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June 30, 2014
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Disappearing sea ice in Antarctica is putting emperor penguins at risk of extinction, researchers warn.

"The population is declining," says Hal Caswell, senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and an author of a new study in Nature Climate Change. "Unless something changes to stop that, the population will go into extinction."

By 2100, the entire population could decrease by one-third, with all 45 of the known emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica taking a hit. The biggest drops will happen on the coasts of the western Indian Ocean and eastern Weddell Sea, The Guardian says.

The main food source of penguins is krill, and young krill eat the algae on ice; as the ice is lost, the supply of krill drops. The researchers say that one way to help the penguins would be putting them under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Also, "given this new research, and what we already know about global temperatures warming and the changing climate," says Andrea Kavanagh, director of global penguin conservation for the Pew Charitable Trusts, the U.S. should immediately "put a marine reserve in place so we can make sure we are not fishing in areas where the penguins need to forage for food." Catherine Garcia

10:43 a.m. ET

A 5-year-old North Carolina girl named Caitlin Miller was suspended for one day last week for playing with a stick she and her friends on the playground pretended was a gun. Caitlin's friends were playing queen and princess, and Caitlin, as the royal guard, picked up a stick so she could fend off imaginary attackers.

When teachers observed the game, they intervened. "One minute she's playing with her friends and the next her teachers are dragging her to the principal's office," said the girl's mother, Brandy Miller. "She's confused. Nobody explained anything to her." Caitlin's suspension note claimed she was "threatening to shoot and kill other students," a charge Caitlin says is not true.

Still, the school district stood by the suspension, commenting in a statement that it will "not tolerate assaults, threats or harassment from any student." Watch Caitlin explain what happened — and see a picture of the stick in question — in the local news report below. Bonnie Kristian

10:41 a.m. ET

President Trump has been smarting ever since the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus helped crush the GOP health-care bill last week, claiming it looked too similar to ObamaCare. On Thursday, the president made himself abundantly clear: The Democrats are the enemy, but so too are more than two-dozen Freedom Caucus members if they continue to oppose him:

The Freedom Caucus does not respond well to threats. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) hit back at Trump on Twitter:

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who often aligns with the Freedom Caucus, also mocked Trump for the threat:

Of the 435-member House, there are 193 Democrats and approximately 32 Freedom Caucus-aligned conservatives, equaling a potential Trump-opposing block of 225 votes. As NBC News' Bradd Jaffy wonders: "What's [Trump's] strategy in attacking everyone here?" Jeva Lange

10:30 a.m. ET

If you would prefer a President Pence to a President Trump — an alluring prospect to many anti-Trump social conservatives, as well as a majority of Democrats per recent polling — the 25th Amendment might sound like just the ticket. It provides that if the president is deemed "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office," Congress can pull some strings to produce our new President Pence.

Such a removal sans impeachment process has been repeatedly proposed in recent weeks, but, as Politico explains, this hope is not grounded in reality:

In the 50 years since the 25th Amendment was ratified, it's been used twice to fill a vice presidential vacancy: when Gerald Ford replaced the disgraced Spiro Agnew in October 1973, and when Nelson Rockefeller replaced Ford in 1974. And on six occasions, the president has invoked the 25th Amendment to (very temporarily) designate his veep as acting president, always during routine medical procedures like a colonoscopy. But it's never been invoked when the president himself was non compos ...

The notion that Pence and a Cabinet majority will look at Trump’s next tweets or telephonic fulminations and decide he’s not fit for the job is beyond absurdity. ... In the midst of a shooting war in Vietnam, and a Cold War on constant simmer, Nixon was often abusing alcohol and prescription drugs, leading to stretches of incoherence and irrationality. No one around him even raised the specter of invoking the 25th Amendment. [Politico]

Read the rest of Politico's rationale here. Bonnie Kristian

10:17 a.m. ET

57-year-old NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson broke the record for the most spacewalks ever performed by a woman when she ventured out of the International Space Station on Thursday. Whitson, who The Associated Press noted is "the world's oldest and most experienced spacewoman," has now completed eight spacewalks, surpassing former space station resident Sunita Williams' record of 50 hours and 40 minutes of spacewalking time.

Whitson also holds the record for the most time a woman has ever spent in space, as she's now up to more than 500 days away from Earth. Whitson departed for her third space station trip in November to set up a docking port for commercial crew ships being developed by Boeing and SpaceX. She is slated to return in June.

Catch a glimpse of Whitson's Thursday morning spacewalk below. Becca Stanek

10:10 a.m. ET
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Depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability around the world, the World Health Organization announced Thursday. "A better understanding of depression and how it can be treated, while essential, is just the beginning," explained Dr. Shekhar Saxena, who serves as the director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO. "What needs to follow is sustained scale-up of mental health services accessible to everyone, even the most remote populations in the world."

More than 300 million people live with depression, an uptick of more than 18 percent between 2005 and 2015. But worldwide, there is still very little support for mental disorders. On average, governments only spend 3 percent of health budgets on mental health, despite the fact that "every $1 [U.S. dollar] invested in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return of $4 in better health and ability to work," WHO writes. But even in high-income countries, only about half of people suffering from depression get treatment.

Depression is strongly linked to the increased risk of substance abuse as well as diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Hundreds of thousands of people every year additionally commit suicide.

"These new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to re-think their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency that it deserves," said WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan. Jeva Lange

10:07 a.m. ET
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Senate Democrats are weighing whether to filibuster or otherwise make trouble for the confirmation vote of President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. But new NBC News/Survey Monkey poll results released Thursday indicate a majority of Americans would prefer that they didn't.

Only 37 percent of respondents said they would like to see Senate Democrats block the Gorsuch vote, while 54 percent were ready to move ahead to an up-or-down ballot on the SCOTUS candidate. The poll had a 1.7 percent margin of error.

Gorsuch needs 60 votes to take a seat at the court: 52 Senate Republicans plus eight centrist Democrats or independents. While his qualifications for the position are generally not disputed, Democrats are still smarting over Republicans' refusal to allow a vote on President Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland. Bonnie Kristian

9:33 a.m. ET
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After "very sensitive" negotiations, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Thursday that Malaysia has agreed to release the body of Kim Jong Nam, the assassinated half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to North Korea. Kim died in February after a woman sprayed him in the face with the banned, lethal VX nerve agent at Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur airport. In exchange for Kim's body, North Korea has agreed to release the nine Malaysian citizens who had been blocked from leaving the country.

Kim's assassination last month, which The Associated Press noted is "widely suspected" to be the work of North Korea, has ratcheted up tensions between North Korea and Malaysia. After the incident at the airport, Malaysia demanded North Korea hand over suspects who were believed to be "hiding in North Korea's embassy in Malaysia," BBC reported. North Korea denied its involvement in the assassination, and called for Malaysia to release Kim's body.

The standoff prompted both countries to remove their ambassadors. After North Korea prevented nine Malaysians from leaving the country, Malaysia responded by barring North Korean citizens from leaving Malaysian soil.

Razak did not say if Kim's body has already left Malaysia. Becca Stanek

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