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April 14, 2014
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Pharrell Williams has now joined the ranks of celebrities who can say, "I cried with Oprah." On Sunday's episode of Oprah Prime, Winfrey showed Williams videos created by fans featuring his hit "Happy." The fact that so many people around the world — the montage included clips from Germany, Senegal, Taiwan, and Malawi — felt a connection to his song was too much for Williams.

"It's overwhelming," he said through his tears. "I love what I do and I just appreciate the fact that people have believed in me for so long, that I could make it to this point, to feel that."

Winfrey was quick with a response that likely helped choke him up even more: "I so now get why it's so infectious, because it came from such a clear space, that the energy was absolutely uninterrupted by anything other than allowing it to flow from heart to heart." Watch the video below. --Catherine Garcia

2:12 p.m. ET
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The Office of Management and Budget is deciding how best to gouge the Environmental Protection Agency's budget, a result of President Trump's proposal to increase defense spending while cutting back on discretionary spending elsewhere, The Washington Post reports. While the specific decisions are not yet final, the Office of Management and Budget is reportedly looking to reduce EPA staff by one-fifth in the first year, from 15,000 to 12,000, and to possibly cut the agency's Office of Research and Development by as much as 42 percent, multiple officials briefed on the plans revealed.

"These cuts, if enacted by Congress, will rip the heart and soul out of the national air pollution control program and jeopardize the health and welfare of tens of millions of people around the country," said S. William Becker, the executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.

The government is also reportedly looking at eliminating projects that clean up environmental contamination at former industrial sites; axing a national system for recording hazardous waste; and doing away with the Energy Star energy efficiency program, climate change initiatives, and funding for Alaskan native villages.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt warned Tuesday that nothing is yet set in stone. "What's important for us is to educate OMB on what the priorities of the agency are, from water infrastructure to Superfund, providing some of those tangible benefits to our citizens, while at the same time making sure that we reallocate, re-prioritize in our agency to do regulatory reform to get back within the bounds of Congress," Pruitt said. Jeva Lange

1:40 p.m. ET

The oldest known fossil on Earth could be the key to discovering alien life, researchers believe. The newfound microscopic bacteria unearthed in a rock formation in Quebec, Canada, would have lived in hot ocean vents 4.2 billion years ago — vents that also existed during the same period in the oceans of Mars.

The bacteria is "the strongest evidence yet that similar organisms could also have evolved on Mars, which at the time still had oceans and an atmosphere, and was being bombarded by comets which probably brought the building blocks of life to Earth," The Telegraph writes.

Notably, scientists now have an idea of what to be looking for on the Red Planet. "Early Mars and early Earth are very similar places, so we may expect to find life on both planets at this time," said Matthew Dodd, who is working on the study that is being co-funded by NASA. "We know that life managed to get a foothold and evolve rapidly on Earth. So if we have life evolving in hydrothermal vent systems maybe even 4.2 billion years ago when both planets had liquid water on their surface, then we would expect both planets to develop early life."

Before the primordial tube-like bacteria was discovered in Canada, the oldest known fossil on Earth was 3.4 billion years old, and with it scientists estimated that life started on our planet 3.7 billion years ago. The Quebec discovery pushes that date further back, with life now estimated to have begun as early as 4.5 billion years ago — a mere 100 million years after the Earth was formed.

"It's indeed possible that life started on Mars as well as the Earth, but then fizzled out — maybe leaving some traces that we will discover from future probes," said Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees. Read more about the exciting discovery at The Telegraph. Jeva Lange

1:19 p.m. ET
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On Tuesday, a Russian aircraft accidentally bombed Syrian fighters who were being trained by the United States in the fight against the Islamic State, The New York Times reports. The American troops working with the Syrians were just three miles away when the bombing occurred.

The leader of the U.S.-backed task force, Lt. General Stephen Townsend, said he thought that the airstrike was a mix-up: "We had some Russian aircraft and regime aircraft bomb some villages that I believe they thought were held by ISIS," Townsend said. "Actually on the ground were some of our Syrian Arab coalition forces." He did not reveal how many people were killed in the attack, although he admitted there were casualties.

Russian planes also mistakenly bombed Turkish soldiers in January. Jeva Lange

1:01 p.m. ET
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The White House has dismissed concerns raised by the States Office of Government Ethics last month over counselor Kellyanne Conway using her official position to promote Ivanka Trump's products. "We concluded that Ms. Conway acted inadvertently and is highly unlikely to do so again," wrote Stefan C. Passantino, a deputy counsel to the president, in a letter Tuesday.

In early February, Conway said on Fox & Friends: "Go buy Ivanka's stuff. … I'm going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today everybody, you can find it online." The comment came after several department stores had ceased carrying the first daughter's clothing line and alarmed the OGE director, Walter Shaub, who wrote in his note to Passantino: "I recommend the White House investigate Ms. Conway's actions and consider taking disciplinary action against her."

"It is noted that Ms. Conway made the statement in question in a light, off-hand manner while attempting to stand up for a person she believed had been unfairly treated and did so without nefarious motive or intent to benefit personally," Passantino said in his response. "Ms. Conway has acknowledged her understanding of the standards and has reiterated her commitment to abiding by them in the future."

"We look forward to continuing to work with you and the Office of Government Ethics to ensure compliance with the highest ethical standards throughout government," concluded Passantino's letter. Jeva Lange

12:34 p.m. ET
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Facebook is rolling out software Wednesday that scans users' posts to identify language indicating suicidal or harmful thoughts, BuzzFeed News reports. In cases where indicative language is found, the software alerts Facebook's community team for review and can send a message with suicide-prevention resources to the flagged user, including options such as contacting a helpline or a friend.

The decision to implement the software follows a number of suicides that have been broadcast on Facebook Live over the past several months. Facebook says its program is actually even better at recognizing the warning signs of suicide and self-harm than real people are. "The AI is actually more accurate than the reports that we get from people that are flagged as suicide and self-injury," product manager Vanessa Callison-Burchold told BuzzFeed News. "The people who have posted that content [that AI reports] are more likely to be sent resources of support versus people reporting to us."

Facebook is only alerted by its AI in situations that are "very likely to be urgent," Callison-Burchold added. Facebook has also made "suicide or self-injury" a more prominent option for users when reporting a post or video. "In suicide prevention, sometimes timing is everything," explained Dr. John Draper, a project director for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which has partnered with Facebook.

"There is this opportunity here for people to reach out and provide support for that person they're seeing, and for that person who is using [Facebook Live] to receive this support from their family and friends who may be watching," Facebook researcher Jennifer Guadagno told BuzzFeed News. "In this way, Live becomes a lifeline." Jeva Lange

12:26 p.m. ET
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The Senate on Wednesday confirmed President Trump's pick to lead the Department of the Interior, Rep. Ryan Zinke, by a vote of 68-31.

Zinke, a Montana Republican and former Navy SEAL, will be charged with overseeing federal land and national parks and determining where and how fossil fuel drilling can occur. During his confirmation hearing, Zinke acknowledged that climate change was occurring but demurred on how much of that change is due to human activity.

The Interior Department also oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which handles some relations with Native Americans regarding tribal lands. Kimberly Alters

11:02 a.m. ET

President Trump gave a well-received address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, in his first major speech to lawmakers as president. The first month of Trump's presidency has been riddled with turmoil, from a rash of hasty executive orders to personnel disarray and criticism from lawmakers in his own party. But in a sharp break from his usual ominous rhetoric, Trump on Tuesday struck a more optimistic tone — and Republican leaders have seized on the moment to praise their president and rally around the man behind the presidential lectern.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — who differs from Trump in his views on infrastructure spending and paid family leave, both policies Trump touted in his Tuesday remarks — called Trump's address a "home run":

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) praised Trump's "vision for America," which he said "does not distinguish between race, religion, or economic status." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) noted the president's "new spirit of optimism" and his desire to reposition America "for success both at home and in a dangerous world." Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a major adversary of Trump's during the presidential campaign, called Trump's Tuesday performance "truly presidential":

Trump, known for tweeting his feelings regarding early morning news reports, seems pleased with the responses so far. Kimberly Alters

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