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April 28, 2014

Today, Aaron Carroll over at The Incidental Economist takes a look at France's healthcare system, widely regarded as the best in the world:

One thing that he emphasizes that I don't think people tend to fully grasp is how, when it comes to the United States, we pay dramatically more than almost every other nation and have almost nothing to show for it. France has an incredibly luxurious system, one that will pay for just about any kind of treatment you can dream up, and correspondingly shells out quite a bit for it. In America, by contrast, we pay half again as much per person, but the system is incredibly stingy compared to France.

We might just have something to learn here. Ryan Cooper

9:20 p.m. ET
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Documents serving as evidence in a class-action lawsuit against Trump University show instructors were told how to bring in customers, convince them to spend more money on additional classes, and counter objections they might have.

Close to 400 pages out of Trump University playbooks were ordered released last week by U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, after a request by The Washington Post. The now-defunct real estate school was created by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and his attorneys objected to the move, saying the documents contained trade secrets. The pages reveal that instructors were given detailed directives on everything from how to run an event to how to dress, CNN reports. Students filled out profiles, which included listing their assets, and instructors were told to sort through those profiles and separate those with liquid assets over $35,000 from those with less than $2,000.

Instructors were also told to push the Gold Elite package on students ("if they can afford Gold Elite, don't allow them to think about doing anything besides the Gold Elite"), which came with a $34,995 price tag, and were given retorts to concerns students might have — for instance, if a student said they didn't want to go into debt by using credit cards, they were asked, "Do you like living paycheck to paycheck? Do you enjoy seeing everyone else but yourself in their dream houses and driving their dream cars with huge checking accounts? Those people saw an opportunity, and didn't make excuses, like what you're doing now." Read more about the playbooks over at CNN. Catherine Garcia

7:42 p.m. ET
Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images

Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro announced he has asked the Polish Supreme Court to overturn a lower court's ruling from last year that rejected a request from the United States to extradite director Roman Polanski to Los Angeles.

Polanski, 82, fled the U.S. for France in 1978, hours before he was to be sentenced for drugging a 13-year-old girl and having sex with her. Under a plea deal, he agreed to plead guilty to unlawful sex with a minor and served 42 days in prison, but he left the U.S. due to fears he would receive more time. "He is accused of a terrible crime against a child, the rape of a child," Ziobro told Polskie Radio. "Were he a teacher, a doctor, a plumber or a painter, I'm sure any country would have extradited him to the United States long ago."

Polanski divides his time between Paris and Krakow, and his lawyer, Jerzy Stachowicz, told NBC News Ziobro had previously announced he would make the request and "we were expecting this." Polanski's victim, Samantha Geimer, is now 52 and a mother of three, and said she agreed with the lower court's decision. "I'm sure he's a nice man and I know he has a family and I think he deserves closure and to be allowed to put this behind him," she said. "He said he did it, he pled guilty, he went to jail. I don't know what people want from him." Catherine Garcia

6:43 p.m. ET
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The "impressive" independent candidate The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol tweeted about over the weekend is a constitutional lawyer named David French, sources told Bloomberg Politics.

The sources, both Republicans close to Kristol's efforts to find a candidate to challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, confirmed French is open to running for president, but hasn't made a final decision. French is a National Review staff writer, recipient of the Bronze Star, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the author of several books.

A source said some conservative donors are excited about the prospect of French, who lives in Tennessee with his wife and three children, joining the race. Kristol and French declined to comment to Bloomberg Politics, but in the June 6 issue of The Weekly Standard, Kristol wrote, "To say that [French] would be a better and a more responsible president than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is to state a truth that would become self-evident as more Americans go to know him." During a press conference Tuesday, Trump said any independent candidates would be "fools." Catherine Garcia

4:24 p.m. ET
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Hong Kong businessman Vincent Lo learned the hard way just how costly getting on Donald Trump's bad side can be. What started out in 1994 as a successful business relationship between Lo and Trump culminated in 2005 in a $1 billion lawsuit, after Trump decided he was displeased with how a deal went down.

Lo, along with other Hong Kong businessmen who bailed Trump out of major financial trouble by investing in one of Trump's midtown Manhattan properties, eventually sold the 77-acre property near Lincoln Center for $1.76 billion, which The New York Times reports is "believed to be the largest residential real estate transaction in the city's history." But instead of being thrilled by the deal, Trump was livid. He said his partners didn't consult with him, and that if they had, they could've gotten more money.

So Trump sued for a "staggering breach" of fiduciary duty and demanded $1 billion in damages. While Lo recalls at first finding the lawsuit to be "a shock" — especially because he claims Trump had been aware of the deal before it happened — he says he's since realized that's just how Trump operates. "Well, that's him," Lo said recently. "To file a lawsuit is nothing. It's just like having lunch."

Read the full story on the lawsuit, and how Trump likes to spin his loss as a win, over at The New York Times. Becca Stanek

3:10 p.m. ET
EDUARDO MUNOZ/AFP/Getty Images

While you're busy waiting in hour-long lines for your turn in the TSA's X-ray machine this summer, hundreds of pups will have their noses to the ground trying to find bombs before they're even constructed.

As terrorists increasingly adapt new measures to get around security — like enclosing explosives in caulk to prevent vapors from reaching dogs' noses — the TSA is teaching canine teams not just how to detect the individual ingredients that make a bomb, but how to identify the presence of potentially dangerous combinations of chemicals, The New York Times reports.

"So we're now asking dogs not just to find a needle in a haystack — now we're also saying to the dog, 'We need you to find any sharp object in the haystack,'" researcher Clive Wynne said.

Training takes the dogs between 15 and 25 weeks, in which they learn how to sniff warehouses, cargo bays, and the interiors of airplanes. TSA trainers first introduce the scents of chemicals most commonly used in explosives, like TNT, C4, commercial dynamite, and Semtex, but the exact combinations are kept a secret.

To date, more than 900 canine teams are working across the country to keep travelers safe. Watch some of the class of 2016 at work, below. Jeva Lange

1:56 p.m. ET
THOMAS OLIVA/AFP/Getty Images

Stonehenge might not be that impressive after all. While moving massive stones 140 miles through the mountains before the advent of heavy construction equipment has long been thought to be a nearly impossible task, a group of archaeologists from University College London has found that the task may only have required a small team of people.

In an experiment to see how the stones might have been moved, archaeologists set a one-ton stone on a sleigh, which was then dragged along tracks. Much to the archaeologists' surprise, a team of just 10 people was able to move the rock. The team managed to pull the rock one foot every five seconds, which, the experiment concludes, would "net a speed of more than one mile per hour." While the rocks from Stonehenge weigh nearly twice as much as the stones used in the experiment, archaeologists surmise that the team could be doubled to 20 people for the same ease of movement, even with the added challenge of the Preseli Mountains' tough terrain.

Archaeologists also point out that the same technique has been used to tackle far more impressive feats. The system was also used to move China's Forbidden City's stones, which weigh 120 tons a piece — more than 60 times that of Stonehenge's stones. Becca Stanek

1:32 p.m. ET
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The Supreme Court has turned down an appeal asserting that the death penalty violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishments, Reuters reports. Only two of the court's eight justices — liberals Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — said they would have accepted the case.

The appeal was filed by Lamondre Tucker, who was sentenced to death for the 2008 murder of his 18-year-old girlfriend when she was five months pregnant. Tucker has argued that black males such as himself have an increased likelihood of being given the death penalty due to systemic issues of racism in Louisiana's Caddo Parish.

Tucker "may well have received the death penalty not because of the comparative egregiousness of his crime, but because of an arbitrary feature of his case, namely geography," Breyer wrote. "One could reasonably believe that if Tucker had committed the same crime just across the Red River in, say, Bossier Parish, he would not now be on death row."

However, by declining the appeal, the Supreme Court moves no closer to taking on a case challenging the death penalty directly. Louisiana's Supreme Court ruling from September 2015, which upheld Tucker's conviction and death sentence, will be left in place. Jeva Lange

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