April 12, 2012

Percentage increase in fatal car crashes on tax day. Researchers say stressful deadlines lead to driver distraction.

Hours that the typical American family of four spends on their taxes

Percent of tax returns that were audited last year

Sources: TIME, USA Today The Week Staff

5:05 p.m. ET
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Google is ready to shell out $3 million in the battle against fake news.

A new project called Mediawise, which is being funded by the tech giant, aims to help teenagers identify fake news online. The Poynter Institute, a resource for journalists, will head the project, which intends to enlist help of educators, YouTube content creators, including author John Green.

Mediawise will include a media literacy curriculum for middle and high school students and a "first-of-its-kind teen fact-checking initiative," Poynter explained. The teenaged fact checkers will work with professional journalists online to parse real news from fiction and will produce "heavily visual" reports, Poynter said, "to reach teens wherever they are consuming news."

The effort is centered on a body of research from the Stanford History Education Group that shows that "despite being constantly online, the vast majority of teenagers are unable to correctly evaluate the credibility of online news and information," Poynter said. Adults, Poynter added, "didn't do much better."

Poynter is hoping to engage 1 million students with Mediawise, with at least 50 percent coming from "underserved or low-income" communities. Google's $3 million investment in the project will come over the course of two years. Also Tuesday, the company announced its larger $300 million Google News Initiative, which is an effort to "strengthen quality journalism" through new tools and partnerships with news organizations, per CNN. Mary Catalfamo

4:13 p.m. ET
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

New research suggests that the key to understanding obesity might be hidden in your taste buds.

In a study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Biology, scientists discovered that mice that were fed a high-fat diet lost about 25 percent of their taste buds in just eight weeks, Science News reported.

Taste buds are clusters of cells on the tongue that help the brain identify flavors, Pacific Standard reported. Although taste buds have a natural life span of about 10 days, in mice with high-fat diets, new taste buds weren't being produced nearly fast enough to replace the old ones as they died off.

This research suggests that obesity might be part of a dangerous, self-fulfilling cycle: Because taste plays a significant role in the amount of satisfaction we get from food, people with a dulled sense of taste may naturally seek out more food to appease their appetites. Robin Dando, one of the co-authors of the study, told Pacific Standard that learning more about this phenomenon could help treat obesity in the future, by changing "how people perceive their foods."

Scientists don't yet fully understand why the obese mice weren't producing enough new taste buds, but per the study, it might have something to do with a molecule called tumor necrosis factor alpha. When the researchers repeated their study with mice that couldn't produce that molecule, the mice who were fed high-fat diets still gained weight, but their taste buds reproduced just like their normally-fed counterparts, Pacific Standard reported.

Read more about the study at Pacific Standard. Shivani Ishwar

4:11 p.m. ET

Putting "Russia" and "elections" in the same sentence makes for a touchy subject, given the country's spotty record of voting integrity. So it's no wonder that a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders whether Russia's elections were "free and fair" in Tuesday's press briefing, in light of reports that President Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on winning re-election.

"We don't get to dictate how other countries operate," Sanders responded.

All well and good — except dictating how other countries operate is kind of what the U.S. is known for. For example, 15 years ago today, U.S. forces invaded Iraq en route to deposing its leader, Saddam Hussein.

Want another example? We've got you covered. Kathryn Krawczyk

1. The Roosevelt Corollary: Teddy Roosevelt whipped out that big stick policy to "protect" South and Central American countries from angry European creditors. Venezuela and other at-risk nations didn't end up needing much help, but the U.S. did use it as an excuse to barge in anyway.

2. The Truman Doctrine/Marshall Plan: This one boils down to the U.S. giving money to European countries if they promised to say no to communism.

3. 1953 Iranian Coup: The CIA waited 50 years to admit it organized a coup to overthrow a democratically elected prime minister in Iran.

4. and 5. The Vietnam and Korean Wars: Two times the U.S. showed up to fight off the communist half of a country and protect the democratic one.

6-49. These 44 other countries where the U.S. meddled with elections — not including the times where America just overthrew a foreign leader it didn't like.

3:49 p.m. ET
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Playboy

A former Playboy model who says she had an affair with President Trump is suing the media company that paid her to stay silent about the allegations back in 2016, The New York Times reports. The model, Karen McDougal, filed a lawsuit Tuesday to be released from the agreement.

The New York Times reports that McDougal was paid $150,000 by American Media Inc., the parent company of The National Enquirer, in the summer of 2016. The media company then buried the story, never publishing her allegations. David Pecker, the CEO of AMI, once called Trump a "personal friend," Rolling Stone noted last month.

In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, McDougal argues the contract is invalid because AMI and her lawyer at the time misled her about the agreement. She also alleges that Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, was secretly involved in the negotiations to bury the story and provide payment.

McDougal's allegations and details of AMI's payment were first reported by The Wall Street Journal in November 2016, as were strikingly similar allegations from adult film star Stormy Daniels, who is also involved in litigation to speak freely about Trump. After McDougal spoke of the 2006 affair in an interview with The New Yorker published last month, AMI told her that "any further disclosures" would be considered a breach of contract and "cause considerable monetary damages," reports the Times.

Trump has denied all allegations of an affair with both McDougal and Daniels. Read the full report on McDougal's lawsuit at The New York Times. Summer Meza

2:29 p.m. ET

United Airlines won't load any more large animals on flights until it figures out what's going wrong with its furry passengers.

Last week, a dog died after it was put in an overhead compartment. The next day, a German Shepherd from Kansas was swapped with a Great Dane and sent to Japan. Two days after that, another flight was diverted to drop off a pet that had been loaded on the wrong plane.

The mistakes prompted United to announce it would suspend PetSafe, its program for transporting large animals in climate-controlled compartments, "to conduct a thorough and systematic review" of how to improve the program. Any PetSafe reservations made before Tuesday will be honored, but the program will be shuttered from now on.

United already said it would review its animal transport system before making the announcement Tuesday. It's decided to introduce color-coded tags to identify carry-on pets as one solution to the overheard compartment debacle.

Passengers can still bring small animals as carry-ons during thePetSafereview, which United expects to wrap up by May 1, per its website. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:08 p.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Update 2:26 p.m. ET: The San Antonio police chief told the Austin-American Statesman that he "misspoke when he claimed a second suspicious package was found at a FedEx facility in Schertz." A second device was not found, and The Washington Post has likewise amended their reporting. Our original article appears below.

Police have discovered a second explosive device at a FedEx facility in Schertz, Texas, where an early morning explosion left one employee injured, The Washington Post reports. The second device had not yet detonated when it was uncovered by the police, and authorities hope it will offer clues to help identify a suspect believed to be serially bombing residents of Austin, where the devices at the Schertz facility were reportedly headed.

The Schertz police chief told reporters that investigators are "confident that neither this facility nor any location in the Schertz area was the target" of Tuesday's bombs.

To date, the Austin bombings have killed two people and injured an additional four. "In bomb investigations, unexploded devices can be critical to narrowing the search for suspects, because the materials used to assemble the device can be traced back to the supplier — and, in many cases, the individual purchaser," writes The Washington Post. Jeva Lange

1:50 p.m. ET

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified on her department's budget before the House Appropriations subcommittee Tuesday, on the heels of her disastrous appearance on 60 Minutes last week. The hearing did not go much better: DeVos found herself facing a hostile crowd of Democrats, who expressed open frustration with her lack of answers. Watch some of the most uncomfortable moments below. Jeva Lange

Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.): Is there some problem? Yes or no. Will you guarantee—

DeVos: I think I've been clear—

Clark: Then say yes or no!

DeVos: Yes!

Clark: Okay, great. Thank you. Wow, it took a year.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.): Madam Secretary, you just don't care much about the civil rights of black and brown children. This is horrible.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.): What's the best way to prevent another young person from taking lives at the hands of a gun?

DeVos: I think there are a number of ways to address this, the president has been very clear in his focus.

DeLauro: What are they?

DeVos: There are ways to prevent young people from getting guns, who should not be having guns, from having them.

Clark: What about after-school programs? You also eliminated the 21st Century Community Centers, that's 80,000 kids in Florida alone.

DeVos: … There's no data to show [after-school programs] are effective in what the stated goal has been —

Clark: What do you mean there is no data? There is study after study after study.

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