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February 19, 2013

A former student is suing Pennsylvania's Lehigh University, claiming that a C+ grade cost her $1.3 million in salary. Megan Thode alleges a professor gave her the low grade over non-academic disputes, ruining her chance to become a state-certified addiction counselor with better pay. "She's literally lost a career," said Thode's lawyer.  The Week Staff

9:13 p.m. ET
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In July 2015, British music publicist Rob Goldstone suggested in an email his client, Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, would be able to set up a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, The Washington Post reports.

The Post obtained the email Goldstone sent to Trump's personal assistant Rhona Graff one month after he announced he was running for president, which asked if Trump would be able to attend a birthday party later in the year for the pop star's father, Aras Agalarov, and contained the line, "Maybe he would welcome a meeting with President Putin." There is no indication that Graff or Trump followed up on the offer, the Post reports, although Trump did send a birthday note to Agalarov. Agalarov licensed the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant in 2013, bringing it to Moscow, and while in Russia, Trump appeared in one of Emin Agalarov's music videos.

Goldstone is the same publicist who arranged a meeting in June 2016 at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked Russian attorney, with Trump Jr. told he'd be receiving compromising information on Hillary Clinton. Read more about Goldstone's first overture at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

8:10 p.m. ET
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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) could complicate things for the Republicans as they try to pass their tax overhaul, having told reporters on Thursday he won't support the legislation unless it increases the refundable portion of the child tax credit.

Senate and House Republicans say they have reached an agreement on a tax bill, which lowers the corporate tax rate to 21 percent and top individual tax rate from 39.6 to 37 percent, and are just ironing out the final details. As it stands now, the bill sets the child tax credit at $2,000 per child, and Rubio wants it to be refundable against both payroll and income taxes. He "can't in good conscience support" the legislation unless this happens, Rubio said, adding, "There's a way to do it, and we'll be very reasonable." Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has said he agrees with Rubio on the child tax credit issue.

The GOP can only afford to lose two votes in the Senate, but several GOP aides and lawmakers told Politico they believe Rubio will come around before a final vote, which they hope happens next week. "The goal is to get a $2,000 per child tax credit with a significant portion of that to be refundable," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. "I think Sen. Rubio would like to see us do a little more and we're trying to work with him." Catherine Garcia

7:13 p.m. ET
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A firefighter from San Diego died Thursday while fighting the Thomas Fire in Southern California, the state's fourth-largest fire in modern history.

He's been identified as Cal Fire San Diego Unit Fire Apparatus Engineer Cory Iverson, 32, a married father of two. The Thomas Fire started Dec. 4 in Santa Paula, and quickly spread to the southwest and northwest. It is now at 242,500 acres, having moved from Ventura County to Santa Barbara County, and has destroyed more than 900 homes. It's been fueled by dry winds, which have died down for now but are expected to kick back up starting Friday.

The fire is only 30 percent contained, and fire officials said they do not expect it to be fully out until Jan. 7. Fire behavior analyst Tom Chavez told the Los Angeles Times the blaze is "60 miles long and 40 miles wide. There's a lot of fire out there." Catherine Garcia

4:16 p.m. ET
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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is adamant that war with North Korea is becoming more likely every day. "If nothing changes, [President] Trump's gonna have to use the military option, because time is running out," Graham told The Atlantic on Thursday. He additionally said he thinks there is a 30 percent chance that the U.S. launches a preemptive strike on North Korea — and that the odds would spike to 70 percent if North Korea conducts another missile test.

To his credit, Graham — who has become a frequent golfing partner of the president's — is sober about the consequences of war on the Korean peninsula. Graham told The Atlantic that conflict with North Korea would be an "all-out war" that would necessitate regime change and the removal of nuclear weapons. "There is no surgical strike option," he said. "I am literally willing to put hundreds of thousands of people at risk, knowing that millions and millions of people will be at risk if we don't [stop North Korea]."

Still, Graham believes that there is hope for a peaceful solution to the nuclear crisis, if China removes Kim Jong Un from power or cuts off North Korea's economy and access to oil. The senator also supported negotiating with North Korea "without a whole lot of preconditions," which was suggested by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, though the White House shot down the idea Wednesday.

"I'm not taking anything off the table to avoid a war," Graham said. "When they write the history of the times, I don't want them to say, 'Hey, Lindsey Graham wouldn't even talk to that guy.'" Read more on Graham's North Korea concerns at The Atlantic. Kelly O'Meara Morales

3:28 p.m. ET

Buying chips from a vending machine is so 2017. In 2018, buying a car with the push of a button is where it's at.

Alibaba, a massive online retailer often referred to as the "Amazon of China," unveiled a video concept of its "Auto Vending Machine" on Wednesday. It's an attempt to simplify car buying, letting users browse, test drive and buy a car in a matter of minutes.

Oh, and it's also shaped like a cat.

The car-buying process starts with Alibaba's Taobao app. When customers spot a car they like on the street, they scan it on the app, customize the vehicle's color, and pick it up at their nearest vending machine for a test drive, per TechCrunch. After test driving for three days, shoppers can either buy the car or test something else.

This video breaks down the process:

Alibaba will open its first two test-drive centers in China next month, and aims to install more across the country in 2018. Who knows what wallet-altering decisions you’ll be able to make on a whim next? Kathryn Krawczyk

2:50 p.m. ET
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A group of 3,000 golden retrievers from across the U.S. are taking "good dog" to a whole new level. Their checkups could help scientists beat canine cancer.

These golden retrievers are enrolled in the Morris Animal Foundation's Golden Retriever Lifetime study, the U.S.'s largest veterinary study ever. It researches what increases the risk of dogs developing cancer and other health problems, and ultimately aims to help dogs live longer, healthier lives.

More than half of golden retrievers end up with cancer, the foundation reports, so that's why they're the specified subjects in this study.

These good dogs need a little human help to make a difference, though. Dog owners keep track of what their pups eat, when they sleep, if they spend time on a lawn with pesticides, and more. They also have to take their dogs for annual checkups, collecting and shipping off hair and body fluid specimen to be studied.

No big health discoveries have come out of the study since it started in 2012, The Washington Post notes. But the research has uncovered that about a quarter of the retrievers frequently eat grass, 39 percent swim weekly — and 100 percent of them are adorable. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:16 p.m. ET
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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) may not be long for Washington. HuffPost and Politico both reported that many Capitol Hill insiders believe Ryan intends to retire at the end of his term, ideally after he passes some of his personal legislative priorities — like, say, a tax overhaul bill and entitlement reform.

While Ryan told Politico's Jake Sherman on Thursday that he doesn't have any plans to leave Congress, he did admit that "passage of tax reform would be a high note" to leave on. Meanwhile, HuffPost reported that the House's conservative wing is worried that Ryan would make compromises with congressional Democrats that they would find intolerable in order to secure his legislative "white whale."

Additionally, conservative members of the House have already considered filing a motion to vacate the speakership, Politico reports, which could happen "as soon as next month." Should that fate befall Ryan, it would be similar to the plight of his predecessor, former Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), who retired from Congress rather than have his speakership usurped in a coup d'etat by conservative members of the House.

Ryan has long claimed that the speakership was "not a job I ever wanted in the first place." Still, not everyone is happy about rumors of Ryan putting down his gavel. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) told Politico: "I just think that any talk of him leaving, I hope that's not true. It would be a major setback for our cause."

Read the full stories at Politico and HuffPost. Kelly O'Meara Morales

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