May 8, 2014

With a diet rich in fat but few heart-related health problems, how do polar bears have it all? Scientists said today the answer is in their genes. Since the white furry creatures split off from their brown bear cousins some 500,000 years ago, polar bears have "undergone remarkable genetic changes" that allow them to eat a high-fat diet.

Researchers said genes relating to the bear's cardiovascular functions and fatty acid metabolism have mutated to let them eat a diet full of fatty meat from seals and fish without risking heart attacks or disease. "For polar bears, being very fat is no problem," said ecologist Eline Lorenzen, who added that the extra fat helps the bears survive in the Arctic's freezing climate.

The study may help humans in the long run, too: Researchers are trying to learn more about the bears' DNA "to modulate human physiology down the line." Jordan Valinsky

10:19 a.m. ET
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In 2013, presidential candidate and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) voted against federal aid to New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. But now that similarly devastating flooding has hit South Carolina, Graham is leading the call for federal help in his home state.

Pressed on the apparent contradiction during a CNN interview on Monday, Graham said that he does not recall opposing the Sandy aid, a position many Republicans took because the package also funded projects superfluous to helping Sandy victims.

"I'm all for helping the people in New Jersey. I don't really remember me voting that way," Graham said. "I don't really recall that, but I'd be glad to look and tell you why I did vote no, if I did." Bonnie Kristian

Indecision 2016
10:07 a.m. ET
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The Republican primary field is gradually winnowing down from a confusing high of 17 candidates — a total which has left many voters (and probably many candidates, too) understandably overwhelmed.

But fear not: Even as GOP contenders drop out and the Democratic contest stays small, there are still some 1,200 other people running for president in America. They're fringe candidates with a wide array of agendas for America, and you probably can't vote for most of them as they generally are registered in just one state (if they're on a ballot at all).

So here's a taste of the options you're likely missing: Missouri's Dale Hoinoski wants to run our cars on marijuana oil. Doris Walker of Illinois prioritizes swimming pool access. And Caesar Saint Augustine de Buonaparte Emperor of the United States of Turtle Island in North Carolina—well, he's named Caesar Saint Augustine de Buonaparte Emperor of the United States of Turtle Island. Bonnie Kristian

joke's on you
10:03 a.m. ET

Donald Trump has been known to poke fun at his fellow Republican candidates, often by resorting to low blows about their appearance or energy levels. For his latest trick, Trump actually went the good old fashioned pranking route, sending a "care package" to opponent Marco Rubio.

The special delivery, which arrived at Sen. Rubio's Washington campaign office on Monday, included a case of "Trump Ice Natural Spring Water" (emblazoned, of course, with Trump's face), two "Make America Great Again" towels, a Trump 2016 bumper sticker, and a note that taunted, "Since you're always sweating, we thought you could use some water. Enjoy!"

The package riffed on an incident in 2013 when Rubio gained attention for repeatedly gulping down water on air while delivering the Republican response to the State of the Union address. While Rubio later made a good-natured joke about the water bottle at CNN's Republican Debate, Trump mocked the senator last week, commenting, "I've never seen a young guy sweat that much. He's drinking water, water, water. I never saw anything like this with him with the water."

A Trump aide clarified to CNN that the towels were "for him sweating." Jeva Lange

Planting seeds
9:42 a.m. ET
Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

When The New York Times published the Aug. 1 column, "Joe Biden in 2016: What Would Beau Do?" talk of a Biden presidential run hit a fever pitch. The column, written by Maureen Dowd, revealed a tender moment between Biden and his dying son Beau in which, Dowd writes, Beau "tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values." Now, multiple sources tell Politico that the source of the story that effectively "marked a turning point in the presidential speculation" surrounding Biden was none other than the veep himself.

The revelation that Biden spoke directly to Dowd and told her the story — if true — casts the subsequent series of events in a different light. As Politico puts it, "It was no coincidence that the preliminary pieces around a prospective campaign started moving right after that column" because "Biden had effectively placed an ad in The New York Times."

Biden's grappling with his 2016 decision is tinged by grief no doubt; but what this revelation shows is that while Biden has been mourning, he's also been strategizing. “Calculation sort of sounds crass, but I guess that's what it is," a source who had recently spoken to Biden told Politico. "The head is further down the road than the heart is."

Read the full story over at Politico. Becca Stanek

take a look, it's in a book
9:31 a.m. ET
Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images

Meet the new Twilight — the same, more or less, as the old Twilight.

To mark the 10th anniversary of her smash-hit YA novel, author Stephenie Meyer has released a new novel, on shelves today. Love and Death: Twilight Reimagined is a total rewrite of the first Twilight novel — with the genders of the two lead characters swapped. Bella Swan, the sullen teen girl at the heart of the original series, has become Beaufort Swan, a sullen teen boy; Edward Cullen, the immortal vampire who stole Bella's heart, is now Edythe Cullen. Writing Love and Death was "really fast and easy," says Meyer. I wonder why!

Love and Death is part of an ongoing trend in which authors find some way to regurgitate their old successes, which spares them the trouble of coming up with something new. Earlier this year, E.L. James scored a hit with Grey, a rewrite of 50 Shades of Grey from Christian Grey's perspective. J.K. Rowling continues to flesh out the minutiae of the Harry Potter universe on her website Pottermore. Even Stephenie Meyer has pulled this trick before, working on Midnight Sun — a rewrite of the first Twilight from Edward Cullen's perspective — before shelving it after the manuscript leaked online.

With any luck, publishers will come to recognize that they're just one Find+Replace search away from a literary goldmine. Why not To Mock a Killingbird, in which Scott Finch learns valuable life lessons from his mother, Attica? Or The Stupendous Gatsby, in which Nicole Carraway chronicles the doomed affair between her neighbor, Jess Gatsby, and her long-lost love Duke Buchanan? Yes, the future of sub-literary fan-fiction has never been brighter. Scott Meslow

double checking
9:23 a.m. ET

It's not just Americans who have crazy moon landing conspiracy theories — our space race pals over in Russia are skeptical, too. In fact, one blogger is so suspicious of the U.S. Apollo missions that he has managed to raise over a million rubles (about $16,000) in four days to crowdfund a "micro-probe" to take high-resolution photos of the moon — you know, just to make sure the whole "one giant leap for mankind" thing actually happened, Meduza reports.

The blogger in question, Vitaly Egorov, said the team still needs another half a million rubles to complete the probe's computer. That will only get him as far as having the physical probe, though — to send it into space, Egorov will likely need the help of investors, as well as a rocket for the probe to hitch a ride on. He's hoping it can tag along with a Russian, Indian, or Chinese moon project sometime in the next decade.

To be fair, it's not just the United States under scrutiny by Egorov and his supporters; the probe would also check out the locations of the unmanned Luna spacecraft landings and the Lunokhod rovers, both former Soviet programs. That being said, Russia has been squinting its eyes at the Apollo pictures for awhile: As Russian Investigative Commission spokesman Vladimir Markin wrote earlier this year for the newspaper Izvestia, "We are not contending that they did not fly [to the moon], and simply made a film about it. But all of these scientific — or perhaps cultural — artifacts are part of the legacy of humanity, and their disappearance without a trace is our common loss. An investigation will reveal what happened."

NASA has said that they erased the original tapes of the missions to save money. If you want to take a look at the surviving evidence yourself, NASA just put 8,400 high-resolution Apollo program photos on Flickr. Just remember — there's no wind on the moon. Jeva Lange

On the up and up
8:25 a.m. ET
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Back when Scott Walker was still in the race and Jeb Bush seemed like the GOP's strongest contender, Marco Rubio, as The New York Times puts it, "looked boxed out." But now that Walker has thrown in the towel and Bush is struggling, Rubio may finally be getting his big chance — and the betting markets are paying attention. Since the last Republican debate, The New York Times reports that Rubio's chances of winning the nomination have more than doubled, jumping from 13 percent to 29 percent. That puts him only two percentage points behind Bush, at 31 percent.

But even with the window wide open for Rubio, The New York Times writer Nate Cohn wonders if the 2016 hopeful can take advantage. Rubio's widespread appeal is a double-edged sword, Cohn suggests, since he "is not the natural favorite of any wing of the party, which is the easiest way for a candidate to become the first choice to a meaningful block of voters." As a "young, Catholic, Latino lawyer from Miami," Rubio might also struggle to appeal to "old, evangelical, white, less-educated, and rural voters," Cohn writes.

Challenges aside, the odds are still looking better than ever for Rubio.

Read the full story over at The New York Times. Becca Stanek

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