July 30, 2014

The navigator and last surviving crew member of the Enola Gay, Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk, died Monday in Stone Mountain, Georgia. He was 93.

Born in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, Van Kirk became an Army Air Forces cadet in 1941. He flew 58 missions in Europe and North Africa, The New York Times reports, and went to Utah in 1944 for training. At the time, he didn't know he was preparing to drop an atomic bomb. In 2005, Van Kirk told Time that his colonel said to him, "'We're going to do something that I can't tell you about right now, but if it works, it will end or significantly shorten the war.' And I thought, 'Oh, yeah, buddy, I've heard that before.'"

During an interview with The New York Times, Van Kirk recalled flying over Hiroshima and the moment of impact. He said he felt "a sense of relief," and upon returning to the base was greeted by "more generals and admirals than I had ever seen in one place in my life."

He retired in 1946 as a major, and received the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross. Van Kirk went back to school and earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Bucknell University, eventually becoming a marketing executive with DuPont. He never shied away from the role he played in ending World War II, saying, "We were fighting an enemy that had a reputation for never surrendering, never accepting defeat. Where was the morality in the bombing of Coventry, or the bombing of Dresden, or the Bataan Death March, or the Rape of Nanking, or the bombing of Pearl Harbor? I believe that when you're in a war, a nation must have the courage to do what it must to win the war with a minimum loss of lives." Catherine Garcia

Trump's take
2:18 p.m. ET
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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. — 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

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

Abortion Debate
11:35 a.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

After months of conservative ire over leaked videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the disposal of fetal tissue, the organization is striking back, courtesy of an analysis of the videos by Fusion GPS, a research and corporate intelligence company. The company's investigation of the series of secretly recorded videos found that "'manipulation' of undercover videos by abortion opponents make those recordings unreliable for any official inquiry," The New York Times reports. Fusion GPS said, "A thorough review of these videos in consultation with qualified experts found that they do not present a complete or accurate record of events they purport to depict" — events that, according to critics, include the discussion of the illegal sale of fetal parts.

Planned Parenthood on Thursday presented these findings of "substantive omissions" in the videos to congressional leaders and a committee investigating allegations of criminal activity, bolstering its case that the videos are "deceptively and misleadingly edited," The Times reports. The congressional investigation of Planned Parenthood was opened in July. Becca Stanek

Last night on late night: Colbert edition
11:10 a.m. ET
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To many, Stephen Colbert is inseparable from his ultra-conservative satirical persona. Colbert's challenge, therefore, on the eve of taking over the Late Show is figuring how to be the "real" Colbert.

It's an unrealistic demand in and of itself, since everyone in entertainment adopts some sort of persona when they're in front of the camera. So the real question is, who will the "new" Colbert be?

Colbert insists it might not be as hard as one would imagine. In his Time cover story interview, the comedian revealed that the real "him" was always lurking behind the Colbert we all know from his days at Comedy Central — the only reason we didn't see him is because every inch of the show was meticulously constructed before it went on air.

Why it’s incorrect to think he never broke character in The Colbert Report: We would edit any mistake I ever did. People said, "Oh, you never broke" or "You rarely broke." That’s because we always took it out, because part of the character was he wasn't a f—up. He was absolutely always on point. Win. Get over. Stay sharp. That was his attitude all the time, and we had to reflect that in the production of the show. None of that is necessary anymore. Now I can be a comedian. [Time]

But after a decade of The Colbert Show, can he truly make himself anew? Colbert had a final word for his doubters:

"They [used to say], 'You can't do a nightly show in character — it won't last until Christmas,'" Colbert remembers. "And now there's a lot of 'You can't do the show not in character.' Evidently nobody has any belief that I can do anything." [Time]

Colbert takes the helm of the Late Show Sept. 8 on CBS. Jeva Lange

This just in
10:30 a.m. ET
Pakistan Ministry of Defense via Getty Images

At the rate Pakistan is building nuclear weapons, it could have the world's third-largest nuclear stockpile within five to 10 years, a new report by two American think tanks projects. The study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center suggests that Pakistan, driven by a fear of India, its nuclear-armed nemesis next door, may be building 20 nuclear warheads a year, which could result in the country possessing a total of at least 350 nuclear weapons within a decade. Right now, analysts estimate Pakistan has about 120 nuclear warheads.

Some, such as Mansoor Ahmed, a nuclear expert at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, think the new report is "overblown." Still, if its predictions are proven true, Pakistan will soon have the third-biggest nuclear arsenal on Earth — though still well behind Russia's 7,500 and America's 7,100. That means Pakistan would have more nukes than France, China, the U.K., India, Israel, and North Korea. Today, Pakistan is believed to have the world's sixth-largest stockpile.

"What the world must understand," Ahmed told The Washington Post, "is that nuclear weapons are part of Pakistan's belief system." Becca Stanek

Indecision 2016
9:48 a.m. ET
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In January's State of the Union address, President Obama proposed two years of free community college for everyone, a plan Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush eagerly decried. "The idea of giving something free — it’s political. It’s poll driven," Bush said at the time. "Someone did a focus group. Free stuff. Free community colleges, it’s a great sound bite, [but it] is the wrong approach."

Now, however, Bush is sounding a different note. "There are great programs around the country," to make college more affordable, he said this week, adding that the one he most admires is "a project called Tennessee Promise, where every student that participates gets their community college education, at least for the first two years, debt free, free of tuition." When Obama was pitching his ideas, the president cited the exact same Tennessee program as an inspirational model.

In practice, however, the plan may not work, no matter who suggests it: In July, a study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that federal student aid programs correlate with spikes in tuition, not enrollment. Bonnie Kristian

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