Report: NFL Owners Discussing Opening 2020 Season in China

On the heels of Major League Baseball opening the 2019 season in Japan, the NFL is reportedly considering kicking off the 2020 pro football season in China.

According to The Athletic, league owners are discussing the possibility of allowing the San Francisco 49ers to give up a home game and serve as the host team in the game.

The LA Rams, who are also on the West Coast and play in the same division as the 49ers, have previously shown interest in a game like this and could be a possible opponent for San Fran.

Having the game start the season would make sense as the teams would have appropriate lead-up time to acclimate to the 15-hour time difference as well as recover before Week 2 of the season.

“As a football guy, you’re usually pretty protective. Like, ‘Hey, let’s make sure this is good for our team.’ I think one thing we feel comfortable with is that (CEO) Jed (York) and (team president) Al (Guido) always keep that in mind, so we’re not going to do anything that’s going to put us at a disadvantage,” said 49ers general manager John Lynch. “But if we can grow the game and also have a cool experience we’ll make it work.”

As of now, the NFL already plays a series of games outside the U.S. in London and a single one in Mexico City as part of its International Series. The league has discussed expanding the series in the past in order to create more revenue and expand football’s appeal worldwide.

Tom Cruise’s Daughter Reveals She’s a Top Scientology Recruiter

In an email promoting the benefits of Scientology training, Tom Cruise’s daughter Isabella revealed she’s a top recruiter for the controversial church.

The email, which was sent out to Scientologists on March 19, contained a “success story” from a group member encouraging other followers to do an “internship” to become an auditor.

The group member who penned the email was none other than Isabella Cruise.

In a piece accompanied by her photo, Isabella shared what it was like to become an auditor in the Church of Scientology.

“It turned out it was exactly what I needed… This IS what I had been searching for,” she wrote. “The missing piece. Suddenly everything began to make sense. I became that annoying girl in the org who would just talk endlessly about how incredible training is and how phenomenal the internship is. I’m sure a few people couldn’t deal just like I couldn’t. But I won’t stop with that because now I KNOW. We all need to do this. It’s hard work. It’s a lot of effort. It’s a few melt downs and running to the bathroom to have a mini episode, but it is worth everything because you will get through. This is a gift to yourself and so many others. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t going to be an auditor or aren’t going to join staff.”

At the end of the email, which included a link to find more information about getting trained as an auditor, Isabella thanked her dad “for everything” and offered her gratitude to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

“It took a whole family and org to get me here,” she wrote.

War On Plastic: Hawaii, New Jersey Propose Toughest Bans in the Country

More states are jumping on the anti-plastic bandwagon as Hawaii and New Jersey introduce legislation to ban plastic bags, straws, food containers as well as Styrofoam food and drink containers.

“The goal here was not just to clean up litter but to deal with litter that is not biodegradable,” New Jersey Sen. Linda Greenstein told Fox News.

Hawaii state Sen. Mike Gabbard told the network that humans need to depend less on products created by using dirty energy sources.

“Plastic is made from fossil fuels and it’s time for us as a society to move away from our dependence on petroleum and toward clean energy sources,” Gabbard said.

Cities like Chicago and Boston have bans on single-use bags however, the only statewide bans are on the books in California and Hawaii.

Although litter might not be the biggest issue, a ban on these items would still be beneficial as recycling facilities deal with loads of plastics as they regularly clog and contaminate the machines.

“It’s extremely controversial, no question. But my starting point is this something that would be good and important for the environment, and I believe it is,” Sen. Greenstein said. She urges citizens and business owners to contact her if they have any questions.

Female Inventors Are the “Lost Einsteins” of the Modern Era

In recent years, women have been churning out more inventions than ever, says the US Patent and Trademark Office.

But they’re still seriously outnumbered by men when it comes to actually obtaining patents for their work. The disparity is so severe that one recent study found that it will take 118 years before the US reaches gender parity among inventors, CNN reported.

In 1976, the number of patents that included a woman as an inventor was less than 4%, but as women have gained speed in a male-dominated field,  by 2016, that figure jumped to 21%.

However, women inventors made up only 12% of all inventors on patents granted in 2016, according to the patent office — a disparity that hurts the economy.

“You can grow to some degree by copying other people, but what really moves the dial is when you can come out with great new ideas and innovation and new technology,” John Van Reenan, who co-authored the recent study about inventors, told CNN.

That same 2017 study deemed women the “lost Einsteins” of the world based on their talents and abilities but low exposure to to innovation and inventor role models.

“There are a lot of really talented girls who could’ve been inventors. We’re losing out on a generation of Marie Curies,” Van Reenan said.

Tony Romo Reportedly Seeking Record-Setting Salary to Stay at CBS

Tony Romo has gone from playing quarterback on the football field to playing hardball at the negotiating table.

According to The Sporting News, the former Dallas Cowboy signal-caller is seeking a new long-term contract with CBS to stay in the broadcast booth as a football analyst alongside partner Jim Nantz.

Romo, considered by many to be the top colorman in the game despite only have two years of experience, wants a deal which will pay him $10 million per year following the 2019 NFL season.

Were he to get that amount moving forward after this season, Romo would be the highest-paid TV analyst in sports history.

That sizable sum would also be a big increase from the $4 million annual salary the 38-year-old makes on his current three-year deal.

Another Cowboy-turned-commentator, Troy Aikman, currently makes about $7.5 million annually working for CBS competitor Fox Sports. Though he is now back coaching the Raiders, ex-ESPN analyst Jon Gruden was making $6.5 million to call Monday Night Football.

CBS would be loath to lose Romo to one of those competitors or another venture such as a new streaming service, so it seems more likely than not the former QB will become the highest-paid analyst ever starting in 2020.

“I feel this is exactly where I should be,” Romo said of CBS during a Super Bowl preview in January.

Opioid Makers Purdue Pharma, Sackler Family to Pay $270M in Settlement

One of America’s biggest pharma companies has reached its first settlement amidst an onslaught of opioid-related lawsuits.

Purdue Pharma LP has reached a $270 million settlement with the state of Oklahoma to resolve a lawsuit accusing the company of fueling the opioid epidemic, Reuters reported.

The company, which manufactures the painkiller OxyContin, has been accused of deceptive marketing that downplayed the risks of the addictive drug. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter filed the suit against Purdue, Johnson & Johnson, and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. back in 2017. The suit sought more than $20 billion in damages, according to Reuters.

The settlement came after a trial judge rejected the accused companies’ bid to delay the May 28 trial. The deal covers only Purdue, leaving both Johnson & Johnson and Teva with claims pending.

Purdue’s settlement is the first to result from a string of similar lawsuits brought against the company, including a massive federal suit filed recently against the company and its owners, the wealthy Sackler family, by over 600 cities, counties and Native American Tribes.

Reuters also reported that the pharmaceutical giant, which denies wrongdoing, has been considering filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the face of potential liabilities from the wave of lawsuits.

Purdue first released OxyContin in 1996, and is among various drug makers accused of contributing to the nation-wide opioid epidemic in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were responsible for a record 47,000 deaths in the United States in 2017.

Charges Dropped Against “Empire” Actor Jussie Smollett

The charges against Empire actor Jussie Smollett have been dropped by prosecutors, The Chicago Sun Times reports.

The actor was attacked on January 29 and was later arrested and charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly conspiring to plan and carry out the assault.  According to the Times, Smollett will forfeit his $10,000 bond.

Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes, the attorneys for the actor issued the following statement:

“Today, all criminal charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and his record has been wiped clean of the filing of this tragic complaint against him. Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29. He was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator as a result of false and inappropriate remarks made to the public causing an inappropriate rush to judgment.”

“Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions. This entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion. That is wrong. It is a reminder that a victim, in this case Jussie, deserves dignity and respect. Dismissal of charges against the victim in this case was the only just result.”

“Jussie is relieved to have this situation behind him and is very much looking forward to getting back to focusing on his family, friends and career.”

Each charge made against Smollett are Class 4 felonies, the lowest felony offense in Illinois

NASA Shut Down All-Female Space Walk

One small step for women turned into a giant leap backward after NASA cancelled plans for the first all-female spacewalk.

NASA announced the decision on Monday, and said a shortage of properly-sized outerwear was to blame. According to The Guardian, Anne McClain, one of the two women on the mission scheduled for Friday, will be replaced by a male colleague due to a lack of gear in her size.

The outlet reported that McClain had initially intended to wear a large-sized suit, before deciding she would feel more comfortable in a medium-sized suit during a spacewalk last week. In a press release announcing the change of the plans on Monday, NASA said there would not be enough time to accommodate the necessary size change.

“Anne trained in ‘M’ and ‘L’ and thought she could use a large but decided after [last] Friday’s spacewalk a medium fits better,” announced NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz on Monday.

“In this case, it’s easier (and faster!) to change space-walkers than reconfigure the spacesuit,” she explained.

NASA first generated buzz after announcing the mission earlier this month. McClain and Christian Koch were to make history walking outside the International Space Station to install new batteries. All previous missions have been all-male or male-female.

McClain’s spacewalk is now “tentatively scheduled” for April 8, according to The Guardian. The upcoming mission will not be all-female.

Huge Team Payroll Disparity Revealed At Start of MLB Season

As we’ve seen from the recent contracts for Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and Jacob deGrom, some MLB teams have plenty of cash to throw around in 2019 and beyond.

And, as USA TODAY analysis of team payrolls in the majors heading into this season reveals, some do not.

According to salary information for MLB clubs’ 40-man rosters obtained by USA TODAY, there are eight teams who will open the season with payrolls under $100 million while there are three which will top $200 million in payroll on opening day.

The league’s biggest spenders last year, the World Series champion Boston Red Sox, are once again at the top of MLB with a $224.1 million payroll. Also in the $200 Million Club are the New York Yankees ($215.1 million) and Chicago Cubs ($214.7 million).

On the other end of the spectrum are the Tampa Bay Rays ($61.9 million), Pittsburgh Pirates ($74.3 million), Miami Marlins ($76.1 million), Baltimore Orioles ($80.8 million), Oakland Athletics ($91.1 million), Chicago White Sox ($92.8 million), San Diego Padres ($94 million) and Kansas City Royals ($96.7 million).

Of the teams on the low end, only the Athletics and Rays were in contention for a playoff spot last season and the A’s did end up securing a wild-card berth.

Of the top-spending teams, all three have been in the playoffs at least three times in the last four years and two (Cubs and Red Sox) have won the World Series once.

This year’s luxury tax is $206 million and current salary predictions show there are 11 teams with payrolls that are $60 million or more under that tax.

“The disparity in payrolls exemplifies why there may be a push for a salary floor in the next collective bargaining agreement, which players have openly discussed,” according to USA Today. “It’s disturbing to have a team like the Red Sox to have three pitchers (David Price, $31 million; Rick Porcello, $21.1 million; and Chris Sale, $15 million) earn more than the entire Rays’ team.”

Yale Rescinds Admission of Student Who Got in on $1.2M Donation

Yale University has rescinded the admission of a student previously admitted after a $1.2 million donation was made to the school by her family.

The move is a first among universities that have so far been named in the recent college admissions scandal that revealed how several prestigious schools across the country have taken bribes from parents in exchange for admission.

Yale has said two people applied to the university with fraudulent athletic endorsements from women’s soccer coach Rudy Meredith, CNN reported. One was denied admission despite the endorsement while the other skated by and was actively attending classes, the school wrote on its website.

As part of the scandalous reveal, 50 people, including 33 wealthy parents, have been arrested for carrying out a scheme to cheat on standardized tests and/or bribe college coaches, who then helped the prospective students gain admission by falsely claiming they were athletic recruits.

The mastermind of the scheme, Rick Singer, is cooperating with prosecutors and has pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the US and obstruction of justice.

Michael Avenatti Accuses Nike of “Crime and Coverup” While Denying Extortion Charge

The day after he was charged with attempting to extort Nike for more than $20 million, Michael Avenatti denied the allegation and went on the offensive.

In a series of early-morning tweets, Avenatti – who represented Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Trump – said he is “anxious for people to see what really happened” and for the evidence to be disclosed.

Once that happens, Avenatti said, “the public will learn the truth about Nike’s crime & coverup.”

Then, he got a little more aggressive.

The player he mentions, 20-year-old DeAndre Ayton, was the first overall pick in the most recent NBA Draft and currently plays for the Phoenix Suns. He played his college ball at Arizona, a school which has been investigated for illegal recruitment practices.

Prosecutors allege Avenatti threatened to bring damaging allegations against Nike to light before the NCAA basketball tournament. He allegedly offered his silence in exchange for a payment of up to $25 million from the company.

In a separate federal case, Avenatti was also charged with bank and wire fraud for allegedly embezzling a client’s money “to pay his own expenses and debts.”

If convicted in both cases, Avenatti is facing substantial prison time as well as disbarment.

Billionaire Reimann Family Confronts Slave Labor Used During Nazi Regime

After discovering ties to the Nazi regime, the billionaire Reimann family is donating $11 million of their over $10 billion fortune to a yet to be named charity, Bloomberg reports.

The Reimann family is the owner of several popular chains like Panera Bread, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Pret A Manger, as well as the maker of beverages like Keurig coffee and tea and the soda Dr Pepper.

Over four decades ago the family began a quiet effort to unearth any Nazi ties after an article was published in 1978 claiming links between the Nazi party and the family. A spokesperson for the Reimann family says the complete report will be available in 2020.

The report found that slave labor was used on Reimann property in Ludwigshafen, in the Rhineland. Often the slaves were beaten and sexually assaulted.

6,500 German companies came together in 2000 to create a fund of over 5 billion euros for the victims of the Nazi regime.