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July 28, 2014
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What if there were a way to keep endangered species from going extinct?

That's the hope of a new project at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va. Researchers at the institute are putting information about animals threatened by extinction in a "stud book" and chronicling their lives from birth in order to gain as much insight as possible into each animal's family tree.

"We analyze the... birth rate and death rate to predict how many offspring they'll have in a given year," Sarah Long, director of the Population Management Center at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, told The Washington Post. "We need to plan for that and produce more births. We do the family tree to determine who should mate with whom to avoid inbreeding."

The Washington Post reports that zoos face three core challenges with their animals: maintaining populations without allowing inbreeding, replacing animals without diminishing the population in the wild, and replenishing the hundreds of species of threatened and endangered animals that are disappearing. To combat these challenges, more than 400 biologists and researchers are dedicated to completing the stud books.

In addition to encouraging animals to breed naturally, zoos are attempting to freeze animal semen to be used as many as 10 years later. The Post reports that in some cases, scientists have even taken semen samples from the animals after their deaths. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute is currently studying and breeding 22 animal species, from the Mongolian Przewalski's horse to the American black-footed ferret.

Barbara Durrant, a reproductive physiologist at the Frozen Zoo of semen and biological material at the San Diego Zoo, told the Post that the research is "correcting what human interference has caused" in the animal kingdom. Meghan DeMaria

3:52 p.m. ET
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Actor Will Ferrell has reportedly nixed plans to play Ronald Reagan in a comedy about the late president's dementia, just days after it was announced he had signed on to star. Ferrell's spokesperson now says he was never officially attached to the project. "While it is by no means an 'Alzheimers comedy,' as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing this project," his spokesperson said.

Shortly after news of the film broke, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis penned an open letter expressing her disappointment. "Perhaps if you knew more," Davis wrote, "you would not find the subject humorous." Becca Stanek

2:34 p.m. ET

A lot can change in eight years — as Carly Fiorina knows. While the former Hewlett-Packcard CEO is now Ted Cruz's vice presidential candidate, Fiorina actually sung Hillary Clinton's praises back in 2008. While on the campaign trail for Republican presidential nominee John McCain, Fiorina described Clinton as "incredibly intelligent, focused, tough, determined."

"As a woman, I take great pride in the fact that Hillary Clinton ran for president," Fiorina said.

Fiorina added that "bold women, women in power are characterized, scrutinized differently than their male counterparts are." Fiorina has since joined the chorus of conservative voices who have accused Clinton of "playing the woman card," saying that "Hillary Clinton, first of all, calls everybody a sexist and that's not a fair game."

A representative for Fiorina clarified to CNN that the vice presidential candidate "thinks Hillary Clinton is smart and hardworking, but she also believes she is profoundly misguided on the important issues facing this country."

Watch the surprisingly different tone Fiorina had less than a decade ago, below. Jeva Lange


Carly Fiorina in 2008- 'I Have Such Great... by DailyPolitics

1:26 p.m. ET

The White House decided to mix things up at its daily press briefing Friday by having a fictional character step into Press Secretary Josh Earnest's role. Yes, seriously.

Allison Janney, who played the whip-smart press secretary C.J. Cregg on The West Wing, took over the podium while Earnest was supposedly out of commission for a root canal.

"But let's be honest," Janney said, "I'm better at this anyway."

Watch Janney's briefing, which — spoiler alert — Earnest eventually crashes, below. Becca Stanek

1:14 p.m. ET
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Your friend is getting married. Hooray! Now pay up.

On average, millennials spend nearly $900 for every wedding they attend as a guest, according to numbers crunched by American Express this week. In comparison, the average American wedding guest spends 27 percent less, around $703 per wedding. That number accounts for an average of $205 spent on airfare, $166 on attire, and $69 on child or pet care.

Millennials, though, break the bank by spending on average $893 per wedding or, if they're a part of the wedding party, $928. Wedding gifts don't come cheap, either. When purchasing gifts for family members, Americans spend an average of $127, or $99 on friends.

Better start saving up — wedding season hits its peak in June. Jeva Lange

1:09 p.m. ET
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The Pentagon announced Friday that it has punished 16 American military personnel, including a two-star general, for the deadly strike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan last year that killed 42. Because the Pentagon determined the attack was not intentional, but rather the fault of human error, fatigue, and technical errors, those punished will not face criminal charges. Instead, the punishments will be "administrative actions" only, including suspension, removal from command, and letters of reprimand.

The attack occurred after crew members reportedly mistook the hospital for a Taliban-controlled building about a quarter of a mile away. Becca Stanek

12:24 p.m. ET
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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the Republican presidential race during a Friday appearance on a conservative talk radio show. "I'm not against anyone, but I will be voting for Ted Cruz," Pence said, though he first went out of his way to commend Donald Trump for giving a voice to "the frustration of millions of Americans."

Pence's endorsement comes just four days ahead of Indiana's Tuesday primary, which is critical for Cruz to win if he wants to prevent frontrunner Donald Trump from locking up the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the nomination. Becca Stanek

11:17 a.m. ET

With her sights set on the general election, Hillary Clinton sent out a series of Snapchat attacks on Donald Trump on Thursday, using the app's face-swap feature to overlay Trump's orange visage with the features of presidents past.

As Politico explains — and it seems like some explanation might be needed, given the nature of Clinton's references and the age of the average Snapchat user — each one pairs a relevant president with a comment or policy of Trump's which Clinton wanted to critique. These combos range from the obvious (Lincoln plus Trump's KKK gaffe) to the more obscure (the first President Bush, who signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, plus Trump's mocking of a disabled reporter). Bonnie Kristian

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