Blessed Snackrament
May 6, 2014
CC by: Jeff Noble

Found Jesus in your breakfast? Perfectly normal. See Jimi Hendrix rocking out in your soup? Also normal. Have a vision of Groucho Marx and Marie Antoinette smooching each other on your pancakes? Weird, but sure, also totally normal.

All of those oddities are understandable thanks to a phenomenon called "face pareidolia," according to researchers from the University of Toronto. The human brain is hardwired to recognize facial features in non-faces, the study concluded, "so that even when there's only a slight suggestion of facial features the brain automatically interprets it as a face."

It works like this: The frontal cortex picks up on little cues and then passes them on to other parts of the brain that handle perception, thereby influencing what the mind expects to see. Meaning, when one part of the brain shouts "Face!" the rest of the brain will be inclined to see a face.

So you aren't crazy if you think you see Jesus staring back at you from your toast, your tortilla, and so on. Believing that Jesus actually is inside that tree over there, though, is a whole different story. Jon Terbush

2:19 a.m. ET

Earlier this week on Facebook, Republican presidential candidate answered some questions from regular people. He told Michael, for example that he drives an electric Tesla sedan ("I am sure some left-wing environmentalists' heads are exploding"), and Anne that he lives in West Palm Beach, Florida. Dan asked if Carson's views on the Second Amendment have changed since last week's mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon. Carson replied that he has cousins who were killed by gun violence in Detroit, and that "as a doctor, I spent many a night pulling bullets out of bodies." Then he added:

There is no doubt that this senseless violence is breathtaking — but I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away. Serious people seek serious solutions. [Carson, Facebook]

Carson followed up Monday night's comments with an interview Tuesday morning on Fox News, where he suggested, as The New York Times puts it, that the students at Umpqua Community College "were overly passive." If an assailant pointed a gun at him, Carson told Fox and Friends, "I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say: 'Hey, guys, everybody attack him! He may shoot me, but he can't get us all.'"

Carson also said Tuesday that President Obama is wrong to visit the families of the victims in Oregon this week. If he were president, he said, "I mean, I would probably have so many things on my agenda that I would go to the next one." But hey, at least he didn't mention Hilter. Peter Weber

hard work pays off
2:06 a.m. ET
Darren McCollester/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The debate team from New York's Eastern Correctional Facility has major bragging rights, after beating the national debate championship team from Harvard.

In September, the inmates invited the Harvard team to the Napanoch prison for a friendly match. The Eastern Correctional Facility team was formed two years ago, and the men take debate classes taught by faculty at Bard College; about 15 percent of the inmates are enrolled in different courses through the Bard Prison Initiative. "Students in the prison are held to the exact same standards, levels of rigor, and expectation as students on Bard's main campus," Max Kenner, executive director of the Bard Prison Initiative, told The Associated Press. "Those students are serious. They are not condescended to by their faculty."

During the battle against Harvard, the inmates had to argue that public schools should have the right to turn away students whose parents came to the United States without documents. It was a stance the inmates didn't agree with, but they were able to come up with points Harvard wasn't expecting, AP reports, and a neutral panel of judges declared them the winners. The inmates have defeated teams from West Point and the University of Vermont, and the Harvard team appears happy to join their ranks, posting on Facebook: "There are few teams we are prouder of having lost a debate to than the phenomenally intelligent and articulate team we faced this weekend." Catherine Garcia

1:38 a.m. ET

Danish researchers have found that ovarian transplants could restore a woman's fertility after chemotherapy and radiation.

Women who undergo cancer treatment typically have a less than 5 percent chance of getting pregnant afterward, NPR reports. "Obviously the thing that interests them the most is to survive cancer," said Claus Yding Andersen, a reproductive physiologist who helped conduct the study. "But immediately after that they would say they are really interested in maintaining their fertility."

An ovarian transplant involves surgically removing all or part of one ovary, freezing it, then transplanting it back once cancer treatment is finished. Andersen and his team focused on 32 Danish women who had completed cancer treatment, had an ovarian transplant between 2003 to 2014, and wanted to become pregnant; 10 women had a total of 14 babies, with six conceived through in vitro fertilization. Andersen said the tissue can function for five to 10 more years, and there was no evidence that an ovarian transplant increases the risk of a recurrence of a woman's cancer. The study was published Tuesday in the journal Human Reproduction. Catherine Garcia

12:42 a.m. ET

In Moldova, criminal networks have made at least four attempts over the past five years to sell radioactive material, including bomb-grade uranium, The Associated Press reports.

During its investigation, AP found that while many middlemen have been arrested, their bosses have all escaped. A small group of Moldovan investigators trained by the U.S. government to break up the nuclear black market worked on the cases, including Constantin Malic. Malic told AP that in 2010, authorities were able to get a sawed-off piece of a depleted uranium cylinder that they believe may have been from Chernobyl (it ended up not being highly toxic). "We can expect more of these cases," he said. "As long as the smugglers think they can make big money without being caught, they will keep doing it."

In one case, a former KGB informant named Teodor Chetrus called one of Malic's sources, and said he was looking for a Middle Eastern buyer to purchase uranium. He was a middleman who hated the West, Malic said, and proclaimed "multiple times that this substance must have a real buyer from the Islamic states to make a dirty bomb." The informant made a deal to sell the bomb-grade uranium to a "buyer in the Middle East," AP says, but Chetrus wanted to ensure he was not an undercover agent. His boss was a man named Alexandr Agheenco, who lived in the Moldovan breakaway republic of Trans-Dniester. Agheenco decided not to sell the uranium all at once, instead dispensing 10-gram samples for €320,000 ($360,000) a pop. Agheenco gave his wife, Galina, the job of arranging a handoff of the uranium to Chetrus in Moldova. Police were waiting, and arrested Chetrus and Galina Agheenco after Chetrus took the uranium package she left in her Lexus; a Trans-Dniester police officer who smuggled the uranium to Galina Agheenco escaped and along with Agheenco, was untouchable in Trans-Dniester.

Tests found that the uranium was high-grade material that could be used in a nuclear bomb, and when Malic searched Chetrus' house, he found plans for a dirty bomb and evidence that Chetrus was working on a separate deal with an actual buyer (this deal with a Sudanese doctor was later broken up by a sting operation). Galina Agheenco received a sentence of three years in prison because she had a young son, and Chetrus was sentenced to five years; Galina Agheenco's sentence is up, and Chetrus was released early in December 2014. Catherine Garcia

Late Night Tackles 2016
12:35 a.m. ET

Jay Leno is back on the air with a new show about cars, but does he miss telling jokes every weeknight, especially in this bumper crop of a presidential campaign? He didn't say on Tuesday's Tonight Show, but he seemed to enjoy himself when he tagged in during Jimmy Fallon's monologue. If you've missed Leno, he's still Leno: One of his jokes was about the GOP contest coming down to Jeb Bush and Donald Trump, "like a race between the tortoise and the bad hair." He really got into the moment when he started a series of old-timey "the economy is so bad..." jokes — and his enthusiasm was apparently infectious, because Fallon jumped in, too. Watch below. Peter Weber

Coffee or Bust
12:10 a.m. ET
Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images

The overlap between fans of Peet's Coffee & Tea, the Berkeley coffee stalwart known for its dark-roast blends, and Stumptown Coffee Roasters, the Portland upstart that made lightly roasted single-origin beans fashionable, is probably not huge (though larger than the overlap between Peet's and Dunkin Donuts partisans, surely). Starbucks, the Seattle coffee juggernaut, reacted to Stumptown and its light-roast peers by developing a "blonde roast" line. On Tuesday, Peet's announced it is simply buying Stumptown, for an undisclosed amount.

Stumptown and Peet's both say customers won't really notice any difference — you won't find Stumptown beans in Peet's stores or vice versa. But if Stumptown fans are concerned that their favorite roaster is selling out to a corporate giant like Peet's, well, that's only partly true: Peet's is majority owned by a secretive German family and its investment company in Luxembourg, JAB Holdings Co., that also has a majority stake in Caribou Coffee. The upside for Stumptown drinkers is that the coffee — and especially its bottled cold brew, which is what drew Peet's attention — will probably become available in more markets. The downside: If you want to drink local, well, that Starbucks on the corner at least sends its money to Seattle. Peter Weber

el faro
October 6, 2015

Friends and family of the El Faro crew say they are confident their loved ones will soon be found safe.

The U.S. Coast Guard is still searching for survivors of the cargo ship, which sank last week during Hurricane Joaquin. The remains of one unidentified crew member have been found, but there are 32 others who are still missing, many from the Jacksonville, Florida, area, the Miami Herald reports. TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, which owns the ship, has not publicly named the 28 Americans and five Poles who worked on El Faro, but at least 15 have been identified in the media. Lonnie Jordan, 33, was a cook who "loves sailing," his grandmother, Faye Cummings, told the Florida Times-Union. She said her family was upset that the El Faro went out knowing about Joaquin. "It's in God's hands," she said, "but we feel like they made the wrong decision."

Danielle Randolph, 34, was second mate, and sent her mother, Laurie Bobillot, an email from the ship, The Washington Post reports. "Not sure if you've been following the weather at all," she wrote, "but there is a hurricane out here and we are heading straight into it. Winds are super bad and seas are not great." Bobillot said her daughter knew at an "extremely young age she wanted to work on the ocean." Deb Roberts, whose son Michael Holland, 25, was an engineer on the ship, started a Facebook page called "Making waves for Mike: Bring the El faro crew home safely." Thousands of people have shared memories of Holland, including his best friend Corey Wells, who wrote: "I REFUSE to believe that he is doing anything short of everything that he can to make it home. Hope is not lost. He WILL make it back!" Catherine Garcia

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