Hooray! Neil deGrasse Tyson's new Cosmos is online
I missed this last night, on account of not having a cable or network connection, but good news: you can stream it on Hulu!
Now, hopefully my internet connection is fast enough to stream this sucker...
Government budget cuts hit red states the hardest
A new Reuters analysis found that recent budget cuts may demonstrate the politicization of public spending.
The findings suggest that governmental budget cuts after a 2011 budget deal hit Republican states harder than swing states or Democratic states. Funding for discretionary grant programs has fallen 40 percent in red states, versus just 25 percent in purple and blue states. The funding cuts affected programs including Head Start preschool education and anti-drug initiatives.
"In the context of the Obama administration, swing states and blue states are doing better than red states," John Hudak, a federal spending expert who worked with Reuters on the analysis, said in a statement.
Reuters notes that the disparity "only shows up in federal aid that is most directly controlled by the administration." Even controlling for factors like population, economy, and the number of research universities, "red states still came up short."
D.C. issues concealed carry permits — but it's not very easy to get one
Out of the 69 people who applied for concealed handgun carry permits in the District of Columbia, eight have been approved and 11 have been denied, the Washington Free Beacon reports.
Although The District's previous ban on gun permits was deemed unconstitutional over the summer, applying for a permit even now is no simple task. The city council's "may issue" law requires applicants to get 18 hours of training, pay $110 worth of application fees, and prove that their need to pack heat is legitimate. Applicants then must wait 90 days for the city to review the application.
Despite denying more applicants than they've approved, the Beacon reports that the city has upped the number of certified trainers to teach the required 16 hours of classroom instruction and 2 hours of range training from one trainer to six.
Ted Cruz praises Michelle Obama for refusing to wear headscarf during Saudi Arabia trip
First Lady Michelle Obama made headlines yesterday when she chose not to wear a headscarf while visiting Saudi Arabia, as the country is one of the few with strict religious laws that expect women to keep their heads covered. While the tradition is not required of foreign visitors, the first lady's decision drew criticism from many Muslims on Twitter.
Mrs. Obama, however, had an unlikely ally Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who tweeted:
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 28, 2015
Strange bedfellows, indeed.
Ancient Israeli skull sheds new light on human evolution
Scientists have discovered the first fossil that appears to document human migration out of Africa and to Europe, by way of the Middle East. An Israeli skull that's roughly 55,000 years old was found in northern Israel's Manot Cave in the Galilee region.
The earliest remains of modern humans in Europe date to 45,000 years ago, according to The Associated Press. The newly discovered skull resembles ancient skulls found in Europe. Previously, scientists didn't have fossil evidence that "fits so well with what was believed about the ancient migration," AP notes. The fossil shows that modern humans in the Middle East "already had physical traits a bit different from other Africans they were leaving behind," The New York Times reports.
The skull also suggests that early humans interbred with Neanderthals, according to the researchers. Neanderthals were already known to live in the area at the time, so the skull documents the coexistence of Neanderthals and modern humans in the region. Experts note that the skull dates to the estimated time of the interbreeding, which is thought to have taken place between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago.
FAA declares Super Bowl a 'no drone zone'
The FAA is still working on comprehensive rules for drone aircraft, but the federal agency on Wednesday issued one guideline for the devices: Don't mess with the Super Bowl.
"Don't spoil the game — leave your drone at home," warns a brief FAA ad.
The FAA did not say how it would enforce the request, but it's safe to assume Rob Gronkowski would snare any low-flying drones and then spike them to smithereens. — Jon Terbush
Steakhouse bans Seth Rogen over American Sniper comments
If Seth Rogen and Michael Moore ever find themselves in Michigan, they can forget about eating at Brann's Sizzling Steaks and Sports Grille.
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) January 27, 2015
Tommy Brann, owner of the restaurant, has explicitly banned Rogen and Moore, thanks to the comments they each made about Clint Eastwood's American Sniper. Rogen, who compared American Sniper to the fake Nazi propaganda film shown in Inglourious Basterds, has since apologized for his remarks. Moore, on the other hand, said he was taught that snipers were "cowards" rather than "heroes," and he has since backtracked on his statements, too.
"Chris Kyle is an American hero and what he represents to me is the goodness of America and the people who defend it," Brann told The Huffington Post. "He was doing his job and he was doing it great."
AG nominee Loretta Lynch defends Obama's immigration order
Loretta Lynch, President Obama's pick to succeed Attorney General Eric Holder, on Wednesday defended the legal reasoning behind the president's executive action on immigration.
In her confirmation hearing, Lynch said that though she did not advise the administration on its immigration policy, she reviewed the Justice Department's legal argument and determined the policy was a "reasonable way to marshal limited resources to deal with the problem" of illegal immigration.
"I don't see any reason to doubt the reasonableness of those views," she added.
As many as 190 people may have been exposed to measles, thanks to the outbreak at Disneyland
As many as 190 people at a children's urgent care center in Phoenix, Arizona, may have been exposed to measles after a second case stemming from the outbreak at Disneyland was diagnosed.
Health officials have traced both of Maricopa County's confirmed measles cases to the measles outbreak at the theme park. The hospital has not provided information about the infected woman, but said that those who may have been exposed were notified.
After a family of four was diagnosed with the virus while vacationing in Disneyland earlier this month, California has detected up to 60 cases of measles, while a handful of other states have reported several cases.
The U.S. declared measles eradicated in 2000, but the Arizona Department of Health Services notes that the spread of the recent outbreak is likely connected to parents not vaccinating children in recent years. County health officials told The Phoenix New Times that unvaccinated people can contract the disease simply by being in the same room as someone with measles.
Health officials noted that the measles vaccine is 99 percent effective and recommended that children without the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccine stay home from schools in the county for the next 21 days.
It's gotten a lot easier to get away with murder
Though violent crime has been trending down for years, there's one crime statistic that isn't so positive: In 1965, 90 percent of murder cases were resolved by police, but today, one out of every three murders sees no arrests. As a result, there's a national backlog of more than 200,000 unsolved murders that have accumulated since 1980.
In some cities, the situation is grimmer still. In New Orleans, for example, only 15 percent of murder cases were resolved in 2012. In Detroit, that figure was just 9 percent.
Some police officers have suggested that the disproportionate diversion of department resources to drug war programs has limited officers' ability to give violent crime the attention it deserves.
The only thing people hate more than the government is their internet provider
Only Comcast could manage to fare more poorly in a consumer satisfaction survey than the federal government.
A report released Tuesday by the American Customer Satisfaction Index found that Americans are more dissatisfied with the federal government and the services it provides than ever. While the average industry rating in the report is 75 percent satisfaction, the government as a whole received 64 percent approval. Some federal departments ranked as low as the upper 50s, and none — not even the comparatively highly rated Defense Department — managed to rank high enough to be average.
The one industry that did rank worse than the government was internet service providers, which suggests that President Obama's recent proposal for government expansion into the internet business may be a surefire recipe for miserable consumers.