Astronomers have reportedly discovered signs of water clouds 7.3 light-years away from Earth.
The water clouds would be the first to be found beyond our solar system, if the discovery is confirmed. The findings will be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Kevin Luhman, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University, University Park, found the clouds with images taken from 2010 to 2011 by NASA's WISE infrared telescope. The clouds surround a brown dwarf — a.k.a. a "failed star" that has faded and cooled — named WISE J0855-0714. WISE J0855-0714 is the coldest brown dwarf known to scientists, with a temperature lower than water's freezing point.
"I've been obsessed with this object since its discovery," Jacqueline Faherty, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., told Science magazine. "I'm absolutely elated." Faherty used Chile's Magellan Baade telescope to capture images that matched previous models of a brown dwarf with water clouds.
The evidence is still tentative, but scientists are fascinated with the discovery's implications. If water clouds are confirmed outside our solar system, the findings could provide astronomers with new information about space's atmospheres. Science reports that the brown dwarf will likely be explored further by NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, which is in the assembly and test process. --Meghan DeMaria
— News from Science (@NewsfromScience) August 25, 2014
Two students, both 15-year-old girls, were shot and killed at Independence High School in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, Arizona Friday morning, The Associated Press reports. The shooting reportedly occurred just before 8 a.m. local time in an isolated part of campus, prompting a campus-wide lockdown.
The details surrounding the incident remain unclear, including whether a suspect is in custody or was one of the two shot. Though the school reportedly remains on lockdown, Reuters reports that there is no ongoing threat to the campus or surrounding area. Becca Stanek
The Democratic National Committee quietly reversed its ban on donations by federal lobbyists and political action committees "at some point during the past couple of months," The Washington Post reported Friday. The reversal of the ban, which was introduced by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 as part of his promise to "change how Washington works," sparked concerns that the DNC is backtracking on efforts to limit special interest influence in Washington — and, in the process, providing an unfair advantage to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Critics contend that Clinton, who relies more heavily on large contributions than competitor Sen. Bernie Sanders, will reap a greater benefit from this rule change and, consequently, see a boost to her campaign. As reform advocate Fred Wertheimer told the Post, this reversal could be "opening up opportunities for influence-buying 'by Washington lobbyists with six-figure contributions to the Hillary Victory fund.'"
The DNC, however, says it removed the restrictions simply to ensure a Democrat is elected to the White House to continue "building on the progress we've made over the last seven years." "The DNC's recent change in guidelines will ensure that we continue to have the resources and infrastructure in place to best support whoever emerges as our eventual nominee," Mark Paustenbach, deputy communications director for the DNC, said in an email to the Post explaining the decision.
Donald Trump is cruising into the final week ahead of South Carolina's Republican presidential primary with a comfortable 17-point lead. A new poll by Opinion Savvy out Friday indicates Trump's chances of repeating his New Hampshire victory in the Palmetto State are strong in the upcoming Feb. 20 primary, with 36 percent support to second-place Sen. Ted Cruz's 19 percent.
Sen. Marco Rubio is in third with 15 percent, followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (11 percent), Ohio Gov. John Kasich (9 percent), and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (5 percent). Five percent of voters remain undecided. The poll's margin of error is 3.5 percent. Becca Stanek
If you want more affordable housing available to low-income renters, the best solution can be to build more expensive apartments. This isn't as counterintuitive as it first sounds. In fact, it's based in simple rules of supply and demand: If you increase the overall supply of housing — even by adding on the high end — competition for low-end units declines and so do their prices (or, at least, the rate of price growth).
A new report from the California Legislative Analyst's Office provides the data to back this up. In the San Francisco area, the study found, neighborhoods with heavy construction of market-rate buildings saw half the displacement of low-income residents that low-construction neighborhoods suffered since 2000:
The report concludes that boosting private construction would do more to broadly help poor households than expanding small and costly affordable housing programs that can serve only a fraction of them. Those programs also don't resolve the underlying cause of high rents — the housing shortage itself.
And that shortage actually undermines affordable programs like housing vouchers, because it's a lot harder for the poor to use vouchers in a market where they're fiercely competing with everyone else. [Washington Post]
Building new housing also allows older units to look worse by comparison, so old housing becomes affordable to the poor and middle class while the rich move into new luxury options. Bonnie Kristian
RNC Chair denies party anxiety about Trump winning the nomination: 'I'm not afraid of any of these folks'
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is fine with any of the current GOP candidates becoming president — even Donald Trump. In an interview Friday with CBS This Morning, Priebus denied rumors that the Republican establishment has been fretting about Trump possibly winning the nomination.
"I'm not afraid of any of these folks running for president," he said. "I think all of them can beat [Democratic presidential front-runner] Hillary Clinton, who is under investigation by the FBI, or a socialist from Vermont," he added about the Democratic competition, Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
As far as any rumors that may be going around about establishment anxiety, Priebus dismissed those as just part of the competition. "In a competition, sure, candidates say, 'I'm going to be the best choice, this person isn't going to be that great,'" Priebus said. "That happens all the time. After a while, when you have six serious competitors out there on the campaign stump every day, you hear all kinds of things." Becca Stanek
Donald Trump took to Twitter Friday morning to question whether fellow Republican candidate Ted Cruz is really a Christian. His tweet followed up on a post from Thursday night in which Trump said Cruz "is the worst liar, crazy or very dishonest. Perhaps all 3?"
How can Ted Cruz be an Evangelical Christian when he lies so much and is so dishonest?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2016
Both tweets come in response to Cruz's suggestion that Trump (along with Marco Rubio) shared "the talking points of Barack Obama" on gay marriage. Trump's actual record on the issue is more complicated than Cruz implied.
Most of Trump's statements on the subject have been negative. In August, for instance, Trump said he is "against [same-sex unions] from the standpoint of Bible," and if he had a child who was gay he "wouldn't speak to them at all about it." Back in 2000, however, Trump said he supported a robust domestic partnership law, because "I think it's important for gay couples who are committed to each other to not be hassled when it comes to... simple everyday rights." More recently, he said gay marriage should have been left to the states, but that post-Obergefell it is the law of the land. Bonnie Kristian
Ted Cruz is never one to miss the opportunity to take a swipe at Hillary Clinton over her email scandal, but his campaign took it to a hilarious new level on Friday with an ad that spoofs the printer-destroying scene in Office Space.
As a woman in a pantsuit and two male companions take bats, feet, and fists to a server in a field, a man raps, "Damn it feels good to be a Clinton":
A Clinton never needs to explain what, why it is, what they've done or with who
A real Clinton knows that they're entitled and you don't get to know what they do.
Watch the shenanigans below. Jeva Lange
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) February 12, 2016