Here's a new virus to add to your worry list: Zika, a mosquito-born illness from Africa that, according to Brazilian researchers, can cause pregnant women to give birth to babies with microcephaly, or small, underdeveloped brains. Since being found in Brazil in May 2015, the World Health Organization says, Zika has now reached 21 countries in the Americas and Caribbean, and since there is no natural immunity to the virus, it is spreading rapidly in some places. (You can see a map of countries with confirmed cases here.)
There is also a possible link, in rare cases, between Zika and Guillain-Barré syndrome, but in most cases, Zika's symptoms are similar to other viruses spread by the Aedes mosquito, like dengue and chikungunya: fever, mild rash, headache, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. In about 80 percent of cases, there are no symptoms. Given that Brazil alone has seen 4,000 cases of microcephaly since October, though, some countries in the Americas — Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Jamaica — are advising women to delay pregnancy until officials have a better grasp of the disease. There is no vaccine or treatment. Peter Weber
During a speech in Washington on Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he's ready to start talking directly with North Korea, without any preconditions.
"Let's just meet," he said in front of the Atlantic Council. "We can talk about the weather if you want. We can talk about whether it's going to be a square table or a round table. Then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map, of what we might be willing to work toward." Previously, the U.S. has said it would only start discussions with Pyongyang if they talked about North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons.
Tillerson also said that for any talks to move forward, there would need to be a "period of quiet" without any missile or nuclear tests. He's taking a more measured approach than President Trump, who regularly insults North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un by calling him "Little Rocket Man" and "short and fat." Catherine Garcia
As it stands now, the tax bill Republican lawmakers are working on in the hopes of getting it to a final vote next week would lower the corporate tax rate to 21 percent and the top individual tax rate from 39.6 to 37 percent, The New York Times reports.
The versions of the bill passed by the House and Senate dropped the corporate tax rate to 20 percent. The individual rate is being lowered due to the concern of wealthy taxpayers who are afraid that because the Republicans want to eliminate several individual deductions, their taxes will go up, the Times says. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said progress is being made on the legislation and a deal could be reached late Tuesday. Republicans want to have the text out by Friday, ahead of a Senate vote on Monday and a vote in the House on either Tuesday or Wednesday. Catherine Garcia
Jake Tapper just asked Roy Moore's spokesman if Moore thinks 'homosexual conduct' should be illegal. His answer: 'Probably.'
Ted Crockett, a spokesperson for Alabama Republican Senate Candidate Roy Moore, really didn't want to answer a question Tuesday on whether Moore thinks homosexuality should be illegal. But CNN's Jake Tapper eventually nailed him down.
"Homosexuality is a sin in the biblical sense. That is where Roy Moore is in the state of Alabama," Ted Crockett initially responded. When the CNN host then asked if Moore thought that the Bible should be the law of the United States, the exasperated spokesman told him that America was founded on the Bible. "Jake you don't understand," Crockett said after Tapper brought up the Constitution's separation of church and state. Finally, Tapper asked, "Here's my question for you, sir: Does [Moore] think that homosexual conduct should be illegal? It's a yes or no question." Crockett held his mouth open and blinked before answering, "Probably."
Crockett, who is apparently unaware of the concept of irony, continued on to say, "We've got too many people that are winging it [in Washington]. They're fooling with women they shouldn't be fooling with. They ought to love their wives. Roy Moore loves his wife."
This is a wild interview pic.twitter.com/7lyNjV5dpO
— Gideon Resnick (@GideonResnick) December 12, 2017
Crockett's boss has been accused of sexually assaulting teenage girls, dating teenage girls (which he did not exactly deny), and trolling Alabama malls to pick up teenage girls while in his 30s. FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver predicted Monday that Moore has about a 70 percent chance of winning Tuesday's special election for Alabama's Senate seat. Kelly O'Meara Morales
The Olympic torch relay ceremony just had its most heavy metal moment in its more than 80-year history.
On day 41 of the torch relay, which begins in the original site of the ancient Olympics in Olympia, HUBO the humanoid robot walked briefly with the Olympic flame, for some reason. It then drilled a hole in a wall, smashed through it, and delivered the torch to its next carrier. In a nice human touch, HUBO got to pass the torch to his creator, professor Oh Jun-Ho, at the robot's place of birth, the Korean Advanced Institute of Science Technology.
HUBO probably never thought (if such a thought was possible) that the Olympic torch would end up in its robotic hands. After all, the humanoid robot was designed for responses to emergency and disaster situations, not torch-carrying. But now, HUBO the humanoid robot joins noted Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger as the only other robot to have carried an Olympic torch.
Watch HUBO carry the Olympic flame below and try and not to get too freaked out by the other and much larger human-controlled robot that appears at 1:37 of the video. Kelly O'Meara Morales
A bizarre, fast-moving rock with the "proportions of a giant cucumber" has entered our galaxy, becoming the first stony object of its sort ever observed zipping through the Milky Way, The Washington Post writes. As if the interstellar passerby wasn't exciting enough, extraterrestrial researchers are gearing up for what could be the observation of a lifetime — proof that intelligent life exists beyond our own little corner of the universe.
"The possibility that this object is, in fact, an artificial object — that it is a spaceship, essentially — is a remote possibility," explained the director of the Berkeley Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Research Center, Andrew Siemion.
Researchers have named the rock 'Oumuamua, the Hawaiian word for "messenger." 'Oumuamua's strange "behavior" is what has some researches thinking it could be more than just an ordinary quarter-mile-long cosmic pebble:
Planets and asteroids circle the sun on the same plane, like water swirling around a basin. 'Oumuamua dipped into the solar system from outside the plane, as if leaked from a cosmic faucet.
It is shaped strangely, too. Most asteroids of this size are spherical. This object has the proportions of a giant cucumber. In fact, Harvard University astronomer Avi Loeb recently told [Russian billionaire Yuri Milner] that 'Oumuamua has the optimal design of a vessel meant to travel through space, The Atlantic reported. [The Washington Post]
To get ready for the event, scientists announced that they will be pointing highly sophisticated radio telescopes at the space rock to pick up if it is using technology to reach its speeds of up to 196,000 miles per hour. The devices are so sophisticated, in fact, that "if an electronic device no more powerful than a WiFi router or telephone handset is transmitting on 'Oumuamua, the telescope will be able to sense it," the Post writes. Read more about the 'Oumuamua visitation here. Jeva Lange
One of the world's most popular dating apps just got a little bit creepier.
Tinder announced Tuesday that it's testing out a new feature letting users see more social media content from people they match with. The "Feed" — which is being tested in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada — is an updating timeline where users can see new Instagram posts, Spotify top artists, and new profile pictures from their Tinder matches. Engadget notes that the dating app already allows users to connect their Instagram and Spotify accounts to their Tinder profiles, but this new feed takes it a step further by creating something that resembles a Facebook News Feed filled with content posted by potential romantic interests (who, let's remember, you don't actually know yet).
If you don't want your matches to know about your life before you meet them, Tinder lets you manage which social media accounts and posts get linked to its feed. But once you allow it, Tinder users can interact with your social media content. As Tinder proclaims: "[G]ive Leilani a shout-out on her solid Boomerang skills, or let Zoe know the 'Best. Burger. Ever.' pic she just posted is your favorite too."
Tinder missed its most recent quarterly profit estimate, but the dating app is still profitable and was recently valued at $3 billion. The "Feed" is one of several new features Tinder has rolled out this year. In June, Tinder announced the creation of a subscription service that allows paying users to see who has "liked" their profile. And two weeks ago, the company introduced a machine learning tool that uses algorithms to show users new people that it thinks they will swipe right on. Tinder has over 50 million users, and the company recently promised to "blur lines between the physical and digital world for dating." Totally not creepy! Kelly O'Meara Morales
Sixty-one percent of Americans think Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore should be kicked out of the Senate if he wins the special election on Tuesday night, a new Politico/Morning Consult poll has found. A plurality of Republicans also agree that Moore should be removed, at 45 percent, while 29 percent think he should be allowed to serve in the Senate if he beats his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones.
Moore is accused of pursuing — and in one case, assaulting — teenage girls as young as 14. He has denied the claims, and been endorsed by President Trump and the Republican National Committee. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he believes Moore's accusers and that the former judge "should step aside" in the race, and other Republican senators, including Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.) and outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), have suggested Moore should be expelled if he gets elected.
The divide across the American public is noticeably tied to gender, with half of Republican women thinking the Senate should expel Moore, whereas only 39 percent of Republican men say the same. Overall, 65 percent of American women and 56 percent of American men agreed Moore should be expelled if he wins Tuesday evening.