April 21, 2014

Advanced corn ethanol was once thought to be a viable energy alternative to filthy gasoline; a cleaner burning fuel that could someday enjoy wide-scale usage and help to mitigate climate change. Yet a new study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has found that ethanol made from corn leftovers may actually be more harmful to the environment than the traditional fossil fuel.

The problem is that removing "corn residue" from fields to produce cellulosic ethanol reduces the soil's ability to trap carbon dioxide, according to the study. When extrapolated to account for mass production, the incidental emissions would be about 7 percent greater than the total emissions from gasoline.

That finding puts some hard numbers behind an interesting note in the U.N.'s latest climate change report, which said "indirect emissions" from biofuels "can lead to greater total emissions than when using petroleum products."

That said, the EPA dismissed the study because it assumed all of a corn field's waste would be used for ethanol production, an assumption the EPA said was "an extremely unlikely scenario that is inconsistent with recommended agricultural practices." And the study did note that emissions could be offset by planting cover crops, so it's not guaranteed that cellulosic ethanol production using corn would have to be more harmful to the planet than gasoline. Jon Terbush

3:10 a.m. ET

Four polls on the Senate Republican health-care bill were released on Wednesday, and the first three were straight-up brutal, with support for the Better Care Reconciliation Act at 17 percent (Marist), 16 percent (Quinnipiac), and 12 percent (USA Today/Suffolk University). "That's a level of popularity so low that it's difficult to believe the bill is being entertained," says Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. Fox News released its own poll Wednesday evening, and the bottom line was only a little better:

Still, 27 percent support is nothing to crow about, and Republicans should perhaps be concerned about the 24-point drop among GOP voters in a month — 51 percent support the Senate bill versus 75 percent who supported the House health-care bill in May. Meanwhile, the Affordable Care Act is getting increasingly popular:

Despite it being a Fox News poll, neither it or the Senate GOP's push to rewrite the BCRA in 48 hours to ensure passage in July were featured prominently on Fox News Wednesday night. Same on Tuesday night, when Senate leaders' decision to delay a vote on the bill was the top story elsewhere, notes David Weigel at The Washington Post. Instead, Fox News has been talking about CNN, Sarah Palin suing The New York Times, and Susan Rice. "The lack of 'ObamaCare repeal' coverage, unthinkable just six months ago, reflected a general decline of conservative interest in what had united Republicans for seven years," Weigel writes, continuing:

Meanwhile, the White House and a symbiotic conservative media have largely moved on to other topics of media bias and cultural warfare. Fox's multiple segments on the CNN sting came after White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters to watch it. Rush Limbaugh, whose dominant talk show was live during the Senate news, barely mentioned it at all. ... On [Fox News], the only one that has scored presidential interviews this month, the repeal fight is covered as a priority of President Trump that his allies in Congress are doing a poor job of managing. [The Washington Post]

"Having spent years attacking ObamaCare, it may be a bridge too far for conservative talkers to urge Republicans to do it faster and with less transparency," Wisconsin talk-radio host Charlie Sykes tells Weigel. "How do you do a talk show saying: Hey, it's great that they did in secret! It's great — no hearings." Peter Weber

2:01 a.m. ET

Inspired by a tragedy, Bishop Curry V hopes that his new invention, the Oasis, saves the lives of kids like him.

In 2016, an estimated 39 children in the United States died of heat stroke after being left in hot cars, including one infant who lived near Curry, 10, in McKinney, Texas. This stuck with Curry, and he decided to try to come up with a solution. The Oasis is a fan that attaches to a car seat and can tell when a car is not moving and if there is a child in the seat. If there is a child buckled in and the temperature in the car reaches a dangerous level, the Oasis will begin to blow cold air and send a message to the parents. If they fail to respond, police and paramedics are called. "It would be a dream to have lots of inventions that would save many lives," Curry told NBC5.

Curry's invention has an intellectual patent, and once he gets a formal patent, he will be able to start making a prototype. Curry has raised more than $30,000 online for startup costs, and wants Oasis to be available to the public by 2018. Catherine Garcia

1:39 a.m. ET
Molly Riley-Pool/Getty Images

President Trump is hosting South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, at the White House on Thursday and Friday, and their first meeting will focus on the threat from North Korea — the two leaders have different views on how to interact Pyongyang. But Trump and Moon are also expected to discuss economic issues, like trade. Trump, as a candidate and president, has made several critical comments about South Korea, calling the five-year-old free-trade pact "a horrible deal," saying Seoul should pay the U.S. for its THAAD missile-defense system, and arguing in a debate that "South Korea is a money machine but they pay us peanuts ... South Korea should pay us very substantially for protecting them."

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster quickly walked back the THAAD payment threat, and on Wednesday night, a senior White House official told reporters in a background briefing that Trump and Moon probably "will have a friendly and frank discussion about the trade relationship." But the official White House briefer also directly contradicted Trump's frequent assessment of South Korea as a freeloader.

"South Korea in many respects is the model ally because they are spending somewhere in the order of 2.7 percent of their GDP on their defense," the official said, according to Axios. "Burden-sharing is always going to be part of the conversation with our allies. President Trump has made that clear, but we shouldn't view South Korea as somehow laggard on that front." In fact, South Korea has spent an "enormous amount of money to help host U.S. troops in their country including through things like ... the new base, south of Seoul, which 92 percent of that cost was shouldered by South Korea."

Given the political and geopolitical differences between Trump and Moon, some observers are nervous about Thursday's cocktails and dinner and Friday's meeting. But Choi Jong-kun, a professor at Seoul's Yonsei University and a foreign policy adviser to Moon, shrugged. "It's a meeting between two people who haven't met each other, so anything can happen," he told The Wall Street Journal. "But the alliance is not just about the personal relationship, but about institutional consistency." Peter Weber

1:34 a.m. ET
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A private fundraiser at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday brought in an estimated $10 million, organizers said, with the money being split between President Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee.

Trump spoke for 30 minutes in front of 300 supporters, party leaders, and major Republican donors, some who paid more than $30,000 for entrance, 40 months ahead of the 2020 election. Not having any legislative victories to tout, Trump instead praised his own deregulation efforts and said health-care reform has to be done, two people present at the event told Politico. He also went after the media, primarily CNN, suggesting that he is a victim of their reporting, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Before the fundraiser began, dozens of protesters gathered outside, chanting against the GOP health-care bills. Catherine Garcia

12:58 a.m. ET

She may not run Goop or have an Academy Award, but Brynneth Pawltrow is doing very well for herself.

Following in the esteemed footsteps of Goofy Borneman, Lucy Lou, and Junior, Brynneth — who also goes by Brynn — is the newest mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, population 300. It wasn't even close — the rescue pit bull defeated a donkey, chicken, and cat for the honor, receiving 1,000 more votes than the second place finisher. "I'm so proud of her," owner Jordie Bamfort told Inside Edition.

The hamlet doesn't actually need a mayor, so in the 1990s, someone thought up the idea of electing an animal as a fundraiser — it costs $1 for every vote, and residents are encouraged to stuff the ballot box. The money goes to pay for improvements around Rabbit Hash. As mayor, Brynn's duties include attending fundraisers and going to town events, and when she is unavailable, ambassadors Lady Stone and Bourbon go in her place. While the people of Rabbit Hash do have to worry about their mayor possibly falling asleep on the job and barking at them, at least there won't ever be any corruption scandals or investigations into possible collusion between pit bulls and Siberian huskies. Catherine Garcia

12:21 a.m. ET

President Trump began Tuesday by retweeting a series of posts and videos from Fox & Friends, including a monologue from Sean Hannity, whose sycophancy toward Trump earned him a rebuke Wednesday from Trump super-fan Ann Coulter. "The Fox & Friends shower Trump with so much praise, they're starting to sound like the helicopter parents of a [censored] private-school kid," Seth Meyers said on Wednesday's Late Night, breaking out his best private-school-helicopter-parent voice: "Our Donny would never collude with Russia! How dare you?! Do you know how much money we give to this school?"

The praise is mutual, even though — as in the case of Hannity — it sometimes does more harm than good. "Trump is apparently so obsessed with praise from the media that, according to The Washington Post, he keeps this framed Time magazine cover hanging at several of is golf clubs," Meyers said, showing the magazine. "Cool cover, flattering photo, just one problem: the Time cover is a fake. That's right, Trump hung a fake Time magazine cover, with his face on it, in his private golf clubs. That is the literal definition of fake news. This would be the saddest thing I've ever heard if it wasn't the funniest thing I've ever heard."

"Now, apparently, Trump didn't like this report from The Washington Post, because today he tore a page out of the strongman playbook and attacked Amazon, whose CEO, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post," Meyer explained, showing the tweet. "So Trump is threatening Amazon by implying that he might make them start paying internet taxes. There's just one problem with that — there is no such thing as an internet tax." The closest thing we have to an internet tax, he joked, is that if you go on the internet, you have to read Trump's tweets.

Meyers spent the rest of his "Closer Look" on the GOP's ongoing, very-much-alive plans to push through their health-care bill, including a proposal to get the House to pass whatever the Senate approves, and the GOP's apparent efforts to sideline Trump from the process. Watch below. Peter Weber

12:06 a.m. ET
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The mood inside White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus' office was dark on Friday, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson unloaded on Johnny DeStefano, the head of the presidential personnel office, over a range of issues, four people familiar with the clash told Politico.

Tillerson lost it after months of having his proposed nominees for State Department posts passed over by DeStefano's office, a person with knowledge of the situation told Politico, and "expressed frustration that anybody would know better" than he would over who should be hired. He also accused the White House of leaking unflattering information on him to the media. Tillerson's outburst was witnessed by Priebus, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, and Tillerson's chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin. Later, Kushner approached Peterlin and said her boss had been unprofessional and they needed to patch things up.

Many of Tillerson's proposed nominees have been rejected by DeStefano's office because they have the audacity of being Democrats or Republicans who didn't support Trump during his campaign, Politico reports. That's not the only thing that has Tillerson in a tizzy, people close to him said; the 65-year-old former CEO of ExxonMobil isn't thrilled about being ordered around by political aides with barely any experience who are decades younger than him, and he's also not a fan of Trump's incessant tweeting. A spokesman for the State Department, R.C. Hammond, told Politico that "colleagues are capable of frank exchanges," and "evaluating nominees did get off to a slow start, but it is now moving along at a pretty good clip." Catherine Garcia

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