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March 14, 2014

Parisians are used to waving away thick clouds of smoke from their faces, but this time it's not from cigarettes. The French capital is currently cloaked in a heavy blanket of smog, a case of severe air pollution spurred by unseasonably warm temperatures. It's so bad that the city is making public transportation (including bikes and electric vehicles) free for the weekend to get people out of their cars and motorcycles.

The European Environment Agency reports that the smog is the worse it's been since 2007, with nearly three-quarters of France affected. Local hospitals are treating an influx of patients suffering from chronic respiratory ailments, such as difficulty breathing and coughing.

Temperatures are expected to remain in the upper 60s and low 70s until Monday, when a cold front is expected to usher in some rain and relief. -- Jordan Valinsky

2:57 a.m. ET

On Tuesday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 111 federal inmates, most of them jailed on nonviolent drug convictions, and set a new record for most presidential commutations issued in a month. Obama began August commuting the sentences of 214 inmates, bringing his total above the combined commutations of the previous nine presidents, and now, at 673, he can add Eisenhower to that list. The last 11 administrations issued a combined 690 commutations, so Obama can lap Truman, too, with 17 more.

Obama's efforts to free prisoners sentenced under harsher laws than are currently on the books is making only a small dent in the U.S. prison population — there are about 195,000 inmates in federal prison, down from 210,000 in 2014, plus 1.3 million in state facilities, and more than half of federal inmates were convicted of drug offenses. Along with his 673 commutations, the White House says, Obama "has also granted 70 pardons and is committed to continuing to grant additional commutations and pardons throughout the remainder of his presidency." You can read a list of the 111 inmates and what they were convicted of at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

2:06 a.m. ET
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Tasmanian devils often display aggression toward each other, which typically ends with one biting the other on the face. This act of hostility is helping spread devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), one of only three known forms of transmissible cancer.

First detected 20 years ago, DFTD is fatal nearly 100 percent of the time and has wiped out an estimated 80 percent of devils in Tasmania. In a study published Tuesday in the scientific journal Nature Communications, a team of scientists report that while looking at Tasmanian devil DNA, they discovered that two regions in their genomes are changing in response to the spread of the cancer. "Our study suggests hope for the survival of the Tasmanian devil in the face of this devastating disease," Andrew Storfer, a professor of biology at Washington State University and an author of the study, said in a statement.

Scientists are hoping to soon start breeding DTFD-resistant devils to enhance genetic diversity of the captive population. Storfer says the genomic data could also one day be used to "help direct future research addressing important questions about the evolution of cancer transmissibility and what causes remission and reoccurrence in cancer and other diseases." Catherine Garcia

1:56 a.m. ET
Davis County Jail via AP

In June, a federal judge ordered Lyle Jeffs, a reputed leader of a polygamist Mormon sect in Colorado and Utah, released from jail under supervised house arrest, over objections from federal prosecutors. Two weeks later, Jeffs was gone, leaving behind a greased-up ankle monitoring bracelet. His court-appointed lawyer, Kathryn Nester, told the court last week that she doesn't know where Jeffs is, but she did have some creative suggestions, as found in court documents by The Washington Post:

As this Court is well aware, Mr. Jeffs is currently not available to inform his counsel whether or not he agrees to the Continuance. Whether his absence is based on absconding, as oft alleged by the Government in their filings, or whether he was taken and secreted against his will, or whether he experienced the miracle of rapture is unknown to counsel. [via The Washington Post]

"Rapture, for the uninitiated," explains Cleve Woodson Jr. at The Washington Post, "is the Christian belief that during the second coming of Christ, the holy will be whisked away to heaven." The FBI doesn't find either alternative explanation for Jeffs' disappearance plausible, and on Monday it issued a $50,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. Jeffs — a brother of Warren Jeffs, the jailed leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) — and 10 other FLDS members were arrested in February on charges that they fraudulently diverted $12 million in food stamps an other federal benefits. The FLDS, a rogue offshoot of the Mormon church, practices polygamy, and Warren Jeffs is serving a life sentence after being convicted of child rape. Peter Weber

1:29 a.m. ET

The logic-defying presidential election is taking everyone's attention away from a very important topic — climate change — and while it's not as exciting as the medical records of a 70-year-old or the sexts of a disgraced former congressman, Seth Meyers wants us to start giving the matter the attention it deserves.

On Tuesday's Late Night, Meyers said the Earth is "acting insane," but we're all "too busy focusing on Donald Trump to notice. Meanwhile, the Earth is currently the Donald Trump of planets, and it even uses Trump's skin tone to illustrate extreme heat." Over the summer, for the first time on record, every square inch of the United States experienced above average temperatures. If that weren't bad enough, there have been eight "once in 500 years" extreme weather events since the beginning of the year. "Not to mention on top of that, the f—ing Chicago Cubs are in first place, so who knows what's going on," Meyers said.

Meyers argues that the main reason climate change is being ignored is because the GOP "essentially constructed an alternate reality in which none of these extreme weather events has anything to do with climate change." Recalling a Trump lawyer's use of the term, "Says who?" Meyers said, "'Says who?' is basically the Republican Party's official position on climate change, and this anti-intellectualism is at the core of the modern GOP and goes all the way to the presidential ticket." Cue a long clip of Trump preaching about his favorite kind of hairspray to coal miners, and an interview that Meyers says proves Trump has "no idea what he's talking about." Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia

12:47 a.m. ET

There are a lot of things to criticize about the presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but Tonight Show viewer Renée Wellington found one you don't see too often. "Hey Jimmy, with this election talk, the news has been so boring lately," she wrote to Jimmy Fallon, who read her request on Tuesday's show. "Is there any way you can lighten it up a bit and make it more fun?" Fallon's team did find a way: Editing footage of real news anchors to make it appear they are beatboxing. If you have half a minute, watch CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Fox News' Megyn Kelly make beats with their mouths, then Bill O'Reilly and Donald Trump do a beatbox duet, topped by a "whaaaat?!" from Hillary Clinton. If you have another minute or so, keep watching for an awkward podcast between Tonight Show writer Jonathan Adler and Tariq Trotter of the Roots. Peter Weber

12:05 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

If Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) doesn't win a sixth term in November, it won't be because of state Sen. Kelli Ward. On Tuesday, McCain handily beat back a challenge from Ward, who had suggested that the 80-year-old senator is too old to serve Arizona, and two other candidates in Arizona's Republican primary. McCain will face Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) in the general election, after Kirkpatrick won an essentially uncontested Democratic primary. McCain has led Kirkpatrick in every poll so far, but the race is considered competitive. Peter Weber

12:04 a.m. ET
David Paul Morris/Getty Images

A California bill that requires a prison sentence for anyone convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious person is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) desk, after the California Assembly approved it on Monday by a vote of 66-0.

Under the state's current law, a prison sentence is imposed when physical force is used during the rape, which is often not the case when a victim is intoxicated or unconscious. "Sexually assaulting an unconscious person or intoxicated victim is a terrible crime and our laws need to reflect that," said Assemblyman Bill Dodd (D), an author of the bill. "Letting felons convicted of such crimes get off with probation discourages other survivors from coming forward and sends the message that raping incapacitated victims is no big deal."

The vote comes after a former Stanford student, Brock Turner, was sentenced in June to six months in jail and three years probation after being convicted of three felony counts of sexually assaulting an intoxicated and unconscious woman outside a party. Prosecutors were asking for a sentence of six years in prison. There was widespread condemnation of the judge in the case, Aaron Persky, and a campaign to recall him has more than one million signatures, NPR reports. Turner is set to be released on Friday, several months early, due to good behavior. Catherine Garcia

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