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March 25, 2014

Solar power is now as cheap as traditional energy sources in Italy and Germany, according to a new report. In terms of LCOE — or "leveled cost of energy," which weighs everything that effects a given energy source's price from installation to maintenance — solar has achieved "grid parity" in those places thanks in part to a combination of cheap installation costs, high electricity prices, and government subsidies.

Meanwhile, the cost of solar power in the U.S., though it has fallen off a cliff since the late 1970s, remains relatively high. So what gives? Why can't we have cheap, clean solar power, too?

A big part of it has to do with demand. In 2011, Germany boasted more than 21 times the solar power, per capita, of the U.S, which helped to drive down the price. And given that imbalance, American companies had a comparatively tougher task recruiting customers, so they spent 10 times as much as their foreign counterparts did on marketing costs.

But the biggest factors keeping American solar from catching up are so-called "soft costs," which include everything from fees and taxes to company overhead. For instance, while German installers added $1.20 per watt to the cost of each panel in 2011, American companies added $4.36 per watt. And according to the Department of Energy, soft costs make up 64 percent of the price tag on installing residential solar systems in the U.S. Jon Terbush

12:48 a.m. ET

They can flip, tumble, leap, and cartwheel, but can they act like hungry, hungry hippos?

On Tuesday's Tonight Show, the gold medal-winning Final Five — American gymnasts Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian, and Aly Raisman — joined host Jimmy Fallon, Atlanta's Donald Glover, and Tariq Trotter of The Roots to play a live action version of the classic game. In Hungry Hungry Humans, the players split into teams to try to grab as many balls as possible, and since we're dealing with some of the finest athletes in the world, things got competitive, fast. Watch the video below to see who went home with the gold, silver, and bronze, and who left empty-handed. Catherine Garcia

12:31 a.m. ET

A magnitude 6.1 earthquake that rocked central Italy early Tuesday morning has killed at least two people and destroyed buildings in several towns in the provinces of Lazio and Umbria, according to Italian officials. "Half the town no longer exists," Sergio Pirozzi, mayor of Amatrice, said on national TV. "There are people stuck in the rubble.... Houses are no longer there." Damage and power outages were also reported as far away as Italy's east coast and in coastal Lazio, south of Rome. Along with Amatrice, the towns of Accumoli and Norcia were also badly damaged.

The epicenter of the shallow quake, identified as a 6.2 magnitude temblor by the U.S. Geological Survey and 6.1 by the European Mediterranean Seismological Center, was about 100 miles northeast of Rome. Buildings shook for about 20 seconds in Italy's capital. Fabrizio Curcio, director of Italy's Civil Protection Department, said that the overnight earthquake had been "severe" and that Italy has initiated its emergency protocols. More than 300 people were killed in a magnitude 6.3 earthquake in central Italy in 2009. Peter Weber

12:03 a.m. ET
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by 12 percentage points among likely voters.

The poll found that 45 percent of voters are supporting Clinton, while 33 percent are behind Trump and 22 percent would not pick either. In a separate four-way poll that included Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee, and the Green Party's Jill Stein, 41 percent supported Clinton, 33 percent backed Trump, 7 percent were for Johnson, and 2 percent supported Stein. The polls were conducted August 18-22, with 1,115 respondents and a measure of accuracy of 3 percentage points. Catherine Garcia

August 23, 2016
Molly Riley/AFP/Getty Images

A poll conducted by the Feldman Group shows Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in a dead heat in South Carolina.

The poll, paid for by the South Carolina Democratic Party, found the candidates tied at 39 percent. In a memo accompanying the poll results, the Feldman Group said Clinton could win South Carolina in November "if her campaign chooses to contest the state." The poll of 600 likely voters took place between August 18 and 21. On Twitter, South Carolina GOP Chairman Matt Moore called the results "bogus."

South Carolina has not voted for a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter in 1976. Earlier this month, a Public Policy Polling survey in the state found Trump ahead of Clinton by only 2 points. Catherine Garcia

August 23, 2016
Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

A magnitude 6.2 earthquake rocked central Italy early Wednesday morning, south of the city of Perugia. The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake hit at a very shallow depth of six miles, and the La Repubblica newspaper says some buildings in Rome shook for 20 seconds. There are no reports of any casualties or structure damage. Catherine Garcia

August 23, 2016
Mario Tama/Getty Images

On Tuesday, The New York Times said that hackers targeted its Moscow bureau, but that it does not appear they successfully infiltrated their system.

"We are constantly monitoring our systems with the latest available intelligence and tools," Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said. "We have seen no evidence that any of our internal systems, including our systems in the Moscow bureau, have been breached or compromised." The Times believes the hackers were Russian. Earlier in the day, CNN reported that U.S. officials told them the FBI was investigating cyber attacks against reporters from the Times and other news organizations. The Times was attacked by two separate groups of hackers in 2013: The Syrian Electronic Army and a group from China. Catherine Garcia

August 23, 2016
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By next year, federal regulators could enact new rules preventing people from getting within 50 yards of spinner dolphins off the shores of Hawaii, putting an end to popular tourist activities like swimming with dolphins.

The National Marine Fisheries Service says that spinner dolphins, which feed at night and usually gather in the same general area every day, are not getting enough rest and are becoming stressed due to so many people taking boat tours that drop them off next to pods. The dolphins sometimes appear to be awake even when they're asleep, as half of their brain remains awake so they can surface and breathe. Dozens of companies operate dolphin tours on Maui, Kauai, Oahu, and the Big Island, and because 98 percent of spinner dolphins in Hawaii are just off the shore, it's easy for them to find the animals. The ban would cover waters out to 2 nautical miles, The Associated Press reports.

Ann Garrett, assistant regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service's protected resources division for the Pacific Islands, told AP the dolphins are constantly on high alert because people are always approaching them, and scientists are afraid the stress might interfere with their ability to reproduce. The agency won't make a final decision on a ban until next year, but Garrett says if it is enacted, it won't put people out of business. "They could still do snorkeling for other reasons — it's just not setting their people within a pod of dolphins or within 50 yards of a dolphin," she said. Catherine Garcia

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