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October 11, 2012

Members of a liberal group don Sesame Street costumes to protest outside an Oct. 9 campaign stop for Mitt Romney at the Koch Family Farm in Van Meter, Iowa. (Meanwhile, Romney fans compete with their own signs.) Big Bird and Co. have become major campaign symbols in the last week, after Team Obama pounced on Romney's threat to cut funding for PBS. The Week Staff

4:42 p.m. ET

Scientists may have uncovered a way to track the ever-evolving flu virus buried in 10-year-old snot. In an effort to understand how the flu virus rapidly mutates, leaving scientists constantly scrambling to come up with a new flu vaccine, researchers decided to study four cancer patients' snot, which had been collected a decade ago and frozen.

Because cancer patients tend to come down with the flu for a longer period of time than a healthy individual, the scientists had a longer window of time to observe the mutating virus. In healthy humans, the immune system typically eradicates the flu virus before it undergoes too much mutation, making it harder to track what comes next in the flu's evolution.

The team "deep sequenced for all the different mutants of one strain of flu called H3N2," Wired reports. Initially, biochemist Jesse Bloom said the research team expected "the type of evolution that flu undergoes in any individuals ... might end up being very idiosyncratic."

Instead, they saw similar mutations occurring in the viruses within each of the patients' snot — even though the patients weren't all sick at the same time. Moreover, some of those mutations ended up being the same mutations that occurred worldwide in flu outbreaks just years later. Those four patients "were microcosms for the great world when it came to flu evolution," The Atlantic explained.

The continued deep sequencing of mutations in patients with drawn-out flu infections — a group that also includes pregnant women, children, and obese people — could help scientists get a step ahead of next year's flu. Becca Stanek

4:40 p.m. ET

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday afternoon that he would delay a vote on the GOP health-care bill that has been presented in the upper chamber, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act. McConnell had held steady to the idea of holding a vote before the July 4th recess, but after at least 10 senators voiced opposition to the bill, McConnell was forced to hold off on a vote until after the holiday break.

And just like that, with the coast cleared and the vote off the table, three more Republican senators decided to announce their opposition to the bill. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) and Rob Portman (Ohio), two more moderate conservatives, issued a joint statement on the bill, saying they could not support its cuts to Medicaid and its lack of funding to combat the opioid epidemic:

Sen. Jerry Moran (Kan.), meanwhile, issued a short statement saying the Senate bill "missed the mark":

BuzzFeed News' Paul McLeod predicted that the bill will either pass the upper chamber "by one vote, or fail by a lot. I think a bunch of [senators] would like it to fail, but don't want to be the deciding vote." Kimberly Alters

2:28 p.m. ET

At least four of President Trump's golf clubs display a fake, framed Time magazine with Trump on the cover, The Washington Post reports. The issue purports to be from "March 1, 2009," even though there is no March 1, 2009 issue of Time.

"I can confirm that this is not a real Time cover," the magazine's spokeswoman, Kerri Chyka, told The Washington Post.

There are a number of giveaways that the cover is a fake, including its skinny border and exclamation points ("Time headlines don't yell"). "So how did Trump — who spent an entire campaign and much of his presidency accusing the mainstream media of producing 'fake news' — wind up decorating his properties with a literal piece of phony journalism?" The Washington Post asks.

It isn't clear — neither the White House nor the Trump Organization offered an answer. But Trump takes unabashed pride in his Time covers, both real and fake, boasting incorrectly on the campaign trail that "I think we have the all-time record [of cover photos] in the history of Time magazine."

Read more about the fake cover, and how it got hung in the clubs, at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange

2:03 p.m. ET
Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images

Due to a lack of votes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has decided to delay the Senate vote on the GOP health-care plan. McConnell, who was pushing for a vote this week, told senators Tuesday that he now plans to hold the vote after the July 4 recess in hopes of rallying more support in the extra time.

Six Republicans have come out against the bill, while four have expressed concerns. McConnell can only afford two defections.

Meanwhile, Republican senators have been invited to the White House for a last-minute meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss health care. Becca Stanek

1:39 p.m. ET

Stock in an Australian biotech company that was questionably promoted to members of the House by Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) plummeted from $1.77 a share to just 5 cents on Tuesday, after the company announced its multiple sclerosis drug had failed trials, The Buffalo News reports. "The news is dire for both the company and investors," Australia's Money Morning wrote, as shareholders' hopes had hinged on the promising drug's success.

Collins is the firm's biggest shareholder; he owns about a fifth of the company, Innate Immunotherapeutics, with his two children. He personally lost $17 million Tuesday, Bloomberg reports.

"Sophisticated investors know there's a risk and as you now know, there was never any inside information that would indicate otherwise," Collins told The Buffalo News, defending his decision to promote the company's stock to his colleagues.

The Buffalo News added:

...Unusual trading activity Friday "suggests that somebody with knowledge of the results was front-running the announcement," [analyst Sean] O'Neill said. "That’s something I'd hope the regulator will be looking closer at."

Collins told The Buffalo News Tuesday morning that he did not sell any of his shares in Innate before its price collapsed. [The Buffalo News]

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, a former congressman from Georgia, invested in Innate Immunotherapeutics at Collins' suggestion, a topic that was raised and criticized during his confirmation hearing earlier this year. Collins had reportedly bragged "off the House floor … about how he had made people millionaires from a stock tip." Price sold his shares in February for $250,000. Jeva Lange

12:34 p.m. ET
Paul Kane/Getty Images

Roughly 3.3 million years after ancient humanoids invented the earliest known tools, mankind is on the cusp of perfecting sophisticated self-driving technology that has the potential to revolutionize transportation as we know it.

There is only one problem: kangaroos.

Volvo's new self-driving technology uses a "large animal detection" system to prevent its S90 and XC90 car models from plowing into deer or moose while on the go, the BBC reports. But during tests in Australia, researchers realized the technology is completely befuddled by the hops of kangaroos.

"We've noticed with the kangaroo being in mid-flight when it's in the air, it actually looks like it's further away, then it lands and it looks closer," Volvo Australia's technical manager, David Pickett, told ABC.

To fix the problem, Volvo first needs to "start identifying the roo," Pickett explained. That would make sense, seeing as the company initially developed its large animal detection software by dodging moose in Sweden.

Determined, Volvo has spent the past 18 months in Australia teaching its software not to hit kangaroos. The company needs to get it exactly right, after all, as there are more than 16,000 roo collisions a year in the country, NRMA Insurance reports.

"We identify what a human looks like by how a human walks, because it's not only the one type of human — you've got short people, tall people, people wearing coats," Pickett explained. "The same applies to a roo." Jeva Lange

12:29 p.m. ET
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Just a month after releasing a budget proposing drastic cuts to AIDS treatment programs, President Trump delivered a heartfelt statement on National HIV Testing Day.

Trump in the statement encouraged people to "take the first step — discovery — in fighting" HIV and expressed gratitude for the "concerted efforts to diagnose and treat more and more people," which have allowed Americans with HIV to live "longer, healthier lives than ever before." He vowed his administration would "build upon those improvements and continue supporting domestic and global health programs that prioritize testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS."

However, The New York Times reported in May that the Trump administration has proposed slashing funding for "programs that buy antiretroviral drugs for about 11.5 million people worldwide who are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, by "at least $1.1 billion — nearly a fifth of current funding." The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) estimated that the proposed budget cuts to AIDS programs could "cost more than 1 million lives and orphan more than 300,000 children."

BuzzFeed News reported earlier this month that six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS resigned because they felt Trump "simply does not care" about combating the disease. On Tuesday, Trump said AIDS "has been one of the world's most significant health challenges." Becca Stanek

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