April 8, 2014

When you look outside late on April 14 or early April 15 and the moon is red, don't panic; it's just a full lunar eclipse.

Why is it red? Sky & Telescope magazine explains that as the Earth moves directly between the moon and sun, scattered light from sunsets and sunrises on the edge of our planet are reflected on the moon's surface. "If you were standing on the moon during a total lunar eclipse you would see the Earth as a black disk with a brilliant orange ring around it," Sky and Telescope's Alan MacRobert tells the Los Angeles Times. "And this brilliant ring would be bright enough to dimly light up the lunar landscape."

At 10:58 Pacific Daylight Time on April 14, or 1:58 Eastern Daylight Time on April 15, the moon will begin to move into the Earth's shadow. The full lunar eclipse will start at 12:07 a.m. PDT, 3:07 a.m. EDT, and last about an hour and 15 minutes. It will be visible in most of the United States, Canada, and Central America (Sky & Telescope has a useful map). If you miss this "blood moon," don't fret; there are three more behind it (that's called an eclipse tetrad). The next one will occur in October. --Catherine Garcia

12:59 p.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Donald Trump and his allies spent the bulk of the presidential campaign criticizing the "donor class," but at least six of Trump's top appointees so far have been direct or indirect contributors to his campaign, Adam Smith of the nonprofit, nonpartisan liberal political advocacy group Every Voice pointed out on Twitter:

Andrew Puzder was selected by Trump as labor secretary and "gave $10,000 to pro-Trump super PAC Rebuilding America Now in August," CNBC reports. "He also donated $75,000 to a Trump joint fundraising committee with the Republican Party and gave the maximum $2,700 to Trump's campaign in May." Steven Mnuchin, Trump's treasury secretary, is also a donor, having given $2,700 to Trump's presidential campaign. Trump's secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross Jr., is described as a "donor and longtime associate of Trump's," by NPR. Additionally, Ross "helped [Trump] resurrect his casino company after it went bankrupt in the early 1990s." And The Chicago Tribune reports that Todd Ricketts' family spent "$1 million to back Trump's presidential bid." Ricketts was recently tapped for deputy commerce.

Betsy DeVos, who is Trump's pick for education secretary, is described by The New Yorker in such a way: "It would be hard to find a better representative of the 'donor class' than DeVos, whose family has been allied with Charles and David Koch for years." Finally, Linda McMahon, who Trump named as the head of the Small Business Administration, donated $6 million to Trump's Super PAC, Rebuilding America Now, in August and September, The Washington Post reports. Jeva Lange

12:18 p.m. ET
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The world's giraffe population might be nearing its last legs. A new Red List — a log of species facing the threat of extinction — released by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) revealed the world's tallest animal is now "vulnerable" to extinction, Time reported Thursday. Per NPR, that means the giraffe is "facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future."

Over the last 30 years, the global giraffe population has declined by 38 percent. As of last year, the giraffe population in southern and eastern Africa totaled 97,500 — a big drop from the 157,000 giraffes that roamed the earth in 1985. The report blames humans for the long-necked animal's demise, citing "illegal hunting and destruction of the giraffe's habitat to make way for agriculture and mining operations" as leading causes of the drop-off, Time noted.

"Whilst giraffes are commonly seen on safari, in the media, and in zoos, people — including conservationists — are unaware that these majestic animals are undergoing a silent extinction," said Julian Fennessy, co-chair of an IUCN group specializing on giraffes and okapi. "It is timely that we stick our neck out for the giraffe before it is too late." Becca Stanek

11:13 a.m. ET

Mexican politicians spent their annual Christmas party taking out their pent-up rage against Donald Trump. While attendees at white tablecloth-draped tables looked on, legislators from the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution took swings at a piñata modeled after America's president-elect.

Trump and Mexico haven't had the chummiest of relationships so far, after Trump launched his presidential campaign by calling Mexicans "rapists" and "criminals" and then vowing to build a border wall that Mexico would pay for. In fact, for each surge in the polls Trump saw during the U.S. election, Mexico watched its currency's value decrease; after the election, the peso dropped to a record low.

Mexican Sen. Miguel Barbosa insisted the holiday party activity was all in good fun. "We must not take it as a provocation but as it was, a Christmas pre-fiesta that showed the rejection and a way of thinking of many Mexicans," Barbosa said.

This piñata, unlike the one bashed by former Mexican President Vicente Fox in September, wasn't "totally empty." Watch the partygoers bust out the candy in the video below. Becca Stanek

11:09 a.m. ET

The U.S.-led coalition battling the Islamic State admitted Thursday that it carried out an airstrike on the main hospital in Mosul, Iraq, NPR reports. The attack was carried out at the request of the Iraqi military, which is backed by the coalition, and was intended to target the ISIS fighters defending their last major holdout in Iraq.

Iraqi forces had reportedly attempted to capture the hospital, which is being used by ISIS "as a base of operations and command and control headquarters," but were pushed back by the militants. "On Dec. 7th, after Iraqi forces continued to receive heavy and sustained machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire from [ISIS] fighters in a building on the hospital complex, they requested immediate support from the coalition. In support of the Iraqi Security Forces, coalition aircraft conducted a precision strike on the location to target enemy fighters firing on Iraqi forces," the coalition said in a statement.

It is not immediately clear if there were patients in the hospital at the time of the attack. The coalition "takes all feasible precautions during the planning and execution of airstrikes to reduce the risk of harm to non-combatants," it said in a statement.

"The U.S. military doesn't normally target hospitals," NPR's Jane Arraf said. "There's no word on civilian casualties." Jeva Lange

10:59 a.m. ET
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President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for labor secretary is reportedly Andy Puzder, CEO of the company that owns burger joints Hardee's and Carl's Jr. Puzder has been an advocate for rolling back regulations in the restaurant industry, and he has expressed opposition to the Affordable Care Act and raising the federal minimum wage. He has also shown an interest in "employee-free" restaurants, because machines, unlike people, "always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case," Puzder said, per Business Insider.

A spokesman for the International Franchise Association, a trade group for which Puzder is on the board, said Puzder will "likely call for tools such as an overhaul of the tax system" as opposed to "focusing on stepping up workplace regulation to create jobs and higher wages," The Wall Street Journal reported.

Trump is expected to formally announce Puzder's nomination Thursday. Becca Stanek

10:59 a.m. ET
Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images

The ideological uniformity of President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet nominations to date is, perhaps, in the eye of the beholder: Those more sympathetic to the new president may be more likely to see a healthy "team of rivals" coming together, while critics see a dangerous mélange of yes-men and sycophants.

Americans should hope Trump's supporters are closer to the truth, argues Bilal Baloch, an Oxford scholar, at The Washington Post. Baloch's research indicates a rivalrous team of advisers is a bulwark against rash action and intolerance:

Ideologically plural governments are more likely to behave tolerantly. Ideas act as weapons, and no one position can "win out" and undo institutional integrity. In other words, what's key to a government that behaves tolerantly isn't sharing a partisan ideology, be it conservative or liberal; rather, it's having internal ideological checks and balances, including administration officials in positions of power who vigorously disagree amongst themselves. [...]

If presidents or prime ministers plan to govern in an authoritarian manner, they will emphasize loyalty when picking advisers and by relying more on military and security personnel. If they plan to govern democratically, they will emphasize selecting advisers with legislative and political experience who can advance the policy agenda effectively. [The Washington Post]

Read the rest of Baloch's analysis here. Bonnie Kristian

10:51 a.m. ET

It looks as if 2017 is off to a very, very bright start. Bright green, anyway. The experts at the Pantone Color Institute have announced that "Greenery" is the 2017 color of the year and they are very excited about it:

Greenery is nature's neutral. The more submerged people are in modern life, the greater their innate craving to immerse themselves in the physical beauty and inherent unity of the natural world. This shift is reflected by the proliferation of all things expressive of Greenery in daily lives through urban planning, architecture, lifestyle and design choices globally. A constant on the periphery, Greenery is now being pulled to the forefront — it is an omnipresent hue around the world.

A life-affirming shade, Greenery is also emblematic of the pursuit of personal passions and vitality. [Pantone]

Life-affirming! Here is a video of people soaking up "zesty" Pantone 15-0343:

"Greenery burst forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment," the Pantone Color Institute's executive director, Leatrice Eiseman, explained. "Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another, and a larger purpose."

Feeling inspired? Life affirmed? Buy a Greenery mug and don't let 2017 leave you behind. Jeva Lange

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