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Shohei Ohtani becomes face of ‘theft’ scandal and Trump and RFK Jr. consider same running mate: Morning Rundown

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The allegations of “massive theft” against Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter could have big implications for the star pitcher and the MLB. A new poll shows Gazans’ support for Hamas as a political party versus its performance in the war with Israel is diverging. And a man who sees “demonic” faces is diagnosed with a rare disorder.

Here’s what to know today.

Shohei Ohtani scandal coincides with a pivotal moment for the MLB

Star pitcher Shohei Otani’s debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers was supposed to be “a coronation” of Major League Baseball’s new king, one historian said. Instead, it was overshadowed by accusations of “massive theft” against Ohtani’s interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, in a case tied to sports gambling. The timing — for Ohtani and for the MLB — couldn’t be worse. 

“The MLB, regardless of what truth ultimately comes out of this story, has this international global superstar associated with the worst sin of baseball,” Adrian Burgos, the historian and a professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, explained. 

Ohtani’s Dodgers debut was big for a few reasons. His trade from the Los Angeles Angels to the Dodgers for a historic $700 million is expected to usher in a championship dynasty for his new team. And that this week’s game against the San Diego Padres took place in Seoul, South Korea, was an indication of the MLB’s efforts to draw a more global audience amid declining viewership. 

In the short term, the drama surrounding Ohtani will likely entice more people to tune into games. But Burgos and other experts are quick to point out that viewership will taper off. “So there’s a lot of work for MLB to do to capture the interest of fans for the right reasons,” Burgos said. 

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Several questions have yet to be answered: Did Ohtani know about Mizuhara’s gambling habits? Was he involved in the case? According to league officials, the MLB was unaware of the allegations against Mizuhara until contacted by the media.

As for Ohtani, who has been under intense pressure since his league debut in 2018, some say the scandal could impact his image in a good way.

Read the full story here.

More on the scandal: 

  • Who is Ippei Mizuhara? Here’s what to know about the interpreter at the center of the theft allegations.

Arkansas airport director was under investigation for gun sales

The Arkansas airport executive who was killed as agents tried to serve a search warrant at his home earlier this week had been under investigation for weapons sales without a license, a newly unsealed affidavit shows. Bryan Malinowski, who was executive director of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, died yesterday, his family said. He was shot in the head after he opened fire at agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who tried to serve a warrant on Tuesday.

Residents in the area were left “dumbfounded,” as one put it, by the raid and shooting. Another said Malinowski “was nothing but an outstanding neighbor.” In the hours after Malinowski’s death, his family questioned why ATF conducted what they characterized as a dawn raid on his home that led to gunfire.

According to an affidavit unsealed yesterday afternoon, investigators alleged Malinowski bought more than 150 guns from May 2021 until late February and sold guns, including at gun shows. The affidavit was related to a search warrant seeking evidence, and Malinowski hadn’t been charged with a crime. Here’s what else to know.

The ex-Dem both Trump and RFK Jr. are considering for VP

In 2020, former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard ran for the Democratic presidential nomination and went on to endorse President Joe Biden for office. Since then, she has gravitated to the right and has become a regular media personality and conference speaker. If that’s not unusual enough, Gabbard is now getting consideration from both presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., two sources familiar with the candidates’ deliberations said. 

Despite the heightened interest from the two candidates, Trump allies and insiders said it’s unlikely that she would ultimately become the former president’s running mate. And because of Trump’s interest, a source said she’s not as focused on making it onto the ticket with Kennedy.

Recount Gabbard’s political evolution and why the self-proclaimed independent might appeal to Trump or Kennedy.

Gazans split in support for Hamas as a political party and its role in the war

Support for Hamas as a political party fell 34% among Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, a 12-point drop from December, according to a new poll from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, or PSR. The group has measured public opinion in the Palestinian territories quarterly since the 1990s. Still, 70% of Palestinians said they are “satisfied” with Hamas’ war performance. The split in support for Hamas as a political party is indicative of its dual role as an administrative governing body and as a symbol for the decades-long Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation. Meanwhile, as the war drags on, Gazan support for a diplomatic two-state solution has increased. Reporter Yasmine Salam delves into the survey results.

Rare disorder causes man to see ‘demonic’ faces

Imagine waking up one day and seeing distorted versions of people’s faces, like in the image above — eyes, mouths and ears wide and stretched back, with deep grooves along foreheads, cheeks and chins. Weird, right? That’s what happened to Victor Sharrah one life-altering day in November 2020.

Computer-generated images of the distortions of a male face (top) and female face (bottom), as perceived by the patient in the study.
Computer-generated images of the distortions of a male face (top) and female face (bottom), as perceived by the patient in the study.A. Mello et al.

Since then, he’s been formally diagnosed with prosopometamorphopsia, or PMO. The extremely rare neurological disorder of perception causes faces to appear distorted in shape, size, texture or color. And because the distortions only happen when he sees people in person, and not in photographs or through computer screens, scientists had the opportunity to do something they had never been able to do before. Read more about it here.

DOJ sues Apple over iPhone ‘monopoly power’

The Department of Justice filed a landmark lawsuit against Apple yesterday, accusing the tech giant of monopolizing the smartphone market. The civil suit alleges that Apple prevents the launch of “super apps,” such as Uber and WeChat, on other operating systems, making it difficult for consumers to switch smartphones. 

The antitrust complaint also accuses Apple of blocking cloud-streaming apps for video games and inhibiting cross-platform messaging apps, forcing customers to keep buying iPhones. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a press conference that Apple’s performance has come “not by making its own products better, but by making other products worse.”

Apple denied the allegations and said they have no obligation to use designs or policies that favor their competitors, especially when those designs would make iPhone users’ experience worse. 

Politics in Brief

Trump trials: New York state Judge Arthur Engoron has ordered the Trump Organization to keep the court closely informed about any efforts to secure a $464 million bond ahead of Monday’s deadline. Meanwhile, a donation contribution form obtained by NBC News shows that a portion of donations to a newly formed joint fundraising committee for Trump will help pay his legal bills.

Judicial nominee: President Joe Biden’s nomination of Adeel Mangi to be a powerful U.S. circuit court judge is in peril after two Senate Democrats said they would oppose the nomination. If confirmed, Mangi would be the first Muslim American to serve as a judge on an appeals court.

IVF debate: A group of four House Republicans protested a policy to expand access to in vitro fertilization for veterans, saying in a letter to the Biden administration that the procedure is “morally dubious” and shouldn’t be subsidized by taxpayers.

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Staff Pick: It’s not science fiction, but it is cutting edge medicine

Last Saturday, surgeons transplanted a genetically-modified pig kidney into a 62 year-old-man, marking the first time the operation had been done in someone living. The story may sound strange, but I see it as inspiring. If successful, the operation could open the door to a new source of kidneys at a time when nearly 90,000 Americans are in need of one, and hundreds of thousands of other adults in the U.S. have severe kidney disease that could one day necessitate a transplant. — Sara G. Miller, health editor

In Case You Missed It

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  • An escaped Idaho inmate and his suspected accomplice, who shot corrections officers in Boise and set off a manhunt, were captured captured.
  • A rare cosmic eruption is expected to occur in the Milky Way in the coming months.
  • The outburst will be so bright that it’ll be visible to the naked eye.
  • No charges will be filed in connection with the fight that happened the day before Nex Benedict, a nonbinary high school student, died by suicide in Oklahoma.
  • The final two of six former Mississippi sheriff’s deputies and self-described “Good Squad” members were sentenced to prison in the torture and abuse of two Black men in a racist attack.
  • Medicare will cover Wegovy for patients with an increased risk of heart disease, potentially expanding access to the weight loss drug for millions of people.

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