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July 20, 2014

Buzz Aldrin: Famed astronaut, second man on the moon, and puncher of smug faces.

Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the lunar landing — unless, of course, it never happened and the government faked the whole danged thing to make America look super powerful at the height of the Cold War. Is that conspiracy theory likely? Probably not, though there are some who ardently believe in it.

Bart Sibrel is one of those lunar truthers. And back in 2002, he ambushed Aldrin outside a Los Angeles hotel and berated him about his supposed role in the hoax, asking him to swear on a Bible he landed on the moon and calling him a "liar" and a "coward." Offended that someone would question his integrity, and fed up with being pestered for so long, Aldrin finally snapped and socked Sibrel in the face.

Police declined to press charges. Jon Terbush

labor
6:57 p.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

In a 3-2 ruling split down party lines, the National Labor Relations Board revised its "joint employer" standard, which could have huge ramifications for franchise businesses like McDonald's.

The board decided that the waste management company Browning Ferris Industries is a joint employer alongside one of its subcontractors, the staffing firm Leadpoint Business Services. The Teamsters wanted Browning Ferris to be named a joint employer so they would have to join Leadpoint at the bargaining table.

The ruling makes it difficult for a company like McDonald's to stay one step removed from the workers employed at its franchises. About 90 percent of the fast food chain's locations are run by franchisees, and they are considered the employers of their workers, not McDonald's, The Huffington Post reports. Under these new loosened standards, McDonald's could end up having to bargain with workers employed by a franchisee.

The Democratic members of the board wrote in their decision that it is "not the goal of joint-employer law to guarantee the freedom of employers to insulate themselves from their legal responsibility to workers, while maintaining control of the workplace. Such an approach has no basis in the [National Labor Relations} Act or in federal labor policy." Labor unions say it only makes sense for a parent company to be legally responsible for employees who represent their company, even if they don't necessarily sign their paychecks. Franchisers argue it will give the parent company too much control over their business. Catherine Garcia

Katrina at 10
6:16 p.m. ET
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama traveled to New Orleans on Thursday to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which struck the city on Aug. 29, 2005. The president spoke before a crowd at a community center in the city's Lower Ninth Ward, which was decimated by the storm. "The world watched in horror," Obama said. "The music in the air suddenly was dark and silent."

Obama called Hurricane Katrina an example of what happens "when government fails," but praised the city's recovery as an "example of what's possible when governments [at every level] work together." He specifically noted areas in which New Orleans emerged from Hurricane Katrina stronger than before the storm, citing improved education statistics and new, advanced environmental infrastructure. "The project of rebuilding here wasn't just to restore the city as it had been — it was to build the city as it should be," Obama said.

He also congratulated New Orleans for being the first major city to end veteran homelessness, and credited the city with being the inspiration for a number of national accomplishments, such as improved jobs numbers, the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the legalization of gay marriage. The president did note that the city still has weaknesses, like the racial income gap and child poverty, but said working toward such advancements should be a collaborative effort. "For all of our differences, in the end, what matters is we're all in the same boat," he said. "We'll leave behind a city — and a nation — that's worthy of generations to come. That's what you've gotten started. Now we've got to finish the job." Kimberly Alters

RIP
4:41 p.m. ET

Darryl Dawkins, an NBA legend famous for breaking backboards with his powerful dunks, has passed away at age 58. The news was confirmed to local Pennsylvania station WFMZ-TV by the Lehigh County Coroner's Office in Pennsylvania. No cause of death has been reported.

Nicknamed "Chocolate Thunder," Dawkins was drafted fifth overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1975 and played seven seasons (including three NBA Finals appearances) with the Sixers before being traded to the New Jersey Nets. During the 1979 season, Dawkins famously shattered a backboard on two separate occasions thanks to a powerful dunk:

He nicknamed the first of the two glass-shattering slams the "Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam." He retired from the NBA for good in 1989, but continued playing overseas and even spent a year with the showy Harlem Globetrotters. But in the end, as Mike Chiari notes at Bleacher Report, Dawkins was perhaps best known for his "larger-than-life personality." Kimberly Alters

2016
3:22 p.m. ET
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

On Thursday, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton slammed the 2016 Republican candidates for their "out-of-date and out-of-touch policies" on women's health issues, even going so far as to compare some Republicans to "terrorist groups."

"Extreme views about women? We expect that from some of the terrorist groups. We expect that from people who don't want to live in the modern world," Clinton said at a campaign stop in Ohio. "But it's a little hard to take coming from Republicans who want to be the president of the United States."

Clinton's comments earned her an immediate rebuke from the right.

The national press secretary for the Republican National Committee (RNC) also reproached Clinton for her "inflammatory rhetoric," saying, "For Hillary Clinton to equate her political opponents to terrorists is a new low for her flailing campaign." Becca Stanek

Trump's take
2:18 p.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Donald Trump's latest comments earned him a rebuke from a Jeb Bush spokesman for "trafficking in false conspiracy theories" about the former investment bank Lehman Brothers, where Bush worked for a stint after leaving the governor's office in Florida in 2007. Amid Trump's 33 attacks against the Bush family in a 35-minute interview with The Washington Post, he managed numerous times to drop his suspicions that Bush's high salary from Lehman was a "reward for helping direct Florida state funds to the firm, whose collapse in 2008 helped kick off the Great Recession," The Post reports.

"That’s a Hillary Clinton kind of situation," Trump said. "This is huge. Let me ask you: Why would you pay a man $1.3 million a year for a no-show job at Lehman Brothers — which, when it failed, almost took the world with it?" Trump then went on to offer Lehman's crash as evidence that Bush lacks business savvy. When asked whether he thought Bush could "steer the economy," Trump responded: "Steer it? He can't steer himself. Look what he did with Lehman." Trump surmised that the state of Florida "lost a lot of money after Lehman went bad, thanks to Jeb Bush."

In response, Bush spokesman Tim Miller pointed out Trump's attendance at "New York liberal cocktail parties" and his "trashing of conservatives and Republican presidents any chance he got." Miller wrote in an email to the Post, "The only 'Hillary Clinton situation’ is Trump thinking she'd be a good negotiator with Iran and supporting her campaigns." Becca Stanek

In a galaxy far, far away
1:53 p.m. ET

There's a new teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens — and while it's very brief, it does contain one very interesting moment for Star Wars fans to puzzle over: a shot in which John Boyega draws a lightsaber, which seems to set him up as the latest Star Wars movie's first new Jedi.

There has been an awakening... #StarWars #TheForceAwakens

A video posted by Star Wars (@starwars) on

The image of John Boyega holding a lightsaber hints at a very dramatic arc for his character. In the first teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he was seen wearing a Stormtrooper outfit, which seems to hint at a past with the Galactic Empire. But Boyega is wielding a blue lightsaber, which recalls the one used by Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars (and might even be the same one). If he's drawing it against the villainous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), he must be a good guy, right?

And okay, okay, we can't be absolutely sure Boyega is playing a Jedi. AskAJedi.com — as reliable a source as you'll find for the answers to such questions — says that a non-Jedi can technically wield a lightsaber, but that it's not a very good idea; without the power of the Force to guide you, you can't use a lightsaber to deflect blaster shots, which means a single well-placed laser blaster shot from many yards away could take you down. If Boyega isn't playing a Jedi, he definitely shouldn't be pulling a lightsaber on as dangerous a villain as Kylo Ren.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters in December. Scott Meslow

ka-ching
12:35 p.m. ET
Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

Graduates who earn the highest starting salaries straight out of college don't come from Brown or Columbia or Cornell or Dartmouth or Harvard or Penn or Princeton or Yale. None of the country's eight Ivy League schools even crack the top 10 for highest "early career pay," according to numbers gathered from nearly 1.5 million employees and crunched by PayScale. So how do you make the big bucks right away? Go to military school.

U.S. Naval Academy students make the most out of college, earning a median salary of $82,900 over the first five years out of the gates. West Point, at $82,800, comes in second, followed by Harvey Mudd, MIT, then yes, another military school, this one the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. The U.S. Air Force Academy also cracked the top 10.

Not only do Ivy League schools not appear in the top 10, they don't crack the top 20. Or 30. Harvard is 31st on the list. Dartmouth is all the way back at 56th.

See the whole list here (and check out Wonkblog's analysis over here). Jeva Lange

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