.C.

But don't you dare ask Bullock about what's on his feet, as Politico found out with this question:

On his monogrammed cowboy-style boots

A: "They're just custom boots."

Q: "No, come on. It sounds like there's a story."

A: "I'm happy to answer anything else but the boots."

Q: "Did you get them from a lobbyist?"

A: "Well, they're alligator boots. And I hunted an alligator...Yeah, so let's not write that."

Q: "Are you going to wear them at the debate?"

A: "Probably not now, thank you. I'm going to wear wingtips at this point."

Bullock has secured enough donors to make the second Democratic debates at the end of this month, where it will be an absolute crime not to ask him about the boots. Read the whole interview with Bullock at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:26 p.m.

Massachusetts prosecutors have dropped sexual assault charges against actor Kevin Spacey.

Spacey was accused of groping an 18-year-old man in Nantucket, Massachusetts in 2016, prompting prosecutors to bring indecent assault and battery charges against him. Yet those charges were dropped in entirely due to the "unavailability of the complaining witness," the Nantucket District Court wrote in its Wednesday filing.

The alleged assault was originally reported to police in Oct. 2016, but was made public in 2017, after actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of making an advance toward him when he was 14 and Spacey was 26. Police in this incident said the 18-year-old accuser took video of the event, but after Spacey pleaded not guilty and the trial continued on, just where that footage and cell phone ended up came into question. The accuser pleaded his Fifth Amendment rights regarding the status of the phone, prompting Spacey's lawyer to move to have what he called a "compromised" case dismissed altogether.

Spacey at the time said he didn't remember the incident with Rapp, but apologized for what he called "drunken behavior." Spacey was then cut from his starring role in the final season of the Netflix show House of Cards, and several more allegations against him soon surfaced. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:02 p.m.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday provided provisional statistics suggesting that overdose fatalities likely decreased for the first time in three decades in 2018. While that's good news, the response by most experts is temperate for several reasons.

For starters, nearly 68,000 people died from overdoses, which is lower than 2017's total which topped 70,000, but still a high number. And 2018's numbers are still expected to increase once the complete data set comes in.

Further, overdoses caused by heroin and prescription painkillers decreased, possibly resulting from fewer opioid prescriptions from doctors, but deaths related to fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamines all continued to rise.

Finally, there's an important distinction distinction to be made. The data represents a decline in overdose deaths, but not necessarily overdoses, in general. Along those lines, Valerie Hardcastle, a Northern Kentucky University public health expert, told The Associated Press that the increased availablity of Narcan might be a major factor in the decline. Narcan is a nasal spray version of naloxone, a medication used to block the effects of opioids in an emergency situation.

"It's fantastic that we have fewer deaths, don't get me wrong," she said. "But I'm not sure it's an indication that the opioid problem per se is diminishing. It's just that we have greater availability of the drugs that will keep us alive."

Still, Stanford University professor Keith Humphreys called the preliminary data "the first real sign of hope we've had." Tim O'Donnell

4:58 p.m.

Don't expect to see any FaceApp memes coming from the 2020 Democrats anytime soon.

The Democratic National Committee on Wednesday urged every 2020 campaign not to use FaceApp, the popular app that allows users to apply filters to photos and has recently been used on social media to age-up pictures, noting it was "developed by Russians," CNN reports. The app was created by Wireless Lab, which is based in Russia.

The DNC's chief security officer, Bob Lord, told the 2020 campaigns the organization has "significant concerns about the app (as do other security experts) having access to your photos, or even simply uploading a selfie." Concerns were previously raised about the app, which notes in its privacy terms that by using it, you "consent to the processing, transfer and storage of information about you in and to the United States and other countries," The Washington Post reports. The company said on Wednesday that "the user data is not transferred to Russia."

Lord said in his warning to 2020 campaigns that "it's not clear at this point what the privacy risks are," per CNN, but that "the benefits of avoiding the app outweigh the risks." Brendan Morrow

4:42 p.m.

What could go wrong here?

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued recommendations Tuesday that propose cutting just how many nuclear power plant inspections it conducts every year. The suggestion is supposed to be a cost-saving measure, but as commission members and lawmakers have said, it could obviously backfire in a major way, The Associated Press reports.

There are more than 90 nuclear power plants in the U.S., and they're inspected by the commission once a year. Yet these recommendations suggest cutting the "time and scope" of inspections, and also reducing other types of inspections "from every two years to every three years," AP says. The suggestion comes both as President Trump's administration suggests regulatory cuts to save money, and as the nuclear power industry pushes the NRC to cut down on inspections.

Earlier this week, House Democrats in the Energy and Commerce Committee voiced their concerns about possible cuts in a letter to NRC Chair Kristine Svinicki, namely calling out the proposed replacement of inspector assessments with "industry self-assessments." The recommendations "may eventually lead to a disaster that could be detrimental to the future of the domestic nuclear industry," the letter continued. The NRC ended up not fully endorsing that suggestion in its Tuesday recommendations. Still, commission member Jeff Baran told AP that the recommendations would "take us in the wrong direction."

The suggestions will now face a vote from the entire commission, a majority of whom have been appointed or reappointed by Trump. While they make their decisions, may we suggest watching HBO's Chernobyl? Kathryn Krawczyk

4:21 p.m.

Several Game of Thrones stars took their Emmys fate into their own hands this year, and it paid off big time.

Game of Thrones on Tuesday picked up 10 Emmy nominations for its cast, which turns out to have been more than the network was even aiming for. After all, Gwendoline Christie, Alfie Allen, and Carice van Houten weren't actually entered for Emmys by HBO, the network confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday.

Instead, the actors who played Brienne of Tarth, Theon Greyjoy, and Melisandre submitted themselves for Emmys, paying $225 for the entry fee in the process, according to the Reporter. Allen was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, while Christie was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series and van Houten was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.

The Reporter's Scott Feinberg notes that while it isn't unusual for actors to self-submit when they aren't thought to have much of a shot at nabbing an Emmy, "it is uncommon for those entries to result in nominations." Indeed, even for awards prognosticators, these nominations came as a surprise, and they're the very first Emmy nominations for all three actors — including Allen, whose sister in 2007 famously wrote a song about how much of a slacker he is. A lot, clearly, has changed since then.

Allen said on Tuesday that his nomination "really surprised me," Entertainment Weekly reports, while Christie similarly admitted that "I never ever thought this would happen," Variety reports. "I really didn't." Rise, Gwendoline of Game of Thrones: a nominee of the 2019 Emmys. Brendan Morrow

3:12 p.m.

Outgoing U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May gave a "valedictory" speech on Wednesday, as she and the country prepare to move on without one another. Eyes seemed to remain dry, however. Perhaps unsurprisingly, left-leaning media and politicians were largely unimpressed with the conservative's swan song.

May spoke about her concerns that absolutist politics have come to play too great a role globally and domestically. "An inability to combine principles with pragmatism and make a compromise when required seems to have driven our political discourse down the wrong path," she said during the farewell speech.

That sounded nice and the analysis is true, The Guardian wrote in an editorial, which while critical of May, did attest to the "solidity of her character." But the paper argues that ultimately the entire speech was "unoriginal" and "blunted by a characteristic lack of candor." The editorial added that it is "sad" but unsurprising that even now May "lacks the introspective capacity to draw and share valuable insights from her experience in office."

Labour Party MP David Lammy was even less forgiving in his critique.

Meanwhile, The Independent decided to "read between the lines" and provided some suggestions for what May really meant by some of her more careful word choices throughout the speech. The conclusion, per the paper? "We are all doomed." Tim O'Donnell

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