September 10, 2019

Kevin Durant is no stranger to drama, but he's insisting that his departure from the Golden State Warriors was anything but tumultuous, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Durant, who signed a four-year, $164 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets, will move from California to New York to start the next phase of his career as he recovers from a devastating Achilles injury in last season's NBA Finals between the Warriors and the eventual champion Toronto Raptors. Durant says his decision to leave Golden State after just three seasons was simply because Brooklyn was the right fit for him, on and off the court — when he's finally healthy, he'll get to play alongside the Nets other new acquisition, Kyrie Irving, who is reportedly Durant's closest friend in the league.

But despite a confrontation with his old teammate Draymond Green last year, Durant does not appear to be harbor any ill will toward Golden State, where he won two NBA titles. In fact, he said he and Green got over their issues pretty quickly. He did, however, admit that he never really felt quite in sync with his teammates. "I came in there wanting to be part of a group, wanting to be part of a family, and definitely felt accepted," he said. "But I'll never be one of those guys."

Durant explained he realized he was "just different" from his teammates like Green, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson, all of whom were drafted by the Bay Area franchise. Even the other players who joined the club later in life were there under different circumstances, as they were often focused on rehabilitating their stalled careers. "How can you alter anything in my basketball life?," Durant said, pointing to the MVP trophy and scoring titles he carried with him from his days playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

5:44 a.m.

Phoenix is the epicenter of Arizona's growing COVID-19 outbreak, and Mayor Kate Gallego (D) said Sunday she's being hamstrung by Arizona's governor and the dearth of testing in Maricopa County. Lines to get tested are so long in Phoenix, she said, people are running out of gas while waiting in their cars, despite months of work on the city's part to increase testing capacity. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, for example, has rebuffed her testing help requests since April, Gallego told The New York Times.

"We are the largest city not to have received this type of investment," Gallego said, pointing to FEMA's community testing aid to Houston, Los Angeles, and other metropolitan areas. More than 20 percent of people tested in Arizona test positive for the coronavirus, she said, and "public health officials tell me that when you're doing the appropriate amount of testing, it should be around 2 percent."

An aide told the Times that FEMA most recently informed Gallego's office it is "getting out of the testing business," a point Gallego brought up on ABC News Sunday: "We were told they're moving away from that, which feels like they are declaring victory while we're still in crisis mode."

"This is not just a Phoenix problem," Gallego said. "I think many communities and people across both parties would like to see the federal government play a role." She dismissed assertions from the Trump administration that testing is readily available to anyone who wants it, but did have "one hopeful note," she told the Times on Sunday afternoon. After she raised the issue on TV, "the White House reached out and said they're interested in more information, and would try to see what they can do." Peter Weber

4:22 a.m.

Ennio Morricone, the prolific Italian film composer probably best known for his iconic scores of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and other Sergio Leone Westerns, died early Monday at a hospital in Rome. He was 91, and died of complications from a fall last week in which he broke his femur, his longtime lawyer tells The Associated Press.

Morricone scored more than 500 films. He won an Oscar for his score of Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight (2015), an honorary Oscar in 2007 for his "magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music," a Grammy for his soundtrack to Brian de Palma's The Untouchables (1987), plus 11 David de Donatello Awards, Italy's top cinematic honor. His other famous scores include Cinema Paradiso (1988), The Mission (1986), and The Battle of Algiers (1966). He also got an international hit with "Chi Mai," the theme for the 1981 BBC drama The Life and Times of David Lloyd George.

But it was The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and his other six films for Leone that put Morricone on the cinematic map — and set the musical template for "spaghetti Westerns" and cowboy movies in general.

Morricone was born in Rome in 1928, the son of a trumpet player. He began writing music at age 6 and met Leone for the first time when he was about 8, The Hollywood Reporter reports. He studied composition at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory and got his start in film after World War II, in the Italian film Renaissance at Rome's Cinecittà. "Most of these scores were very ugly, and I believed I could do better," Morricone explained in 2001. "I needed money, and I thought it would be a good thing to write film scores."

Morricone used harmonicas, church bells, whistles, whips, animal noises, clocks, and other non-traditional instruments in his scores. "All kinds of sounds can be useful to convey emotion," he said. "It’s music made up of the sound of reality." But his scores were also often lush and melodic, like his Cinema Paradiso soundtrack and The Mission.

Morricone's "music is indispensable," said Leone, who died in 1989, "because my films could practically be silent movies, the dialogue counts for relatively little, and so the music underlines actions and feelings more than the dialogue." Peter Weber

3:23 a.m.

It's no secret President Trump had a long and friendly relationship with late indicted pedophile and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein and his alleged main accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell, had ties to many powerful people, as Eric Trump briefly pointed out on Twitter after the FBI arrested Maxwell on Thursday.

There are so many photos of Donald Trump and Maxwell together that Fox News even used one Sunday in a report on the various civil and criminal cases against Maxwell.

Embed from Getty Images

Except they cropped Trump out, as a Twitter user name Scott Croker noticed and Raw Story found on video.

Given the ample space on either side of the photo, it wasn't cropped to fit the screen. But if Fox News was trying to save Trump from embarrassment, it was an odd choice to leave first lady Melania Trump in the photo, especially in such a way it appears she is hanging off Epstein. Peter Weber

2:22 a.m.

Two planes collided over Lake Coeur d'Alene in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on Sunday afternoon, with authorities confirming that two bodies have been recovered from the crash site.

The Kootenai County Sheriff's Office believes that as many as eight passengers and crew members were on board the single-engine planes — a Cessna TU206G and a de Havilland DHC-2. Lt. Ryan Higgins said the planes have been located by sonar at 127 feet below the lake's surface, but because Kootenai County divers do not have the right equipment to go that deep, a commercial company will likely have to come in and search the wreckage for additional victims and evidence.

The crash occurred near Powderhorn Bay, and witness Patrick Pearce told The Spokesman-Review he saw the planes coming toward each other, about 800 to 900 feet above the water. Based on the engine sounds he heard, Pearce believes the planes were traveling at a high rate of speed when they collided. Catherine Garcia

2:11 a.m.

Back in mid-March, Tomas Pueyo famously predicted that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic would be a complicated balancing act he called "the hammer and the dance" — the hammer being lockdowns followed by more localized restrictions and the dance being periods of relative freedom where the outbreak would worsen. Most of the U.S. is in some form of dance right now, but several states — or parts of states — that were probably too eager to ease up on restrictions and too quick to dance too freely are getting hammered.

Collectively, the U.S. reported its 27th straight day of record high coronavirus cases Sunday, based on a seven-day average. Florida, Texas, California, and Arizona are recording alarming numbers of new cases every day, but they aren't alone — 13 states just reported new highs, including Montana, Delaware, West Virginia, and Alaska, The Washington Post reports.

The raw numbers are bad, but they aren't the only troubling indicator. In Texas, Austin Mayor Steve Adler (D), Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D), and the top elected official in Houston's Harris County, Judge Lina Hidalgo (D), warned Sunday that hospitals in their cities are 10 days to two weeks away from crisis as ICU beds fill up and medical personnel are stretched too thin. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) required masks to be worn in public starting Friday, enforced by $250 fines.

Turner said about 25 percent of people tested in Houston tested positive, versus 10 percent a month ago. More than 20 percent of people tested in Arizona and Florida's Miami-Dade County are positive, too, officials said.

On a positive note, the seven-day average of COVID-19 death's fell to 485, from 562 a week earlier. Public health officials attribute the falling fatalities to a higher proportion of younger people getting infected, improved treatment drawn from experience, and the weeks-long lag between rising infections and rising deaths. They also warn that the disease is brutal even on many who survive it.

Hidalgo said she appreciates Abbott's mask mandate but "as long as we're doing as little as possible and hoping for the best, we're always going to be chasing this thing, we're always going to be behind, and the virus will always outrun us."

"The hardest in terms of the economy is the hammer," Pueyo explained a few weeks after his Medium post went viral. "But the hardest to pull off is the dance." Peter Weber

1:51 a.m.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium welcomed several adorable baby animals over the course of a month, with two red panda cubs, a Masai giraffe calf, two sea lion pups, and a siamang arriving between May 29 and June 30.

With the exception of the sea lion, all of the species are endangered, Doug Warmolts, vice president of animal care at the zoo, told Today. Their numbers are low for a multitude of reasons, including climate change and deforestation, and everyone at the zoo is "thrilled" and "optimistic" over the births.

The siamang, a species of gibbon, was born on May 29, and Warmolts said it has been spotted snuggling and swinging with its mother, Olga. The red panda cubs came next on June 13, and are still being nursed; they are expected to make their public debut in about four months. There are fewer than 10,000 red pandas in the wild, and Warmolts told Today the zoo worked "very hard to get pairings just right and introductions of males and females just right. They're a challenging species to breed in human care, so we're just thrilled that they were successful."

On June 25, a sea lion named Lovell welcomed her first pup — the first ever born at the Columbus Zoo — and on June 30, a sea lion named Baby also gave birth. Between those arrivals, a Masai giraffe calf was born on June 28. Warmolts said a wellness check will be conducted after the baby has time to bond with its mother, but it does appear healthy. Catherine Garcia

12:49 a.m.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a Purple Heart recipient and Iraq War veteran, has emerged as a serious contender to be former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate, three people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post.

Duckworth is a "highly decorated woman," former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told the Post, and the Biden team is taking a close look at her. Biden has promised to choose a woman as his running mate, and said he would reveal his pick by Aug. 1.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) have all been vetted, the Post reports, and many Biden allies view Harris as the favorite. Some people with knowledge of the matter told the Post that while Duckworth is a strong choice, they don't believe she'll ultimately be selected.

Duckworth is of Thai Chinese descent, and in the wake of the anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, many people are pushing Biden to choose a Black woman as his running mate. During an interview on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, Duckworth said Black female voters are "a key to the victory for Democrats" and she is certain Biden "will pick the right person to be next to him as he digs this country out of the mess that Donald Trump has put us in."

Republicans are ready to pounce on Biden's eventual running mate, the Post reports, as many believe this person will be an easier target than Biden. Dan Eberhart, an oil executive and one of President Trump's donors, told the Post the GOP is "more likely than ever to hammer the Democratic vice presidential nominee. Biden is boxed in by the progressives in the party — he has to pick a woman and someone who is relatively far to the left of himself. That's going to provide natural openings for the campaign to draw contrasts." Catherine Garcia

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