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May 8, 2012

Though most babies willingly bathe in cheap plastic tubs, one Italian company believes "an untapped luxury market" is out there. The MagicBath baby hot tub ($2,186), from BluBleu, promises to take stressed-out infants on "a fabulous journey of sensory experiences." Ten air jets pump out bubbles to caress the user, while underwater LEDs emit blue, indigo, and violet "chromatherapy" light in a preprogrammed cycle. A baby can recline in the tub until about 6 months and then sit for the next six. Subsequently, life goes downhill. Source: Gizmag.com The Week Staff

4:35 p.m. ET
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Millennials aren't the only ones drowning in student debt: A staggering amount of older Americans are also underwater. The number of Americans older than 60 with student loan debt quadrupled from 700,000 in 2005 to 2.8 million in 2015, making the over-60 set the fastest-growing age group with student debt, Quartz reports. The total debt for these older borrowers is some $66.7 billion, and more than two-thirds of it is owed for children or grandchildren. While older debtors owe less than the typical under-50 crowd — an average of $23,000 compared to $37,172, respectively — they're also twice as likely to default.

Quartz notes the particular dangers of being 60 or older and still carrying that much debt: The government can sometimes withhold Social Security checks to elderly borrowers who default, and Americans over 60 with unpaid loans typically have less saved for retirement than those without debt. The Week Staff

3:50 p.m. ET
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Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) comically illustrated the overreach of the Environmental Protection Agency during an otherwise turbulent Senate hearing for President-elect Donald Trump's EPA nominee, Scott Pruitt, on Wednesday. "This is a chart of the state of Iowa," Ernst began, showing a nearly entirely red map of her state. "As you can see, with the expanded definition as provided by the EPA, 97 percent of the state of Iowa is now considered Waters of the U.S. So if you are in an area like mine, in southwest Iowa here, I live in a Water of the U.S."

It wasn't the only thing Ernst took issue with. In fact, she has some serious concerns about ... well, puddles.

"The Obama EPA told the public that they will not regulate puddles," Ernst went on. "They will not regulate puddles. However, we learned that the Corps [of Engineers] is already regulating puddles by claiming that a puddle in a gravel parking lot is a 'degraded wetland.' A degraded wetland."

But wait, there's more: "The Obama EPA also told farmers not to worry about being regulated because ordinary farming activities have a statutory exemption. We learned that the Corps of Engineers and the Department of Justice have decided that plowing is not an ordinary farming activity. Explain that to my dear deceased grandfather and my father," Ernst said.

And that's not even to mention "small mountain ranges," which are certainly small and probably not mountains. Watch the entire clip at C-SPAN here. Jeva Lange

3:18 p.m. ET
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China is easing the government's 2,000-year-old monopoly on table salt by letting producers set prices and sell directly to the market. The monopoly has supported Chinese rulers from the Han dynasty to the Communist Party, even helping to pay for the construction of the Great Wall, The Financial Times reports.

Beginning this year, salt producers will have the freedom to set their prices based on normal market factors like cost, quality, supply, and demand — though the country's top economic planning agency still encourages state officials to keep those prices somewhat stable by tapping a "strategic reserve." The salt producers will also be able to sell without going through government-owned distribution companies, which used to absorb most of the industry's profits.

Nonetheless, most Chinese salt producers still work for the Chinese government, which has also said it will not grant any new licenses into the market until the end of 2018. The Week Staff

2:58 p.m. ET

At his final press conference Wednesday, President Obama defended his decision to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks. "I feel very comfortable justice has been served," Obama said. He noted that Manning has already served "a tough prison sentence" lasting seven years, proving to other possible leakers that the crime does not "go unpunished."

Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison, a term Obama said was "disproportionate relative to what other leakers had received." She will now be released in May 2017, instead of in 2045.

Watch Obama defend his decision below. Becca Stanek

2:57 p.m. ET

President Obama began his last press conference as president Wednesday by thanking the reporters who assembled week after week to pepper him with questions. "Some of you have been covering me for a long time," Obama said. "I have enjoyed working with all of you. That does not of course mean that I have enjoyed every story that you have filed, but that's the point of this relationship. You're not supposed to be sycophants, you're supposed to be skeptics, you're supposed to ask me tough questions. You're not supposed to be complimentary."

Hmm, wonder what inspired that? Watch Obama's full appreciation of the press — including a great quip about that suit — below. Kimberly Alters

2:19 p.m. ET

What does the Confederate flag have to do with health care? Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) thinks there's a connection, as he brought up during Rep. Tom Price's (R-Ga.) Senate confirmation hearing for secretary of health and human services Wednesday.

"When you were a member of the Georgia legislature, you fought pretty hard to keep the Confederate battle flag as part of the Georgia state flag," Kaine began. "And you sponsored resolutions to make April 'Confederate History Heritage Month' in Georgia, 'urging schools to commemorate the time of Southern independence' … I read the resolution with interest because of the phrase 'commemorate the time of Southern independence,' and I pulled it up, and I note that the resolution that commemorated the time of Southern independence mentions nothing about slavery."

After Price responded, Kaine made the connection: "You're aware that there's an office of minority health at HHS that was created in the Affordable Care Act … If the ACA is repealed, unless it's separately reauthorized, that office would also expire." Price assured the committee that all Americans will be protected:

Republican Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) also raised concerns about the coverage of minority communities. "South Carolina, like Georgia, has a high percentage of African-Americans. As you probably know, breast cancer deaths are approximately one and a half times higher in African-American women. Prostate cancer deaths are approximately two and a half times higher in African-American men, and new diagnoses are approximately twice as high. I would love to hear your perspective on addressing some of the health disparities in communities of color specifically," Scott said. Price's answer to that is below. Jeva Lange

2:12 p.m. ET

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Wednesday that 2016 is officially the hottest year on record. That makes the third consecutive year that the previous record temperatures were surpassed; 2014 and 2015 were also declared the hottest years on record upon their conclusion.

The average surface temperatures recorded in 2016 were 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than 2015's temperatures, The Washington Post reported, and each month from January through August was successively the warmest on record.

NASA and the NOAA are the nation's leading scientific agencies. On Wednesday, Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump's choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he does not believe climate change is a hoax after Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) asked him about NASA and the NOAA's announcement. Kimberly Alters

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