FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
March 10, 2014

Attention aspiring paleoclimatologists: NASA is awarding $35,000 to one lucky civilian who can develop a specialized asteroid-detecting technology. The "Asteroid Grand Challenge," which was announced at the South By Southwest Festival today and will begin on March 17, aims to develop better algorithms used to find the flying space rocks that could ruin life as we know it (no pressure).

To win the money, the scientist's solution "must increase the detection sensitivity, minimize the number of false positives, ignore imperfections in the data, and run effectively on all computer systems." That doesn't sound like something you'd get from your run-of-the-mill weekend hack-a-thon.

Euronews writes:

"Protecting the planet from the threat of asteroid impact means first knowing where they are," said Jenn Gustetic, Prizes and Challenges Program executive. "By opening up the search for asteroids, we are harnessing the potential of innovators and makers and citizen scientists everywhere to help solve this global challenge." [Euronews]

Just think how sweet "Asteroid Data Hunter" is going to look on LinkedIn. --Jordan Valinsky

4:34 p.m. ET

Saturday Night Live is ramping up the drama for this weekend, when it returns for its 42nd season.

In a sketch about Monday's presidential debate, show star (and newly minted Emmy winner) Kate McKinnon will be reprising her usual role as Hillary Clinton, but she will be joined by a special guest star in the role of Donald Trump: Alec Baldwin. Baldwin, of course, has an infamous reputation of his own for his short temper and unfriendly encounters with the media — much like the man he'll be portraying:

Earlier this election season, Trump was portrayed by the show's announcer Darrell Hammond, who had also played Trump among many other celebrity impersonations during his original run from 1995 to 2009 as one of SNL's featured actors.

The real question, though: What can SNL's writers, McKinnon, and Baldwin do to improve on any of the real zaniness from the debate itself? Find out Saturday, when the premiere episode for SNL's 42nd season, hosted by actress Margot Robbie, airs at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Eric Kleefeld

4:22 p.m. ET
Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

While joblessness among recent college graduates is finally on the decline, the problem of "underemployment" seems to be on the rise: Think the young, overeducated barista working at your local coffee shop. Underemployment — that is, a college grad working in a job that doesn't require a college degree — is higher today than it has been at any other point in the 21st century, The Atlantic reports, and the number of "non-college" jobs opening up for newly minted adults is rising at a faster rate than jobs that require higher education.

A large gap has opened between those with humanities degrees and those with STEM training. Underemployment afflicts more than 50 percent of college graduates with majors in history, communications, political science, and philosophy, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Graduates with degrees in math, science, and engineering typically have much better job prospects and starting salaries.

But as The Atlantic points out, college graduates still reap benefits overall, no matter what major is written on their diploma. The college-educated are still more likely than those without a degree to have higher wages, get married, and have kids that also go off to college. Kelly Gonsalves

4:05 p.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Senate on Wednesday averted a government shutdown with the passage of a spending bill that will keep the government funded through Dec. 9. The bill, which pledges $1.1 billion to fight the Zika virus and $500 million in flood relief to Louisiana, passed in a 72-26 vote. It will next move to the House, where it's expected to be approved, and will then hit President Obama's desk.

Senate Democrats initially blocked the measure Tuesday because it did not include aid for the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan; however, the bill moved forward Wednesday after Republicans agreed Tuesday night to consider Flint aid in a future measure, to come after the presidential election.

Many government agencies were set to run out of funding Friday, as the fiscal year ends at midnight Oct. 1. With the stop-gap bill, such a shutdown is avoided. Becca Stanek

3:49 p.m. ET

It has not escaped the notice of female Democratic senators that Donald Trump is rather out-of-bounds when it comes to his treatment of women. Just this week, it was revealed Trump humiliated former Miss Universe Alicia Machado by inviting reporters to film her working out after she gained some weight following her beauty pageant win. Trump has also repeatedly questioned Hillary Clinton's health and "stamina," demanding she release detailed health records.

In response, Sen. Claire McCaskill fired back a taste of Trump's own medicine:

For what it's worth, Trump is in "astonishingly excellent" health, according to his doctor. Jeva Lange

3:37 p.m. ET
Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the House seconded the Senate's vote to override President Obama's veto of a controversial bill that would allow families of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi Arabian government for its alleged role in the terrorist attacks. Just hours after the Senate agreed 97 to 1 to override the veto, the House also rejected Obama's move, 348 to 77. Congress' decision marked the first veto override of Obama's presidency; the president has vetoed 12 bills, including the 9/11 bill, during his tenure.

Obama vetoed the legislation Friday on the grounds it would disrupt U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia and end the immunity from American lawsuits granted to other countries by a 1976 law. Proponents of the bill argue it allows victims' families to achieve a sense of justice.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied it was involved in the 9/11 attacks. Becca Stanek

3:19 p.m. ET

Hell hath no fury like a cheated music store owner — and it looks like this could be just the start of a whole new round of small business owners saying they got ripped off by Donald Trump.

In a guest column in The Washington Post published Wednesday, retired store owner J. Michael Diehl of Freehold Music Center tells the story of how his small New Jersey store got swindled by Trump way back in 1989, on a $100,000 order for pianos at the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City.

"I asked my lawyer if I should ask for payment upfront, and he laughed," Diehl wrote. "'It's Donald Trump!' he told me. 'He’s got lots of money.'"

Bad move, it turned out:

When I requested payment, the Trump corporation hemmed and hawed. Its executives avoided my calls and crafted excuses. After a couple of months, I got a letter telling me that the casino was short on funds. They would pay 70 percent of what they owed me. There was no negotiating. I didn’t know what to do — I couldn’t afford to sue the Trump corporation, and I needed money to pay my piano suppliers. So I took the $70,000. [J. Michael Diehl, via The Washington Post]

The loss of $30,000 in revenue seriously damaged Diehl, he wrote, in terms of both his personal salary and the capital to further grow his business: "Because of Trump, my store stagnated for a couple of years. It made me feel really bad, like I’d been taken advantage of. I was embarrassed."

"It's a callous way to do business," Diehl concluded of Trump's wheeling and dealing ways. Read his whole account at The Washington Post. Eric Kleefeld

2:30 p.m. ET

Donald Trump rather famously complained that climate change is just an elaborate Chinese hoax, and has used New York's frigid winter storms to mock global warming. But according to a new study in Atmospheres, New York's brutal winters are actually evidence of the growing impact climate change is having on the United States — and it is a trend that is going to continue throughout the century.

Researchers have observed what they call a "North American winter temperature dipole," meaning East Coast winters have brought snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures, while the West Coast has roughed mild, dry winters that bring on droughts due to the lack of snow. "We're in this new world that's much, much warmer with much less sea ice and that's changing the way the atmosphere behaves," said climate scientist Jennifer Francis. "It's an interesting time to be studying this, but the bad news is, we're watching this planet fall apart."

The occurrence of warm West/cold East winters began as early as 1980, but "has become more frequent ... a trend that reflects the influence of global warming on the atmosphere in the Northern Hemisphere," Inside Climate News writes. The pattern will continue for the rest of the century but eventually "level off as the East becomes too warm for extreme weather conditions." Hooray? Jeva Lange

See More Speed Reads