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April 24, 2014
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The Food and Drug Administration is proposing to regulate e-cigarettes, putting the increasingly popular vapor-fueled smoking devices in the same regulatory bucket as traditional cigarettes. If finalized, after a public comment period, the FDA's new authority would allow it to ban selling e-cigs to minors, restrict e-cigarette vending machines, slap warning labels on e-cigarette packaging, and — probably most helpful to consumers — make e-cig makers disclose what they are putting in their products.

"It's a huge change," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told reporters on Wednesday, before the agency unveiled its proposal. "We will have the authority as a science-based regulatory agency to take critical actions to promote and protect the health of the public."

"If it takes more than a year to finalize this rule, the FDA isn't doing its job," Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, tells The New York Times.

The FDA has tried to regulate e-cigarettes before, but was blocked in court. These new proposed regulations don't go as far as anti-smoking advocates would like. They do, however, require FDA approval for new e-cigarette products. Not a "vaper"? The rules still might affect you: The FDA is also proposing to regulate cigars, hookahs, pipe tobacco, and nicotine gels. Peter Weber

9:11 a.m. ET

The world's largest aircraft's second attempt at flight didn't go nearly as well as its first. A week after the Airlander 10 successfully completed its maiden flight, the 302-foot-long aircraft took a nosedive while attempting a second test flight Wednesday. The aircraft, nicknamed the "Flying Bum" because of its rounded backside, reportedly hit a telegraph pole while it was landing at Cardington airfield in Bedfordshire, located in south-central England.

"The flight went really well and the only issue was when it landed," a spokesman told BBC. The crew is reported "safe and well," but the Airlander 10 wasn't so lucky. Reports indicate the aircraft's "front and sides," as well as its cockpit, were damaged in the botched landing, Sky News reported.

The aircraft, which measures about 50 feet longer than the world's largest passenger jet, is a hybrid between a helicopter and a blimp, as it's filled with helium. When Airlander 10 is fully up and running, it's expected to be able to stay in the air for up to five days. Becca Stanek

8:23 a.m. ET
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Donald Trump used campaign money to buy thousands of copies of his own book, a move that experts are saying is suspicious and possibly illegal. A spokesperson for Trump explained to The Daily Beast that the books, bought from Barnes & Noble, were purchased "as part of gifting at the convention, which we have to do." Gift bags at the Republican convention indeed held copies of Trump's November 2015 release, Crippled America.

But that is where things start to get a little fishy. First of all, it is illegal to convert campaign funds into personal funds in any way, so Trump would be required to forgo any royalties he made off the purchase of those books. "What any author that I know would most likely do is go to the publisher and say, 'I want a bunch of these in the goody bag.' [The author would] come to the publisher and say he needed books for a charity or an event, and we would donate 500 all the time. And we'll sell more to you at a 40 percent discount," Ben Bruton, a publishing PR veteran, told The Daily Beast.

The fact that the purchases were made through Barnes & Noble adds another layer of intrigue. Book sales from Amazon or the book's publisher aren't looked at when composing bestseller lists; only purchases at brick-and-mortar locations like Barnes & Noble are.

Trump's book failed to make the charts the week of the purchase. Still, The New York Times is aware of attempts to bulk-purchase books and has measures in place to count against it on their bestseller lists. "You can't just buy your way onto the bestsellers list," Bruton said, although he added, "I do believe that [Trump's purchase] was definitely an attempt to both make money and to get onto the bestseller list." Read the full scoop over at The Daily Beast. Jeva Lange

8:12 a.m. ET

The National Park Service turns 100 years old on Thursday, and one of its goals for its second century is to attract more tourists of color to the 131,000 square miles of parks, monuments, and other public landmarks it manages. This isn't just a matter of diversity for diversity's sake or "this land is your land" idealism, say Felicia Fonseca and Beatriz Costa-Lima at The Associated Press. The U.S. is expected to be majority minority by 2050, and the National Park Service sees broadening its tourist base as an existential challenge.

"If public lands aren't telling their story, and they don't see themselves reflected in these beautiful places, they may not support them," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell tells AP. "They may not recognize that these are their assets and protect them for future generations." Studies commissioned by the National Park Service suggest that about 75 percent of park visitors are white, and there are several reasons minorities don't visit in proportionate number.

For black communities, there's not a strong tradition of visiting national parks, due in part to historic exclusion, says Myron F. Floyd, a scholar at North Carolina State University. Jose Gonzales, the founder of Latino Outdoors, says many Latinos don't know the national parks exist or have no transportation to get to them. Many Asian Americans, meanwhile, face language barriers at national parks or don't like to travel outside their ethnic enclaves, according to Mark Masaoka at the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council. You can see what the National Park Service plans to do about it, and be reminded of how beautiful some of the national treasures are, in the video below. Peter Weber

8:01 a.m. ET
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Truman Capote fans will soon have the chance to bring a piece of the writer home with them — literally. On September 24, Capote's ashes will go up for auction in Los Angeles, for a starting price of $2,000. The ashes are expected to sell for upwards of $6,000.

The author of In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's died 32 years ago, but the keeper of his ashes, Joanne Carson, the wife of former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, died last year. The ashes are part of her estate. Joanne was a close friend of Capote's, and the writer often lived and worked at her and her husband's home in Los Angeles until he died there in 1984.

While it might seem kind of macabre to auction off a dead man's ashes, some suspect this would've been right up Capote's alley. "In this case it's absolutely fine because it really embodies what Truman Capote was and what he loved to do," Darren Julien, president of Julien's Auctions, told The Guardian. "Truman told Joanne that he didn't want his ashes to sit on a shelf. So this is a different way of honoring his request. It is just furthering the adventures of Truman Capote." Becca Stanek

7:32 a.m. ET

The world's biggest pearl might have been discovered nearly a decade ago, but no one knew about it until now. That's because the Filipino fisherman who found the treasure hid it under his bed for 10 years as a good luck charm and didn't tell anyone about it, The Independent reports. His relatives eventually brought it to authorities.

(Aileen Cynthia Maggay-Amurao/Facebook)

The pearl measures an incredible 12 inches by 26.4 inches in size. It weighs a mind-blowing 75 pounds; the next largest pearl in the world weighs just 14 pounds.

While the pearl is confirmed to have come from a giant clam, if verified as authentic by international gemologists, it will be worth over an estimated $100 million. Jeva Lange

7:18 a.m. ET

The Washington Post's Aaron Blake says that Donald Trump appears to be "considering his biggest flip-flop yet," pivoting on his signature issue, immigration, while Slate's Jim Newell argues that Trump's "flip-flop" — in recent remarks on Fox News, Trump says he is "softening" his immigration positions, and would mostly follow President Obama's policies, "perhaps with a lot more energy," except he will eject the "bad" immigrants "so fast your head will spin" — is nothing more than a shuffling of adjectives and adverbs with nothing underneath. But what seems clear is that Trump's pledge to deport all 11 million illegal immigrants is, at least for now, off the table.

Given that building "the wall" — still in Trump's speeches — and cracking down on illegal immigrants are so central to Trump's campaign, won't his supporters be dismayed at this Clintonian triangulation? NBC's Katy Tur asked Trump voters outside a rally if they would still support Trump if he abandoned his deportation push, didn't build the wall, or even came up with some sort of amnesty. Their answers: Yup. Watch below. Peter Weber

5:54 a.m. ET
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Early Wednesday, Turkish-backed Syrian rebels and Turkish tanks and minesweepers crossed into Syria in a campaign to push the Islamic State out of the border town Jarablus, one of ISIS's last strongholds on the Turkey-Syria border, Turkey's Anadolu news agency reports. The offensive, backed by U.S. warplanes and advised by U.S. special operations forces, is aimed at shutting off ISIS's supply route to its de facto capital, Raqqa. Turkey has been shelling ISIS positions around Jarablus for two days to prepare for the push, and its forces crossed into Syria hours before U.S. Vice President Joe Biden lands in Ankara to meet with Turkish leaders to smooth over tensions that arose during Turkey's recent failed coup.

This is Turkey's first major offensive against ISIS, and The Wall Street Journal suggests three reasons why the country is getting involved now: Ankara wants to demonstrate that its military is still strong after the post-coup purge of officers; retaliation for the suspected ISIS suicide bombing of a wedding on Saturday; and to prevent Kurdish fighters, who have been successfully pushing ISIS back for months now, from claiming the town for themselves, thus gaining more territory along the Turkish border. Turkey reluctantly allowed Kurdish fighters to take part in the offensive, The Journal reports, with the expectation they will leave the town after ISIS is outside.

Turkish officials were quoted by Anadolu as saying the Jarablus operation "is aimed at clearing the Turkish borders of terrorist groups, helping to enhance border security and supporting the territorial integrity of Syria." Peter Weber

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