It was only a matter of time.
[NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-CalTech]
Today, researchers at NASA pinpointed the best candidate for life elsewhere in the universe: an Earth-sized planet — Kepler-186f, orbiting a dwarf star. The star, Kepler 18, is 6,500 lightyears from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.
The planet is closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun, but because Kepler 186 is a smaller star, the habitable zone — where water on its surface would be liquid — is closer in.
[NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-CalTech]
Scientists don't yet know its composition, and so can't answer key questions like whether its surface is rocky, or whether it possesses liquid water— and, of course, the big question of whether or not it harbors any form of life.
This is likely to be the first of many. The planet was discovered using the Kepler space telescope, launched in 2009 with the specific aim of seeking out extrasolar planets. Kepler has found dozens of exoplanets, most of them gaseous giants like Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus. Large planets — particularly ones very close to their star — are easier to identify, because of the larger gravitational and dimming effects they have on their stars' light emissions. Smaller Earth-sized planets — and particularly ones relatively further away from their star, like Earth — have smaller effects, making them harder for scientists to detect.
So this is a pretty historic day in the history of astronomy, and the history of human civilization. Whether or not the planet contains life at present, at the very least that we have detected a good candidate outside our solar system to visit, and maybe one day colonize. John Aziz
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen faced the White House press corps for 20 minutes Monday afternoon to defend the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" border policy and the resulting separation of at least 2,000 children from their parents. Her at-times contradictory responses, The Washington Post says, "offered evidence that the administration — and perhaps Nielsen herself — was still struggling to formulate a message to counter critics who have accused the Trump White House of creating a humanitarian disaster."
In fact, inside the administration, Nielsen "is not seen as a supporter" of the policy, Eliana Johnson and Annie Karni report at Politico. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a mentor to Nielsen, urged her not to do Monday's press conference, but Nielsen is under tremendous pressure from President Trump, who blames her for the rise in illegal immigration and drove her to the brink or quitting in a Cabinet-meeting berating that "several of those present at the meeting" tell Politico was "the most uncomfortable scene they have witnessed in their professional lives."
At the same time, Kelly "and the president are now seen as barely tolerating one another," Politico reports, throwing in this anecdote:
According to four people close to Kelly, the former Marine general has largely yielded his role as the enforcer in the West Wing as his relationship with Trump has soured. While Kelly himself once believed he stood between Trump and chaos, he has told at least one person close to him that he may as well let the president do what he wants, even if it leads to impeachment — at least this chapter of American history would come to a close. [Politico]
"It wasn't a joke, according to my source," Johnson tweeted, "who said his attitude is let the sh-t hit the fan, make Corey [Lewandowski] chief of staff, instruct Cabinet secretaries to do things that are illegal — so be it." Read the entire article at Politico.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on Monday said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen should step down due to her record of making "misleading statements" about the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy that separates children from their parents at the border.
On Sunday, Nielsen tweeted that the administration does "not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period." Harris said that for more than a year, she's been asking for "complete data on the number of children separated and what training and protocol exists for carrying out such separations. In response, the leadership of the department has routinely failed to provide complete answers to questions from me and my colleagues." The Department of Homeland Security "should have a commitment to transparency and accountability," Harris continued, but under Nielsen, it "has a track record of neither."
It's not just the border crisis that's an issue, Harris said; she also cited Nielsen's "failed response" to the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year. Several other Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Ted Lieu of California, have also called on Nielsen to resign. Catherine Garcia
During a combative interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo on Monday night, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, said she does not want to see kids and their parents separated at the border "unduly," but there are several reasons why the Trump administration has enacted its "zero tolerance" policy.
Conway said children are coming to the border, clearly uncomfortable with the adult accompanying them, and Border Patrol agents need to figure out if that is their actual parent. She also said that over the last several years, thousands of girls have come to the U.S. from Central America, but the government lost track of them and now no one knows their whereabouts.
Cuomo wasn't interested in her talking points. "I don't think tonight's the night to fight," he said. "I think this is black and white." The Trump administration "created this situation," and had to know that there would be an outcry over separating kids and their parents. "You don't have the high moral ground on this," he said. "You changed a policy to impress your base, you got a pop in the polls with them, and you're okay with the instruction and harshness. Just own it." "How dare you," Conway responded. Watch the tense interview below. Catherine Garcia
Tucker Carlson spent part of his Monday night Fox News show smugly accusing "elites" of using the "spectacle" of children being separated from their parents at the border to try to "take the moral high ground."
Carlson — who, let's not forget, is a millionaire with his own cable show who attended boarding school and famously used to wear a bow tie 24/7 — just could not stop railing against those "elites," claiming their concern over families being split up is "performance art" and that most of the people "yelling at you on TV don't even have children, so don't for a second let them take the moral high ground. Their goal is to change your country, forever — and they are succeeding, by the way."
In the world according to Carlson, "the ruling class" cares "more about foreigners than their own people," and they want to see the collapse of "strong families" because that helps their political power. "The left" wants "immediate amnesty for anyone who crosses our borders with a minor in tow," he declared, and their elitist neighborhoods "look exactly like they did in 1960 — no demographic change at all, just like they like it," but if you think that's a problem, it's best to keep those thoughts to yourself. "There is no cost to them," he said. "The cost is entirely on you — but don't complain, or else they will call you 'Hitler.'" Watch the eye-roll-inducing video below. Catherine Garcia
On Monday, President Trump ordered the U.S. Trade Representative to find $200 billion worth of Chinese imports that could be subject to new tariffs.
"China apparently has no intention of changing its unfair practices related to the acquisition of American intellectual property and technology," Trump said in a statement. "Rather than altering those practices, it is now threatening United States companies, workers, and farmers who have done nothing wrong."
Trump has already ordered tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods in retaliation for intellectual property theft, which China matched on U.S. exports. Trump said the new tariffs will go into effect if "China refuses to change its practices, and also if it insists on going forward with the new tariffs that it has recently announced," and added he is willing to pursue "additional tariffs on another $200 billion of goods." Catherine Garcia
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is calling on the White House to "end the cruel, tragic separation of families" at the border, saying the policy is "not consistent with our values."
In a statement released Monday evening, Murkowski said that the "thousands of children taken from their parents and families must be reunited as quickly as possible and be treated humanely while immigration proceedings are pending." There is no need for a "policy designed to separate families, particularly mothers with young children, without a clear process and focus on the needs of the children," she added. "To blame previous administrations for a wrong committed today is not acceptable."
Murkowski is also "troubled that those seeking asylum are being turned away before they even have the opportunity to file their papers." If Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen can't "fix this and fast," she said, "we in Congress must." Catherine Garcia
By passing the National Defense Authorization Act on Monday evening, the Senate voted to reimpose the ban on Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE.
The defense spending bill was passed by a vote of 85-10, and must still be reconciled with the House version. U.S. lawmakers consider ZTE a national security threat, and are concerned that its equipment could be used to spy on the U.S. and carry out cyberattacks. In April, the Commerce Department enacted a seven-year-ban on American companies doing business with ZTE, but President Trump in May tweeted that he was working to keep ZTE afloat because "too many jobs in China" were being lost.
A provision of the National Defense Authorization Act would prohibit the U.S. government from buying or subsidizing equipment from ZTE and another Chinese telecom company, Huawei, among other penalties. Catherine Garcia