Good news, Star Wars fans. Physicists from MIT and Harvard have engineered a new form of matter that behaves "just like a lightsaber," said Adam Clark Estes at Gizmodo. Scientists managed to clump together photons — massless particles of light that don't normally interact with one another — to form a molecule. When two lasers are aimed at one another, their beams typically pass through one another. But the "photonic molecules" created here "push against and deflect each other," said Harvard physicist Mikhail Lukin. "The physics of what's happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies." Chris Gayomali
The Senate approved late Monday a 1,215-page, $700 billion defense policy bill that would give the Pentagon a larger budget than at any time since at least 2001, when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. The bill now goes to a House-Senate conference committee to work out differences between the House and Senate versions. The Senate's 89-8 vote signifies broad support for raising military spending after years of caps from a bipartisan deal that neither party liked, amid growing threats from North Korea and Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) contention that underfunding training and equipment has contributed to the death or injury of nearly 100 service members in a series of accidents since mid-July.
The defense bill does not close military bases, as Defense Secretary James Mattis had requested, nor would it tackle a series of policy issues like transgender service members or North Korea sanctions, but it does include a government-wide ban on software from Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Labs. The $640 billion for Pentagon operations like buying weapons and paying troops was $37 billion more than President Trump had requested, but the $60 billion for wartime missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere was $5 billion less. Peter Weber
Sen. John Kennedy wants to make sure no states use the GOP health-care bill to create single-payer systems
As Republican senators gear up for a last-ditch attempt at repealing ObamaCare, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) wants to confirm that the GOP bill can't be used by states to set up single-payer health-care systems, The Washington Examiner reports. "I don't think states should have the authority to take money from the American taxpayer and set up a single-payer system," Kennedy said. "Some people think that's inconsistent with the idea of flexibility, but that's what the United States Congress is for. I very much believe in flexibility, and I know governors want flexibility, but it's our job to make sure that money is properly spent."
The health-care bill, which was introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), would effectively replace much of ObamaCare with state block grants and phase out Medicaid expansion. Kennedy insisted an amendment would be needed because "if you give a big chunk of money to California they're going to go set up a single-payer system run by the state and then come back and say, 'We don't have enough money, we need more.'"
"I think a single-payer system is a bad idea," Kennedy said.
As one of the bill's authors, Graham said he was doubtful states would be able to use the legislation to create their own universal health-care plans due to the complications of federal labor laws, The Washington Examiner reports. But "if California wants to go down the single-payer road, knock yourself out," Graham told Breitbart. Jeva Lange
Sebastian Gorka's post-White House job involves rallying support for a Senate candidate Trump opposes
President Trump's former deputy assistant, Sebastian Gorka, was ousted last month shortly after Gorka's "economic nationalist" ally, Stephen Bannon, was also given the boot. Like many recent departures from the White House, Gorka apparently signed on to help Trump from the outside with his new job, serving as chief strategist of the "MAGA Coalition," Axios reports. Only, the MAGA Coalition's first mission is to get a Senate candidate elected who is running against a candidate endorsed by Trump.
In the announcement of Gorka's addition to the MAGA Coalition, the group quoted Gorka slamming "D.C. swamp-dwellers [who think] they know better than the people they represent."
I will be in Huntsville, Alabama, on Saturday night to support Luther Strange for Senate. "Big Luther" is a great guy who gets things done!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 16, 2017
The tension boils down to the Senate race in Alabama, where the anti-establishment Bannon-backed candidate Roy Moore is taking on incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), who is supported by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Trump. As part of his work with the MAGA Coalition, Gorka and Sarah Palin plan to host a rally Thursday night in support of Moore, while Trump is expected to hold a rally on Saturday for Strange.
Donald Trump Jr., President Trump's eldest son and the acting head of the family real estate and branding company, has decided to voluntarily drop his Secret Service detail, telling friends he wants more privacy, several people familiar with the decision tell The Washington Post and USA Today. The Secret Service stopped protecting the younger Trump last week, The New York Times reports, though it's not clear if his wife and five children are still being protected. The Secret Service said it does not comment on who it is protecting out of safety considerations.
The Secret Service is obligated to protect the president and his family, but not top aides, and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway's detail is being dropped, too, the Times report. Conway was originally placed under Secret Service protection because she received threats early on in her tenure, but "that threat assessment has since changed," the Times says, citing a senior administration official. Protecting at least two fewer people should ease the financial and human strain on the Secret Service, especially since Don Trump Jr. travels extensively for business and leisure. The Secret Service will continue to protect the president and his other children and grandchildren, several top aides, and Trump Tower, his primary residence. Peter Weber
On Monday night, Toys 'R' Us announced that it is following Kay Bee Toys and FAO Schwartz into bankruptcy court, but said that unlike its onetime rivals, it hopes to emerge intact. The company, struggling with $5 billion in long-term debt and competition from online retailers like Amazon and discount stores like Walmart, filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. federal court, plus the Canadian equivalent for its Canadian operations. It emphasized that all of its brick-and-mortar and online stores will remain open through the crucial holiday shopping seasons, and said its 810 stores and 255 licensed outlets outside North America will be unaffected by the bankruptcy reorganization.
"The company's approximately 1,600 Toys 'R' Us and Babies 'R' Us stores around the world — the vast majority of which are profitable — are continuing to operate as usual," Toys 'R' Us said in a statement. It did not say what will happen to its 65,000 employees worldwide or its retail stores, but some of its 885 U.S. locations are expected to be closed in the reorganization. Peter Weber
President Trump will make his maiden address before the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on Tuesday, and the speech, drafted by hard-line policy aide Stephen Miller, is expected to focus on North Korea, Iran, and other shared perceived threats. After urging broad U.N. reforms with the U.S. as a partner on Monday, Trump's address Tuesday will be partly an attempt to align Trump's "America First" foreign policy with the need for global cooperation on terrorism and other collective problems.
Trump's speech to world leaders will be a "clear-eyed" look at global challenges, and a call for other countries to bear more of the burden of maintaining peace and prosperity, a senior White House official tells The Washington Post. Trump will focus on "outcomes, not ideology," the official said, and he won't tell other nations "how to live" or "what system of government to have. He will ask countries to respect the sovereignty of other nations. That's the rationale for the basis of cooperation." During the presidential campaign, Trump was a fierce critic of the U.N. Peter Weber
Trevor Noah LOLs at Steven Mnuchin, his comically 'out of touch' wife, and his boss Trump's tax plan
President Trump hasn't accomplished many of his goals yet, but the man steering his next big push, tax reform, is Treasury Secretary "and mildly satisfied LensCrafters customer" Steven Mnuchin, Trevor Noah said on Monday's Daily Show. He started his Mnuchin "profile in tremendousness" by explaining how a Goldman Sachs alumnus turned Hollywood producer and Democratic donor ended up on Trump's team. (Casually.) "Mnuchin may not have a a particularly impressive political resume, but you should see his IMDB page," Noah said. Only now he's less interested in producing Batman movies and more geared up to produce tax cuts for rich people like himself.
But you probably haven't heard Mnuchin's name mentioned in regards to tax cuts so much as his request for taxpayers to plunk down $25,000 an hour for a government jet to whisk him and his third wife, Louise Linton, off to their honeymoon in Europe, Noah said, running through that flap and an earlier one involving Linton and a government jet. "Seriously, these two are both so out of touch, it's almost beautiful," he said. "I'm so glad that they found each other. I just wish Mnuchin hadn't also found this guy," Trump, "because if you think these two are going to take care of everyday Americans, I've got one word for you: LOL." That didn't sound quite right, so he called out The Daily Show's "mean girl translator" to do it right. Watch below. Peter Weber