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April 2, 2012

Amateur detectives can now get "the DNA-copying power of a professional lab" in a "gadget the size of a coffeemaker." The OpenPCR box ($599) replicates small samples of DNA until there are billions of molecules to work with, effectively allowing you "to identify the mold on that leftover pizza or do a very discreet paternity test." Just place your sample into a tube with some PCR mix, drop the tube into a slot, and after "a few hours of heating and cooling cycles," the sample is ready to be analyzed. Source: Wired The Week Staff

10:25 a.m. ET
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The summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be canceled, but the commemorative coins will live on forever.

Trump on Thursday pulled out of the summit that was scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, writing to Kim that "it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting" due to increasing tensions. But the souvenir coins that the White House Communications Agency minted earlier this week are still for sale through the White House gift shop.

The coin celebrated the "PEACE TALKS" of 2018, depicting Trump and Kim facing off with both national flags. Patriotic collectors can still visit the White House gift shop online and pre-order a coin for just $24.95, though it's a different version that includes South Korean President Moon Jae-In. It even comes in a black velvet coin case!

If coins aren't your thing but you still want to remember the almost-talks, don't worry — The White House is still taking orders for the official Nuclear Deproliferation Summit Ornament. The shop says its the most sophisticated ornament design yet, made to complement the summit coin.

So buy your souvenirs now: If not to commemorate a successful summit, then to wistfully sigh and remember what could have been. Summer Meza

10:04 a.m. ET

President Trump and his allies have been attacking former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper over the past few days, part of his attempt to make "Spygate" happen. Clapper is on a media tour to promote his new book, Facts and Fears, and along with explaining how Trump is distorting his words and the FBI's attempt to investigate Russia, Clapper has been explaining his contention in the book that the Russians, to their surprise, "swung the election to a Trump win."

"Since I left the government," Clapper told PBS NewsHour on Wednesday, "it's what I call my informed opinion that given the massive effort the Russians made, the number of citizens that they touched, and the variety and the multidimensional aspects of what they did to influence opinion and affect the election, and given the fact that it turned on less than 80,000 votes in three states, to me it just exceeds logic and credulity that they didn't affect the election, and it's my belief they actually turned it."

On CNN Thursday night, Clapper swatted down more Trump team attacks and reiterated his "informed opinion" about Russia handing the election to Trump, though, he told Jake Tapper, "I don't have the empirical evidence to go with it."

But there is some empirical evidence, if not conclusive, in a new working paper at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Automated Twitter bots — a key tool that Russians used in the election — may have added 3.23 percentage points to Trump's vote in 2016, as well as 1.76 percentage points to the "leave" vote in Britain's Brexit campaign, the researchers found. "Our results suggest that, given narrow margins of victories in each vote, bots' effect was likely marginal but possibly large enough to affect the outcomes," write authors Yuriy Gorodnichenko from U.C. Berkeley and Tho Pham and Oleksandr Talavera from Britain's Swansea University. You can read more about the study at Bloomberg News. Peter Weber

9:51 a.m. ET

President Trump has pulled out of a historic summit in Singapore with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un, which had been scheduled for June 12, calling it "a truly sad moment in history."

In an open letter, Trump told Kim "we greatly appreciate your time, patience, and effort with respect to our recent negotiations" and that "I was very much looking forward to being there with you," but that "it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting" due to increasing tensions between the parties. A North Korean vice minister of foreign affairs called Vice President Mike Pence "ignorant" and "stupid" on Thursday for comparing North Korea to Libya, and warned Kim would cancel the summit if the U.S. didn't stop its threats.

Read the letter in full below. Jeva Lange

9:44 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Tensions between two of the Trump administration's economic advisers has surpassed the usual co-worker drama.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and top trade adviser Peter Navarro have not resolved their differences when it comes to economic policy opinions, The Daily Beast reported Thursday, and sources say Navarro has taken to calling Mnuchin "Neville Chamberlain."

That former U.K. prime minister famously capitulated to Nazi Germany and fascist dictator Adolf Hitler during the late 1930s. Navarro reportedly sees China as such a serious economic threat that he thinks Mnuchin's international policy principles make him just as bad as a Nazi appeaser.

Navarro takes an "America First" stance when it comes to trade policies, The Daily Beast reports, and is very frustrated that other advisers like Mnuchin don't want to be as tough on China as he'd like. One official said that the battle between the two advisers is like a "cold war that became hot," also referring to a shouting match between Mnuchin and Navarro while in China earlier this month. Read more at The Daily Beast. Summer Meza

9:42 a.m. ET
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The U.K. is blaming Russia for a prank phone call to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, with Johnson's deputy, Alan Duncan, telling Bloomberg News: "If this was an attempt to ridicule us, it has totally backfired." Russian pranksters have previously placed hoax calls to U.S. politicians by posing as world leaders; earlier this year, radio comedians "Vovan" and "Lexus" pretended to be the speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament in order to offer Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) nude photos of President Trump, and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was tricked into telling the pranksters she was "closely watching" Russia's interference in the elections of Binomo, a made-up country.

Johnson apparently realized the call was a hoax and ended the conversation, earning the respect of prankster Alexei Stolyarov who claimed it was "probably the first time the person we talked to ... was not a fool."

The U.K. was not amused, suggesting that the Kremlin supported the call in an attempt to discredit reports that Russia poisoned former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England. "These childish actions show the lack of seriousness of the caller and those behind him," said the Foreign Office. Jeva Lange

8:56 a.m. ET
Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump and his allies have spent the past week stoking unfounded fears that the Deep State planted a spy in his 2016 presidential campaign, and Trump didn't let up on Thursday, tweeting:

Trump was immediately called out on his lies. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper actually said the opposite of what Trump claims, Politifact reports: Clapper's exact quote when asked "was the FBI spying on Trump's campaign" was, "No, they were not. They were spying on — a term I don't particularly like — but on what the Russians were doing."

There is no publicly available evidence that there was any politically motivated spying on Trump's campaign. Rather, an FBI informant spoke with two Trump campaign advisers in 2016 after being alerted to suspicious contacts with Russia. "Accusations that the FBI was 'spying' on the Trump campaign — rather than spying on foreign spies, which is its job — erase the important distinctions between counterintelligence and criminal investigations," argued Asha Rangappa at The Washington Post.

Many critics believe Trump is intentionally branding the intelligence community as partisan as a means of discrediting Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Read how Trump's strategy might just be crazy enough to work here at The Week. Jeva Lange

8:03 a.m. ET
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In March 2016, an errant Snapchat video of a U.S. Air Force airman stationed at F.W. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming led investigators to a ring of airmen who were using LSD, ecstasy, cocaine, and other mind-altering or illegal drugs, The Associated Press reports. Eventually, disciplinary action was taken against 14 of the airmen, all of whom were in the the 90th Missile Wing — which, AP explains, "operates one-third of the 400 Minuteman 3 missiles that stand 'on alert' 24/7 in underground silos scattered across the northern Great Plains," the ICBMs "capable of unleashing hell." Six airmen were court-martialed for using and/or distributing LSD.

"I absolutely just loved altering my mind," the purported ringleader, Airman 1st Class Nickolos Harris, testified at his court-martial hearing. Airman 1st Class Devin Hagarty panicked and fled to Mexico when the investigation began, grabbing cash and a backpack and text-messaging his mom that he loved her. Another court-martialed member, Airman Basic Kyle Morrison, said in his hearing that while tripping he could not have responded if called to duty in a nuclear emergency.

"Although this sounds like something from a movie, it isn't," said prosecutor Capt. Charles Grimsley during one court-martial. Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Uriah Orland told AP that all the drug activity occurred during off-duty hours and that "there are multiple checks to ensure airmen who report for duty are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and are able to execute the mission safely, securely, and effectively." The military stopped screening for LSD in 2006. You can read more about the trips, the punishments, and the mole at AP. Peter Weber

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