2014 Watch
August 5, 2014

Two red-state Democratic senators are in tight races for re-election, with one of them narrowly trailing and the other slightly ahead, according to a new pair of surveys from Democratic-aligned firm Public Policy Polling.

The poll of Arkansas has Republican Rep. Tom Cotton in a narrow lead with 41 percent, incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor at 39 percent, plus Green Party candidate Mark Swaney at 4 percent and Libertarian candidate Nathan LaFrance with 3 percent. The survey was conducted August 1 to 3, with a margin of error at plus or minus 3 percentage points.

From the pollster's analysis: "Every single poll PPP has done of this race has found the candidates within three points of each other. It's possible someone will break away in the closing stretch but for now it looks like it's going down to the wire."

The poll of Alaska, meanwhile, still shows incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich ahead of each of his two most plausible Republican opponents.

Matched up against former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan, Begich has 43 percent, Sullivan 37 percent, plus Libertarian nominee Mark Fish at 4 percent and Alaska Independence Party candidate Vic Kohring with 3 percent. In a trial heat with Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, Begich has 42 percent, Treadwell 38 percent, plus Fish at 5 percent and Kohring at 3 percent. The survey was conducted from July 31 to August 3, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.3 percent.

The Republican primary will be held in two weeks, on August 19.

that's really old
11:15 p.m. ET

A team of researchers looking for fossils made an incredible discovery in the Afar region of Ethiopia: Lodged in a hillside was the lower jaw bone and five teeth of an individual that likely lived 2.8 million years ago, the oldest remains ever found belonging to the genus Homo.

The area is now dry, but researchers believe it was once filled with rivers, wetlands, and grass. The jaw bone is 400,000 years older than the fossils that once held the record as the earliest known remains from the Homo lineage, The Guardian reports. "This is the first inkling we have of that transition to modern behavior. We were no longer solving problems with our bodies but with our brains," Brian Villmoare at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas told The Guardian.

The jaw bone was found in January 2013 by Chalachew Seyoum, an Ethiopian member of the team studying at Arizona State University. The researchers made a recent return to the site, but are not allowed to say what — if anything — they discovered on this trip. Villmoare said that while the jaw bone could belong to Homo habilis, it is more likely from a new species that lived before Homo habilis. The team says this will remain a mystery until more remains are found.

Quotables
9:55 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Ben Carson is backpedaling from comments he made on CNN Wednesday about prison proving that homosexuality is "absolutely" a choice.

The neurosurgeon and potential 2016 Republican presidential nominee said, “A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they're gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question." On his Facebook page Wednesday night, Carson wrote, "I realized that my choice of language does not reflect fully my heart on gay issues. I do not pretend to know how every individual came to their sexual orientation. I regret that my words to express that concept were hurtful and divisive. For that I apologize unreservedly to all that were offended."

Carson went on to say that he also supports "human rights and Constitutional protections for gay people," as well as civil unions.

conan goes to cuba
9:04 p.m. ET

During his recent trip to Cuba, Conan O'Brien had just one goal: To make new friends. In the opening of his special "Conan in Cuba" episode, the host does his best to ingratiate himself with some ferocious dogs, elderly women, and confused grocery store employees, all while using the few Spanish phrases he knows. Watch the clip below to see how successful he was on his mission. —Catherine Garcia

intrigue
8:28 p.m. ET
YouTube.com/euronews

Anna Duritskaya, the girlfriend of slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, is now in hiding in her native Ukraine.

The 23-year-old actress and model is the only known witness to the murder of Nemtsov on Friday. Duritskaya did not attend his funeral on Tuesday, and fled to the Ukraine just hours after his burial, the Los Angeles Times reports. She has erased her social media profiles and is not answering calls to her cell phone.

In the hours before she was told she could leave Russia, Duritskaya held a Skype interview with the Ukrainian television channel Dozhd, and said she was under "virtual house arrest" after the incident. She was interrogated for three days, and said she told investigators over and over that she did not see the killer and only saw that the getaway car was a light color. Duritskaya also alluded that investigators were trying to make it look like Nemtsov was killed during a "crime of passion" committed by an unknown romantic rival, the Times reports.

This just in
6:57 p.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

In a press conference Wednesday evening, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles announced that one of the Ferguson Police Department officers involved in sending racist emails has been terminated, and two are still under investigation.

"This type of behavior will not be tolerated in the Ferguson Police Department or any department in Ferguson," Knowles said. "These actions taken by these individuals are in no way representative of the employees of the city of Ferguson." Knowles said that several new initiatives are already taking place in the city, including the hiring of an African-American woman as a correctional officer and the creation of an explorer program with local children and a civilian oversight board. He also said that all officers have completed mandatory diversity training. Knowles did not take any questions from the media.

This just in
6:28 p.m. ET

The U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert was seriously injured Thursday morning after an armed assailant attacked him on his way to a lecture in central Seoul, the Yonhap News Agency reports.

Lippert was bleeding heavily after the attack and was rushed to the hospital. Sources told the Yonhap News Agency that the suspect was immediately arrested, although their identity is not yet known. CNN is reporting that a razor blade was used, and there is no known motive for the attack.

Lawmakers are just like us!
5:17 p.m. ET
iStock

Yep, even your elected legislators are artfully ducking calls from Fannie Mae. It’s news that’s sure to either make you smile with vengeful glee or depress the hell out of you.

According to new stats released from OpenSecrets.org, which tracks money in politics, the number of lawmakers saddled with student debt increased from 41 members in 2012 to 47 in 2013. Most of the debtors are House members and only three are in the Senate.

The average amount of debt these legislators owe is about $68,500, but at least six owe more than twice that. And curiously, more Republicans (28) have student debt than Democrats (19). So, I guess not all government programs are frowned upon, eh, GOP?

#Benghazi
5:06 p.m. ET
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

A House committee investigating the 2012 Benghazi embassy attack plans to subpoena Hillary Clinton's personal emails following the revelation that the former secretary of state exclusively used a private email account to conduct government business, according to The Washington Post.

"The American people have a right to a full accounting of all the former Secretary's emails, and the committee is committed to working to uncover all the facts," Jamal Ware, a spokesperson for the House Select Committee on Benghazi, said.

The committee plans to request all emails from Clintonemail.com concerning the attack, which left four Americans dead. A two-year investigation by the House Intelligence Committee cleared the Obama administration of wrongdoing in its handling of the attack.

The issues
4:16 p.m. ET
Darren Hauck/Getty Images

Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) has a long history of opposing abortion, but he hasn't always been as open in discussing his opposition as he is now.

In 2014, during a particularly tough re-election campaign, Walker said of a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, "Those are things that we'll have to talk about in the next legislative session if it comes up."

Today, however, the likely 2016 presidential contender finally comes out and confirms that he will support such legislation:

"As the Wisconsin legislature moves forward in the coming session, further protections for mother and child are likely to come to my desk in the form of a bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks. I will sign that bill when it gets to my desk and support similar legislation on the federal level.

I was raised to believe in the sanctity of life and I will always fight to protect it." [Friends of Scott Walker]

Watch this
3:44 p.m. ET

In this week's video from our sister site, Mental Floss, Mike Rugnetta fills in as host of the List Show. This week's topic? Thirty very, very weird apps that actually exist.

It's probably TMI, but there is, in fact, an app called "Bowel Mover," which allows you to track your bowel movements, along with your food and water intake for the day. And there are two separate games that consist of little more than holding your finger on your iPhone's screen for an extended amount of time.

If you love fruit, perhaps "Melon Meter" may be somewhat useful — you can use your phone's microphone to knock on the outside of a watermelon and determine whether it's ready to eat.

Check out all 30 weird apps in the video below. —Meghan DeMaria

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