The perpetually controversial Justin Bieber is apologizing for posting two pictures of a Japanese war shrine to Instagram. His photos of his visit to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine angered many Chinese and South Korean Beliebers, who view the shrine as a brutal reminder of Japan's World War II atrocities.
The monument, which has been a constant source of international controversy, enshrines more than 2 million Japanese who died in war, including 14 of Japan's convicted class A war criminals. It also includes a museum that defends Japan's wartime aggression. The Instagram photos elicited a comment from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, who helpfully reminded the pop star of the lasting tensions between China and Japan.
"I hope this Canadian singer, after his visit, can have some knowledge of the Japanese militaristic history of external aggression and their militaristic thinking," he said.
Bieber deleted the pictures and apologized. "I was mislead [sic] to think the Shrines were only a place of prayer. To anyone I have offended I am extremely sorry," he said in a post on Instagram. "I love you China and I love you Japan." Jordan Valinsky
The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Jerome Powell as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, with a vote of 85-12.
Powell, 64, will lead the country's central bank and have major influence over the economy. He is succeeding Janet Yellen, whose term ends on Feb. 3. Powell, a lawyer and investment manager, has spent nearly six years on the Fed's board, and is viewed as a centrist, The Associated Press reports. He's been praised by Republicans and Democrats, with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) calling him a "thoughtful policymaker." Catherine Garcia
Novelist Ursula K. Le Guin, known for her sci-fi and fantasy books like The Left Hand of Darkness and winning — multiple times — the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards, died Monday in Portland, Oregon. She was 88.
Le Guin was a writer for most of her life, submitting her first short story at age 11. She wrote about everything from gender roles to violence to conformity, and her Earthsea books have sold millions of copies worldwide. Author Mary Robinette Kowal told NPR Le Guin was "a gateway drug" into science fiction and fantasy for many readers, and "embraced new forms of technology" while "constantly pushing boundaries and barriers." In 2014, Le Guin received a lifetime achievement award at the National Book Awards. Catherine Garcia
Special Counsel Robert Mueller would like to interview President Trump sometime within the next few weeks regarding the events surrounding the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, people familiar with his plans told The Washington Post Tuesday.
Flynn left the White House last February after it was reported he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with former Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak; in December, he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Mueller was fired in May, and later testified that Trump had asked him to let go of the FBI's investigation into Flynn. Mueller also wants to learn more about Trump's reported pressuring of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to quit, and if this is a pattern of behavior for Trump, the Post reports. The Department of Justice confirmed Tuesday that Sessions was interviewed by the special counsel's team for several hours last week.
Trump's attorneys are negotiating the terms of an interview with the special counsel's team, and would like Trump to provide some testimony face-to-face with investigators and the rest in a written statement. Trump's informal adviser Roger Stone told the Post Trump should do whatever it takes to get out of an interview, because it's "a death wish. Why would you walk into a perjury trap? The president would be very poorly advised to give Mueller an interview." Catherine Garcia
Virtual reality headsets may look impossibly dorky — but you know what doesn't? An Olympic gold medal.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has worked for the past two years with the virtual-reality company STRIVR Labs to prepare its athletes for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Barring secret training operations by other countries, the Post says the U.S. is the first country to use VR in its Olympic training.
Because the Jeongseon Alpine Centre, where the skiing events will be held, is only two years old, VR headset training is especially helpful as most Olympic athletes have only traversed the course a handful of times, the Post explains. The U.S. team took advantage of 2016 pit stop in South Korea during the World Cup to gather its footage, sending one of its coaches barreling down the Jeongseon course over and over again, armed with a 360-degree video camera. STRIVR then made a composite of the coach's various runs and recalibrated the footage to approximate the intensity of an Olympic ski run.
The Post reports that "most of the U.S. team" has had a virtual run down the Olympic slopes. But these VR ski runs can be somewhat nauseating, which makes some athletes reluctant to train with VR. STRIVR tried to mitigate the risk of motion sickness, encouraging athletes to use the VR footage while perched on motion-simulating equipment so that their bodies align more closely with the images they were seeing. Still, "you watch it and you get pretty sick and dizzy," one athlete told the Post.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) will give birth to her second child in April, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday. Ten lawmakers from the House of Representatives have given birth while in office — including Duckworth, back in 2014 — but Duckworth will be the first sitting senator to give birth while serving, the Sun-Times notes.
The journey to Duckworth's second pregnancy was an arduous one. "I've had multiple [in vitro fertilization] cycles and a miscarriage trying to conceive again, so we're very grateful," she told the Sun-Times, adding that the miscarriage happened while she ran for her Senate seat in 2016.
The 49-year-old senator was a House representative for Illinois' 8th district when she gave birth to her daughter in 2014. "As tough as it's been to juggle motherhood and the demands of being in the House and now the Senate, it's made me more committed to doing this job," Duckworth said. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Congress might be able to learn a thing or two from the Utah State Legislature, where a conflict over replacing the official state fossil resulted in a creative, Cretaceous solution.
Republican state Sen. Curt Bramble appeared ready to declare war on the Allosaurus — the official Utah state fossil — last December, proposing it should be replaced by the Utahraptor. The issue first came to Bramble's attention thanks to a 10-year-old family friend and dinosaur enthusiast, Kenyon Roberts, who likewise argued the Utahrapor's case to The Salt Lake Tribune: "Its name has 'Utah' in it, and it's only found in Utah. The Allosaurus has been found in Europe, Africa, and other states. The first Allosaurus skull was found in Colorado."
Convinced, Bramble decided to write legislation to dethrone the Allosaurus. But "there are historical reasons for keeping the Allosaurus," argued Utah State Paleontologist James Kirkland, who actually discovered the Utahraptor himself around 1990 near Arches National Park. For example, Utah's Cleveland-Lloyd quarry provided researchers with 50 Allosaurus specimens, allowing paleontologists to make great strides towards understanding the Jurassic lizard.
In order to avoid conflict, Bramble went back to the drawing board and came up with a different bill — to introduce a state dinosaur, The Associated Press reports. And no, it's not the state's 83-year-old senator, Orrin Hatch. It's — yes — the mighty Utahraptor.
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) January 23, 2018
Utah does not have a state dinosaur at present, so the new bill avoids any potential fights in the Legislature. Other states with official dinosaurs are Wyoming (Triceratops), Iowa (Tyrannosaurus), and New Jersey (Hadrosaurus foulkii). Jeva Lange
Special Counsel Robert Mueller interviewed former FBI Director James Comey last year for the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The two men discussed "a series of memos [Comey] wrote about his interactions with [President] Trump that unnerved Mr. Comey," the Times wrote.
In one of his memos, Comey claimed that President Trump suggested the FBI back off of its investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Comey was abruptly fired by Trump in May while he was leading the FBI's investigation of Russian meddling, and Flynn had been a party of interest in the FBI's probe. NBC News explained last year how Comey's memos could act as proof of obstruction of justice by the president.
Less than a month into his tenure with the Trump administration, Flynn resigned after lying about a phone call he had in December 2016 with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. He has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about that phone call. Earlier Tuesday, the Justice Department confirmed that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had also been interviewed by Mueller's team. Kelly O'Meara Morales