Foreign affairs
March 26, 2014

Speaking in Brussels today, President Obama dismissed the notion that America's intervention in Iraq was morally equivalent to Russia's invasion of Crimea. As the Washington Post's Aaron Blake reports, after noting he opposed the intervention, Obama added:

[E]ven in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq's territory, nor did we grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state could make decisions about its own future.

Good for Obama. It's about time he pushed back against this sophistry.

And speaking of pushing, this reminds me of something William F. Buckley said to Johnny Carson:

To say that the CIA and the KGB engage in similar practices is the equivalent of saying that the man who pushes an old lady into the path of a hurtling bus is not to be distinguished from the man who pushes an old lady out of the path of a hurtling bus: on the grounds that, after all, in both cases someone is pushing old ladies around.

All these years later, and it's almost like déjà vu.

This is incredible
10:31 a.m. ET

Nothing can stop Jan Scheuermann.

A quadriplegic patient in an experimental Pentagon robotics program, Schuermann has electrodes implanted on her brain, which allows her to control a robotic arm. Schuermann, 55, recently used the power of her thoughts to fly an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet simulator.

Arati Prabhakar, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, announced Schuermann's progress at the first annual Future of War conference last week, Defense Tech reports. Prabhakar said Schuermann's brain has tolerated the implants "very well."

The implants are on Schuermann's left motor cortex, Defense Tech explains, which allows her to use the left motor cortex to control both the right-handed and left-handed versions of the robotic arm. Once she got the hang of controlling the arm, Schuermann asked if she could control the fighter jet simulator.

"Instead of thinking about controlling a joystick, which is what our ace pilots do when they're driving this thing, Jan's thinking about controlling the airplane directly," Prabhakar told Defense Tech. "For someone who's never flown — she's not a pilot in real life — she's flying that simulator directly from her neural signaling."

Prabhakar acknowledged that the research is still "far from becoming reality," but it could have huge implications for patient restoration and neural signaling projects in the future.

Nuclear negotiations
9:38 a.m. ET
Pool/Getty Images

One day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that ongoing nuclear negotiations would "pave Iran's path" to a bomb, the U.S. and Tehran announced progress toward a final deal.

"We have made some progress but have a lot of challenges yet ahead," a State Department official said, according to Reuters, following three days of talks in Switzerland.

The U.S., Iran, and world powers hope to establish a framework deal by the end of the month, which would be followed by a comprehensive agreement by June 30.

This doesn't look good
9:29 a.m. ET
ChinaFotoPress/Stringer/Getty Images

Air pollution isn't just bad for your lungs — it could also be harming children's brain development.

A new study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, found that the memories of children who live in high-pollution areas develop more slowly. The researchers spent a year studying the working memory and inattentiveness of 2,700 children aged seven to 10 at 29 schools in Spain. They found that air pollution hurt the cognitive development of children whose schools were in high-pollution areas.

Children in low-pollution schools improved their working memory by 11.5 percent over the course of a year, while children in high-pollution areas only improved their working memory by 7.4 percent. The study notes that children aged six to 10 are "particularly vulnerable" to factors that could affect brain development.

Say what?
9:12 a.m. ET
Richard Ellis/Getty Images

Ben Carson's proto-presidential campaign is off to a bizarre start after the neurosurgeon claimed Wednesday that homosexuality is "absolutely" a choice. His proof: Straight prisoners who come out of jail gay.

"A lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight, and when they come out they're gay," he said in an interview with CNN. "So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question."

Leading medical associations agree that, contrary to Carson's claim, sexual orientation is not a choice.

Carson on Tuesday launched an exploratory committee to consider a 2016 run at the White House. —Jon Terbush

The Oscars
9:11 a.m. ET
Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Bad news, filmmakers: a Best Picture nomination might soon be much harder to achieve. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a "significant fraction" of Academy voters are pushing for the organization to switch back to 5 Best Picture nominees, reversing an expansion of the field that was made just six years ago.

In the immediate aftermath of the perceived snubbing of 2008's The Dark Knight, the expansion which was widely regarded as an attempt to get more popular movies nominated for Best Picture — but some Academy members reportedly feel that nominating more films has diluted the value of the award.

Under current Academy rules, a maximum of 10 movies can be nominated for Best Picture; this year, eight movies were nominated.

Parenting controversies
9:09 a.m. ET

Danielle Meitiv is the new face of "free-range parenting." Last December, police in Silver Spring, Maryland, picked up Meitiv's two children — Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 6 — as they were walking home alone from a park a mile away from the Meitiv house. On Feb. 20, Montgomery County Child Protective Service informed the Meitivs that they had been found responsible for "unsubstantiated" child neglect. The parents went public this week, after consulting a lawyer.

The finding, which Danielle and Alexander Meitiv are appealing, typically meaning that CPS hasn't ruled out neglect but couldn't definitively find "indicated" neglect, Maryland Department of Human Resources spokeswoman Paula Tolson tells The Washington Post. CPS officials, explaining their ruling, cited a law that children 8 and younger can't be left alone (or without a reliable person 13 or older) in a motor vehicle, building, or enclosure. CPS can monitor the Meitivs for at least five years.

The case has gained international attention, and plenty of outrage from parents who agree with the philosophy of letting kids build self-reliance and responsibility by being allowed to experience the world with decreasing amounts of adult supervision. It has also angered parents who don't subscribe to free-range parenting. "We are parenting the same way our parents raised us — and I'm guessing most of the viewers' parents raised them," Danielle Meitiv said in one interview.

Meitiv also makes her case in the KUSA-TV video below, but the station also found one woman who agreed with the CPS decision — a rarity in the debate over the "walk heard round the world." —Peter Weber

8:30 a.m. ET

Archaeologists from Mongolia and Japan have announced that a fortress in southwest Mongolia was commissioned by the legendary Genghis Khan himself.

The 13th century military outpost was first discovered in 2001, The Asahi Shimbun reports. The archaeologists believe it was built in 1212 and was used by Mongol leader Genghis Khan during his invasion of central Asia.

The archaeologists also found artifacts, including ceramics, wood chips, and animal bones, at the site. Carbon dating revealed that the wood chips dated to the 12th and 13th centuries, while the bones were from the 14th century.

While ruling the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan created "the largest contiguous empire in history" across Eurasia, Ancient Origins reports. His burial location is still unknown.

This doesn't look good
7:43 a.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

On Tuesday, The New York Times revealed that Hillary Clinton used a personal email address during her time as secretary of state. Now, the Times reports that Clinton's lack of a government email address allowed her to avoid record requests from the State Department.

Department officials confirmed that since Clinton had used a personal email, it wasn't subject to searches. Clinton gave the department 50,000 pages of emails she sent from her personal account, but some worry it did not include all of the information from her tenure. The Times reports that the State Department will search Clinton's provided emails, at congressional requests.

"Very specific guidance has been given to agencies all across the government, which is specifically that employees of the Obama administration should use their official email accounts when they’re conducting official government business," White House spokesman, Josh Earnest told the Times. "However, when there are situations where personal email accounts are used, it is important for those records to be preserved consistent with the Federal Records Act."

ObamaCare in Court
7:30 a.m. ET

When the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on Wednesday in King v. Burwell, its second major challenge to the Affordable Care Act, the same lawyers from the first case will square off again. U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. was widely panned for his defense of ObamaCare three years ago, but his secondary argument won in the end. On the other side, Michael Carvin will try again to undermine the law, arguing this time that legislators only allowed state-run health care exchanges to hand out federal subsidies.

If the justices side with Carvin this time, more than six million enrollees in three dozen states would likely lose their health insurance. In this short video, The New York Times explains the case and how it could essentially create "two American health care systems." —Peter Weber

6:49 a.m. ET

Hillary Clinton's speech at the 30th anniversary gala of EMILY's List on Tuesday night is arguably most memorable for what she didn't mention: The flap around her exclusive use of a personal email account while secretary of state. But she did make a none-too-subtle reference to her expected second presidential campaign.

After asking the audience of mostly Democratic women if they want to see more women run for school board, state office, and Congress, she paused then added: "And I supposed it's only fair to say, don't you someday want to see a woman president of the United States? Well, in many ways," she added after the ovation, "all of these questions can only be answered by you."

EMILY's List founder Ellen Malcolm pointed to Clinton when calling 2016 the "time to shatter that glass ceiling and put a woman in the White House," adding for good measure: "Hillary, you heard us.... Just give us the word and we'll be right at your side."

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