Climate change
August 30, 2014
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Scientists warn in a new study that there is a 50 percent chance of a 30-year "megadrought" suffocating the Southwest, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The study from Cornell University, the University of Arizona, and the U.S. Geological Survey will be published in the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate next month. Scientists used climate model projections to determine which areas the conditions would most affect (New Mexico, Arizona, and California appear to be the states most likely to suffer from extreme drought; Australia, southern Africa, and parts of the Amazon could also face such harsh conditions). The resulting megadrought would produce conditions not seen since the 1930s Dust Bowl era, scientists say, and they cautioned governments to heed the findings and begin creating contingency plans in the event of shrinking water resources.

The study's lead author noted that the projections are not certain, but that if climate change continues at its current rate, the drought affecting the Southwest could become much worse.

"I am not trying to say this is imminent," Toby Ault, assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell, said. "But the risk is high." Sarah Eberspacher

9:54 a.m. ET

It's a question that has bedeviled moguls for millennia: Where do you put your solid gold bucket brimming with weed and coke? If you were a nomadic warlord from the 4th century B.C., you'd hide it in your secret treasure room, of course.

Archaeologists have found just such a room, containing two such objects, hidden beneath an ancient burial mound in southern Russia. The researchers dated the treasure horde to 2,400 years ago and believe it once belonged to the Scythians, a ferocious group of nomads who were contemporaries of the ancient Greeks. All in all, the room contains nearly seven pounds worth of gold artifacts like cups, rings, bracelets, and chokers. Those buckets, though, stole the show.

National Geographic reports:

[Head archaeologist] Belinski asked criminologists in nearby Stavropol to analyze a black residue inside the vessels. The results came back positive for opium and cannabis, confirming a practice first reported by Herodotus. The Greek historian claimed that the Scythians used a plant to produce smoke "that no Grecian vapour-bath can surpass … transported by the vapor, [they] shout aloud."

Because the sticky residue was found on the inside of the vessels, Belinski and Gass think they were used to brew and drink a strong opium concoction, while cannabis was burning nearby. "That both drugs were being used simultaneously is beyond doubt," Gass says. [National Geographic]

You can read more about this heady, "once-in-a-century discovery" at National Geographic. Nico Lauricella

This just in
9:02 a.m. ET
Cate Gillon/Getty Images

For the first time in 10 years, military regulations at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will prevent lawyers from bringing food to inmates during legal meetings.

Lawyers often bring treats, such as McDonald's Big Mac sandwiches or chocolate chip cookies, with them to legal conferences at the facility.

Prison officials have defended the new regulations, which go into effect Wednesday, for health and safety reasons. But critics say the food helps prisoners cooperate with their lawyers, such as when attorneys got prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab to drink juice during a hunger strike.

"It's actually quite tragic for the clients," Alka Pradhan, an attorney, told The Miami Herald. "Sometimes the food we bring is the only thing from the outside world they've seen in months, and they really look forward to it." Meghan DeMaria

The beautiful game
8:46 a.m. ET

Nine top officials of soccer's governing organization FIFA were arrested today in Switzerland and will be extradited to the U.S. to face corruption charges. If you're just getting up to speed on the news, let John Oliver walk you through the inner workings of this "comically grotesque" and "cartoonishly evil" organization — from its kangaroo courts to its shady deals and hilariously megalomaniacal boardrooms. The video is from last year, but the takeaway is all too relevant. --Nico Lauricella

This just in
8:13 a.m. ET

Israeli fighter jets launched four airstrikes in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday, the first since a cease-fire between Gaza militants and Israel went into effect last summer following a 50-day war.

Israeli Defense Minster Moshe Yaalon told The Associated Press that the Israeli airstrikes were aimed at the Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant group in the Gaza Strip, as well as at Hamas sites, in retaliation for a rocket fired at southern Israel Tuesday night. No Palestinian group, however, claimed responsibility for the rocket attack.

Israeli Defense Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner told AP the airstrikes targeted "four terror infrastructures" in the Gaza Strip. "The reality that Hamas' territory is used as a staging ground to attack Israel is unacceptable and intolerable and will bear consequences," Lerner told AP. "Israelis cannot be expected to live in the perpetual fear of rocket attacks. The IDF will continue to operate in order to seek out those that wish to undermine Israeli sovereignty with acts of terrorism."

No casualties were reported in the Israeli airstrikes. Meghan DeMaria

The Daily Showdown
8:10 a.m. ET

Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) interview with Jon Stewart started out amicably on Tuesday's Daily Show, with some jokes about filibusters and urination and broad agreement that Republicans are inconsistent when it comes to liberty and NSA mass surveillance. Paul ably dodged a comparison between terrorism and school shootings, pivoting to murder in Baltimore, and then Stewart brought up "this religious liberty" hullaballoo. "I'm really fascinated by the idea of religious persecution in this country," he said. "The depth of feeling seems real," but what are conservatives talking about?

"Some people are afraid in our country that their personal religious opinions will no longer be allowed, even in their church," Paul said, bringing up the idea that tax deductions for church donations are a back door to government regulation. "I think there's a difference between acceptance and neutrality of the law, and trying to force your opinion on someone, even in their church, or even in their expression."

When Stewart objected, Paul walked back to safer ground, bringing up a Christian T-shirt shop that refused to make liberal or pro-gay marriage shirts:

That does sound a little bit to me like a freedom issue, and you can go down the street to get someone else to make it. And I'm not one who is intolerant — I'm one who believes in letting people live life the way they want to live it, but also I would include Christians in that, too. [Rand Paul]

Stewart had a good point about how these protesting businesses seem to be fine selling cake to other types of sinners. But in the end, Paul circled the square and got a befuddled Stewart to toast with him their agreement about the Patriot Act. You can try to follow along below. —Peter Weber

Law And Order
7:03 a.m. ET

On Tuesday, Mexican police arrested Henry Solis, a 27-year-old former Los Angeles Police Department officer, in Ciudad Juarez, ending a two-month manhunt. Late Tuesday, Solis was handed over to U.S. federal agents in El Paso, Texas, where he will be held on California murder charges for the shooting death of Salome Rodriguez Jr. outside a bar on March 13. Mexican authorities say Solis resisted arrest, but that no shots were fired.

Solis is accused of shooting Rodriguez, 23, after some dispute at a bar in Pomona, California, when he was off-duty. The LAPD fired him a few days later, and his father was later arrested for lying to federal investigators after driving Solis to El Paso and, according to security footage, helping him walk across the border to Juarez. You can watch an Associated Press report on the arrest below. —Peter Weber

6:04 a.m. ET
Overheard with Evan Smith

One of the biggest and most consequential shifts in the push for gay rights was when corporate America joined the fray, recently siding with LGTB advocates against "religious freedom" laws Indiana and Arkansas. In an interview with Evan Smith, former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) called the business community "a critical block" in the gay-rights fight.

"It's very good to win an issue because you have morality on your side, but it helps in America if the profit motive weighs in," Frank said on the PBS show Overheard. "And essentially what you now have is the business community saying to the bigots, 'Will you please knock it off, you are interfering with our ability to ruin the economy and make money.'" Big Business is doing the right thing, he added, but not exactly for altruistic reasons:

It's interesting what they're saying, and they're saying this: Do not give us the right to discriminate — you are giving me something I didn't ask for. Because if a business has the legal and moral obligation to serve everybody, no controversy. But if you say to them, OK, you can pick and choose, then once they start picking and choosing, somebody's going to be mad at them. Either they'll be too kind to gay people or not kind enough. [Barney Frank]

You can watch Frank's comments at the Overheard site (they broach the topic at about the 12-minute mark), but the entire 25-minute interview is worth a listen. Among other things, Frank talks about how the left's penchant for marching is counterproductive, why the GOP may secretly want the Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage, Hillary Clinton's record on gay rights, and why he thinks Clinton should win the Democratic nomination without too much of a fight. Peter Weber

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