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February 26, 2015
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A new survey from Public Policy Polling found that 57 percent of Republicans want America to officially be a Christian nation.

Meanwhile, 30 percent of Republicans were opposed to making Christianity the official religion of the U.S., while 13 percent were "not sure." The problem, The Huffington Post notes, is that the First Amendment forbids the establishment of a national religion.

The Public Policy Polling survey was based on responses from 316 Republicans from a phone and internet poll conducted from Feb. 20 to Feb. 22. Meghan DeMaria

12:06 p.m. ET
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President Trump may want to be friends with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, but it seems Pyongyang may not feel the same. A North Korean official told Reuters on Friday that negotiations over its nuclear weapons program were out of the question unless the U.S. and South Korea stopped conducting joint military exercises. The exercises on the Korean peninsula are an annual occurrence, but they have long been a point of contention for North Korea.

Trump has previously threatened to "totally destroy North Korea." During his trip to Asia last week, however, he implored the Hermit Kingdom to "make a deal," expressing a desire to open discussions with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons program. While Trump may hope that muscular shows of military force and his "madman" theory of diplomacy will bring Kim to the negotiating table, Han Tae Song, North Korea's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, was clear that his country sees the U.S. military presence on the Korean peninsula as a threat to its existence: "As long as there is continuous hostile policy against my country by the U.S. and as long as there are continued war games at our doorstep, then there will not be negotiations," he told Reuters.

Although it has been two months since Pyongyang's last nuclear test, North Korea recently called Trump "a hideous criminal sentenced to death by the Korean people" — after the president kinda-not-really-but-sorta-definitely called Kim "short and fat." Kelly O'Meara Morales

11:59 a.m. ET
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Each fall, the small Alaskan village of Kaktovik experiences a tourism boom — and lately, it's coming due to climate change. Polar bears trek to the tiny town as rising temperatures melt the sea ice on which they live, and tourists with cameras follow, ABC News reports.

Scientists estimate that the presence of sea ice declines at a rate of 9 percent every decade. As the ice melts, it takes polar bear territory and hunting grounds with it. Alaskan locals told ABC News that hungry polar bears descend on the town to feed on the leftover carcasses from annual whale hunts.

Polar bears used to arrive in the town around late September, ABC News reports, but now they arrive as early as July. "We've been hunting whales for about 10,000 years. So they're not coming here because of the bones, the remains of the whales that we catch. They are coming because their habitat has gone away," said Robert Thompson, a local tour guide.

The animals can be vicious if provoked, so Kaktovik locals have set up bear patrols for safety. Still, that doesn't deter tourists, who take boats to get as close as possible to capture photos of the rare species.

Polar bears are at high risk of endangerment, and only 20,000 to 25,000 bears remain out of captivity. Elianna Spitzer

11:06 a.m. ET
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Scientists are designing the largest digital camera in the world in order to capture panorama shots of the sky, NPR reports. The camera will be mounted on a massive telescope, called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, so that it can continually and repeatedly capture photos.

Previous cameras could only capture one part of the sky at a time, NPR explains, but LSST's panorama images will allow scientists to record objects moving across the sky over time. "That could be everything from asteroids, to variable stars, to supernova, to maybe new phenomenon that we don't know about yet," Aaron Roodman, a physicist at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, told NPR.

Pieces of the camera are in the works at labs all over the world: The Brookhaven National Laboratory on New York's Long Island is constructing sensors; The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is working on optical lenses near the San Francisco Bay in California; a device for switching out color filters is coming all the way from France.

The massive camera will carry the equivalent of 21 144-megapixel cameras. A single 144-megapixel camera has six times the amount of megapixels on a high-end camera.

Once it's built, the camera will be attached to the LSST in Chile. Scientists aim to start taking photos in 2020. Elianna Spitzer

10:40 a.m. ET
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Comcast Corp. is looking to buy 21st Century Fox's assets, The Wall Street Journal reports. Coverage of the potential deal gave 21st Century Fox shares a 7 percent boost in after-hours trading and gave Comcast a smaller 1 percent bump.

Comcast apparently wants to purchase some of Fox's American networks as well as international assets, including Star India and a minority stake in the European broadcaster Sky. International assets account for about 70 percent of the financial stakes in the deal. The telecommunications conglomerate may also be looking to buy Fox's movie studio, cable network, and regional sports network, CNBC reports.

Leaked deal talks come as a surprise to many analysts. Until November, Fox, owned by the Murdoch family, seemed eager to grow, angling to acquire control of Sky itself. But on Nov. 6, CNBC broke the news that Disney and Fox had held preliminary talks about Disney buying Fox's movie studio and Hulu, though those discussions have apparently simmered down. Verizon and Sony might also be throwing their hats into the ring alongside Comcast. Elianna Spitzer

10:14 a.m. ET
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Lame-duck New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was pilloried nationwide during the 2016 presidential election as he was repeatedly demeaned by then-candidate Donald Trump and his aides, most notably when he was apparently sent to fetch Big Macs for the future president. But a Politico story published Friday raises a different possibility: What if those stories were fake news?

Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aide, told Politico that he fabricated the story of Christie fetching McDonald's for Trump because he wanted to humiliate the governor. "The sad reality is that it was believable," Nunberg said.

Christie himself claimed that other gaffes of his have been exaggerated, too. Take his infamous summer trip to the beach, for example — a beach he'd ordered closed to the public over the July 4 weekend during a state budget shutdown, but then used for himself and his friends and family anyway. Christie defended himself, saying he did not regret the shoreline excursion because he'd already told his children that they'd spend the holiday on the beach. He added that he had no way of knowing he was being photographed: "Could you imagine that I could see the long lens? Of course not."

Christie's various scandals didn't seem to bother President Trump all that much, however, as the mogul reportedly made several overtures to the governor to secure his endorsement during the Republican presidential primary. Although Christie did not address rumors that Trump extended — and then rescinded — an offer for him to be vice president, he did say that Trump offered "two Cabinet positions and three other really senior positions in the administration." "I've turned them all down because they weren't stuff I was interested in," Christie said.

Read the full profile of the outgoing governor at Politico. Kelly O'Meara Morales

9:45 a.m. ET
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President Trump's former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos repeatedly boasted about his role in the 2016 presidential campaign to Greek newspaper reporters, going so far as to claim that he had been offered a "blank check" to pick a senior administration job after the election, Politico reports. While the Greek journalists observed Papadopoulos' tendency toward exaggeration, their account illustrates the chasm of difference between Papadopoulos' and Trump's public interpretation of his role in the campaign.

Papadopoulos was arrested in July and charged with making false statements about his attempts to get "dirt" on Hillary Clinton via a Russian contact. Papadopoulos also pitched Trump on meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a suggestion Attorney General Jeff Sessions mostly confirmed he shot down. Former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo argued on CNN that Papadopoulos' import on the campaign team has been wildly overblown: "He was the coffee boy!" Caputo told host Chris Cuomo.

Papadopoulos, though, told the Greek reporters that Trump had personally called him in March 2016 for a short, introductory conversation after he was invited to the foreign policy advisory team. On March 21, Trump singled Papadopoulos out to Washington Post reporters: "He's an energy and oil consultant," Trump raved. "Excellent guy."

Papadopoulos thought so too, later texting the reporters: "Everyone knows I helped [get Trump] elected, now I want to help him with the presidency." Read more about Papadopoulos' claims at Politico. Jeva Lange

8:44 a.m. ET
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The Trump Organization and family failed to make inquiries into who was purchasing condos in the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City, instead accepting money from a range of shady clients including members of the Russian mafia and drug cartel money launderers, an NBC News/Reuters investigation found. "I had some customers with questionable backgrounds," said Brazilian real estate salesman Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, who sold hundreds of units in the building beginning in 2006 but now lives as a fugitive due to an unrelated money-laundering scheme. "Nobody ever asked me," Ventura added. "Banks never asked. Developer didn't ask and [the] Trump Organization didn't ask. Nobody ask, 'Who are the customers, where did the money come from?' No, nobody ask."

Former Panamanian financial crimes prosecutor Mauricio Ceballos put it more bluntly, calling the Trump Ocean Club "a vehicle for money laundering."

Although the Trump Organization was not the developer for the building, it did license its brand and it operates the hotel and receives a cut of the condo sales. President Trump continues to make money from the project, earning $13.9 million over the last three years. In the words of Ventura, the Ocean Club was Ivanka Trump's personal "baby." NBC News writes that while there is "no indication that the Trump Organization or members of the Trump family engaged in any illegal activity, or knew of the criminal backgrounds of some of the project's associates," a willingness to turn a blind eye could nevertheless get the Trumps in trouble with U.S. law.

Panama constitutional law professor Miguel Antonio Bernal said there are hundreds of buildings in Panama City like the Trump Ocean Club that are used for money laundering. "There are more than 500 buildings like this," he explained. "But this — the difference of this — is that this has the name of the actual president of the United States." Read the full investigation here. Jeva Lange

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