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July 24, 2014
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Democrats have a huge enthusiasm gap problem, according to a Pew survey out Thursday. In the poll, 45 percent of Republican voters say they are more psyched than usual to back the GOP candidate in their districts; among Democratic voters, that total is just 37 percent.

The split isn't quite as pronounced as the one Pew found in 2010, when Republicans held a 55 percent to 42 percent edge in voter enthusiasm. But the gap still shows the challenge Democrats face in exciting their base and getting them to the polls.

More troubling news for Dems, from Pew:

Barack Obama is as powerful a motivating factor for Republican voters as he was in 2010: about half (51 percent) of those who say they will vote Republican this fall consider their vote as a vote "against" Obama, little changed from June 2010 (52 percent). And Obama has become a less positive factor for Democrats — 36 percent of those who plan to vote for the Democrat in their district view their vote as being "for" Obama, down from 44 percent four years ago. [Pew]

So to recap: Republicans are more excited than Democrats to vote, and President Obama's unpopularity is a contributing factor. Probably not a good sign for Democrats, then, that the president's approval rating has slumped back to the low 40s in recent weeks, per Gallup. Jon Terbush

12:18 p.m. ET

The National Park Service is celebrating its centennial Thursday, having spent its first 100 years dedicated to preserving "unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values" of America's national parks. The first National Park was actually designated in 1871, and President Ulysses S. Grant signed the corresponding legislation in 1872 to preserve Yellowstone National Park. But the current iteration of the NPS was established by President Woodrow Wilson "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and ... wildlife therein" on Aug. 25, 1916:

Last year, more than 300 million people visited National Parks, and in honor of its 100th anniversary the NPS is offering free admission to all 412 parks from Aug. 25-28. Can't make it to a park this weekend? Read up on why National Parks are known as "America's best idea" here, or check out this animated tour of some of the sights and sounds from the nation's best parks, courtesy of Google, below. Kimberly Alters

12:06 p.m. ET

For a second there, long-shot independent candidate Evan McMullin seemed to have a better chance of winning Minnesota than Republican nominee Donald Trump. That's because while McMullin, a former CIA agent positioning himself as a Trump alternative for conservatives this fall, only launched his independent presidential run earlier this month, he had at least secured a spot on the ballot in Minnesota. As of Thursday morning, however, Trump had not:

A Minnesota state official has already said the issue is being sorted out, and Trump's name will in fact appear on the ballot. "We just received the last item [of Trump's paperwork]," said Ryan Furlong, communications director for the Minnesota Secretary of State. "We were waiting for a pledge from one of the alternate electors. The filing is complete and the Republican ticket should be listed on our site shortly."

Minnesota's filing deadline is Monday, Aug. 29. Election Day is Nov. 8. Becca Stanek

11:33 a.m. ET
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Hillary Clinton will attempt to turn attention away from her email troubles this week, by using a speech in Reno, Nevada, to remind center-right voters that Donald Trump is nowhere near as moderate as he is claiming to be. Rather, Clinton will point out, Trump is moving further toward the "alt-right," as evidenced by his recent hiring of Breitbart News' Steve Bannon as campaign CEO and his decision to retain Roger Ailes and Roger Stone as consultants.

"We intend to call out this 'alt-right' shift and the divisive and dystopian vision of America they put forth, because it tells voters everything they need to know about Donald Trump himself," Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta told Politico. "Republicans up and down the ticket are going to have to choose whether they want to be complicit in this lurch toward extremism or stand with the voters who can't stomach it."

Clinton's speech courting center-right voters comes as Trump angles to poach the Democratic nominee's support from African-American voters. Clinton has had a particularly contentious week, following the release of more of her emails in addition to Trump's calls for a special prosecutor to investigate improper conduct at the Clinton Foundation. Becca Stanek

10:39 a.m. ET

Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pierson put a truly remarkable spin on claims Donald Trump has changed his stance on immigration. While Trump's recent remark that he would "work with" undocumented immigrants and consider letting some stay in the U.S., instead of deporting all 11 million as he previously pledged to do, may sound like a major shift in policy, Pierson insisted that wasn't the case. "He hasn't changed his immigration position," Pierson said on CNN's Correct the Record. "He has changed the words he is saying."

That's certainly one way to look at it! Take a listen, below. Becca Stanek

10:24 a.m. ET
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Survivors of the June 12 shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, won't be billed for treatment, the Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday. Instead, Orlando Regional Medical Center and Florida Hospital, the two hospitals responsible for treating the majority of survivors, will be finding an alternative way to pay those bills.

Orlando Regional Medical Center said it plans to turn to a victims' fund and patients' insurance plans to cover out-of-pocket costs and that it would assume costs for patients without insurance. Florida Hospital said it would not even bill victims' insurance companies for its services. In total, the two hospitals are estimated to be absorbing more than $5.5 million worth of care.

The shooting left 53 people injured, in addition to the 49 people killed. Gunman Omar Mateen, who pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, was killed in a shootout with police. Becca Stanek

10:07 a.m. ET
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It's 10 a.m. Do you know where your coffee is?

If you're one of the many people who start their day with a cup of joe steaming by their side, you might be able to blame genetics for your addiction. According to a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports, a gene known as PDSS2 "has been shown to negatively regulate the expression of the caffeine metabolism genes and can thus be linked to coffee consumption."

In layman's terms? Certain genes play a part in breaking down caffeine in the body, and a certain variant of the PDSS2 gene was found to apparently slow the metabolism of caffeine. That means that for those people, the caffeine "lingers in the blood for longer and gives people a more enduring 'hit' for every cup," The Guardian explains.

The study was conducted across two Italian populations — but when its conclusions were cross-checked with results from a study conducted among individuals from the Netherlands, the effect of the PDSS2 gene appeared to be weaker. Researchers theorize the discrepancy could be due to different preferences for coffee between Italy and the Netherlands, The Guardian notes. And this isn't the first time scientists have tried to link genetics to the mad-dash for coffee: Way back in 2014, CNN reported on a purported coffee gene.

The moral of the story? Drink up — no one will blame you for a lack of willpower if it's just your genetic fate. Kimberly Alters

9:29 a.m. ET

The pasta dish that put one Italian city on the map could be integral to its earthquake recovery efforts. Just a day after the central Italian town of Amatrice was devastated by a 6.2-magnitude earthquake Wednesday morning, more than 600 restaurants in Italy are planning to put the town's famous spaghetti all'amatriciana, which The Guardian describes as "a pasta dish with a tomato-based sauce flavored with guanciale, or cured pork cheek," on their menus. For every order sold, the restaurants have reportedly pledged to donate 2 euros to the Italian Red Cross.

House Made Spaghetti All'Amatriciana (Taster: @shelbylenetsky)

A photo posted by TasteToronto™ (@tastetoronto) on

The dish was invented in Amatrice in the 1700s, and the city had planned to have its 50th annual spaghetti all'amatriciana festival this weekend before the earthquake hit. Amatrice was one of the cities most devastated by the quake, which is estimated to have killed at least 247 and injured more than 300. Becca Stanek

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