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Need To Know.
Report Rips Alabama Prisons.
The US Justice Department issued a scathing report on the state of Alabama’s prison system yesterday, concluding the unsafe and overcrowded conditions were likely unconstitutional. The report found the failure of prison officials to protect inmates from prisoner-on-prisoner abuse violated their Eighth Amendment rights. First-hand accounts revealed that rape, stabbings, and drug use - often facilitated by prison guards - were commonplace. The investigation found that between 2015 and 2018, at least 27 inmates were murdered in state prisons, nearly eight times the national average. Understaffing is a key concern - only 1,300 guards were employed as of 2017, just one-third of the number authorized, and many prisons were staffed at 20% capacity. On the flip side, state data shows (see stats) that the facilities were running at over 160% inmate capacity by the end of last year, housing over 20,200 inmates. The state has 49 days to provide a response to the report.
The amount of new coral growth along Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has collapsed by 89%, according to a study released yesterday. The stunning drop was caused by a mass bleaching event during exceptionally hot summers in 2016 and 2017, which killed half of the existing coral at the time. When waters warm for an extended period, coral expels the colorful algae it uses as a food source (see 101) - the bleached coral is still alive, but eventually starves if temperatures stay high for too long. Scientists have linked climate change to the bleaching events, in particular increasingly long heat waves that keep waters too warm for coral to begin taking in algae again. Experts estimate it could take the reef up to ten years to fully recover - assuming another mass bleaching does not occur.
House Democrats authorized a range of subpoenas yesterday requesting information and testimonies related to the Trump administration. The rush of demands began with a party-line vote by the House Judiciary Committee to subpoena for five former White House aides, including former chief of staff Reince Preibus and campaign chairman Steve Bannon, as part of a wide-ranging probe into alleged obstruction of justice. The committee also subpoenaed the Justice Department requesting the full, unredacted report from Special Counsel Mueller - some members of Mueller's team reportedly feel the summary released by Attorney General William Barr was not comprehensive. Finally, the House Ways and Means Committee requested the president's tax returns for the last six years from the Treasury Department. The requests, which White House officials dismissed as partisan and a distraction, are likely to spark a number of legal challenges over whether to comply.
Separately - for the third time in six years - the Senate invoked the so-called "nuclear option" to speed up the confirmation of a range of presidential nominees.
> Disney's Captain Marvel tops $1B at the global box office; 7th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise to gross over $1B worldwide (More)
> Lori Loughlin, Felicity Hoffman attend first court hearing on charges stemming from college admissions scandal; several parents have already plead guilty (More)
> Britney Spears checks into mental health facility; reports says Spears under emotional distress as her father's health worsens following ruptured colon (More)
Science & Technology.
> Ford, GM, and Toyota form consortium on self-driving car safety technologies, testing, and best practices (More)
> After a 19-month-hiatus, the world’s two biggest gravitational-wave detectors come back online with increased sensitivity; will also send out public, real-time detection alerts for other observatories (More) | General relativity explained (More)
> The first major opioid settlement, made between Oklahoma and Purdue Pharma, will fund ambitious addiction research center at Oklahoma State University (More)
Business & Markets.
> ADP private company payroll data shows job growth at 18-month low, with payrolls up 129,000 jobs versus 179,000 expected jobs; may be potential sign of larger US hiring slowdown (More)
> Constellation Brands, alcohol giant that owns Corona & Robert Mondavi, to divest 30 smaller brands for $1.7B (More)
> Alphabet (Google), Facebook, Amazon top LinkedIn 2019 Top Companies list (More)
Politics & World Affairs.
> Anti-LGBTQ and adultery laws go into effect in Brunei; provides for punishment of death by stoning (More)
> Three more women accuse potential Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of inappropriate touching, bringing total to seven; Biden says he will be "more mindful" of personal space (More)
> Teen found wandering streets in Kentucky town says he is Timmothy Pitzen, who was kidnapped from Illinois 7 years ago; police working to confirm identity (More)
We Gotta Go Back for That S**t.
Vox | Brian Resnick. In 1969, Neil Armstrong left his iconic footprint on the moon - but that's not all the Apollo 11 crew left behind. Dozens of bags of human waste remain, with over a thousand microbial species which live in our gut. Scientists now want to retrieve the bags to understand how resilient life is to the harsh conditions on the moon. (Read)
The Challenge of Going Off Psychiatric Drugs.
The New Yorker | Rachel Aviv. Every day, more and more antidepressants are prescribed, adding to the millions of Americans who already take them. Though when patients decide it's time to stop, or something prohibits them from continuing, the sudden adjustment can have life-threatening consequences. (Read, paywall)
Historybook: William Henry Harrison dies of pneumonia, shortest presidency ever at just 31 days (1841); American poet and activist Maya Angelou born (1928); NATO is created (1949); Martin Luther King, Jr is assassinated (1968).
"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - Maya Angelou
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