February 8, 2016

It took five decades, but Betty Morrell, 82, finally tracked down her 96-year-old birth mother after stumbling upon a key piece of information online.

Morrell was adopted as an infant, and told that her biological mother died during childbirth. She waited until her adoptive parents died before trying to find her birth mother, and since it was a closed adoption, information was scarce. Morrell was finally able to determine that she was born in Utica, New York, in 1933 to a 13-year-old ward of the state named Lena Pierce. Her name at birth was Eva May.

Morrell's granddaughter, Kimberly Miccio, 32, spent years helping her grandmother search for any details on her birth family, and in September, she finally found on Ancestry.com the name of a distant relative, who put her in touch with Pierce's daughter, Millie Hawk. "I had found my baby sister, who's 65," Morrell told The Associated Press. "We just clicked. It was like we had known each other all our lives." It turns out, she also has three other sisters and two brothers, and Pierce is still alive and living in Hallstead, Pennsylvania.

Hawk said when she told her mother about Morrell, "she just sat down in a chair and cried. She said, 'My Eva May, they found her?' It was just so emotional." Morrell flew up from Florida with Miccio to meet her newfound family, and there were tears, Pierce said. "It sure was a joy to finally meet up with her," she added. "It's kind of hard when you have a child that you get separated from. I never wanted to give her up." Morrell and Hawk now talk all the time, and they're already planning their next visit. Morrell told AP that people searching for their birth families should keep hope alive: "I say absolutely don't give up. There's always something that will link it. It's a lot of work. It took me 50 years." Catherine Garcia

9:13 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

On his last day at the State Department, outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave a farewell speech that never mentioned President Trump by name but did include a jab at Washington, D.C.

"This can be a very mean-spirited town," the Texan said Thursday. "But you don't have to participate in that." He asked that "each of you undertake to ensure one act of kindness each day towards another person," and reminded the State Department staffers that their integrity "belongs to you. Only you can relinquish it or allow it to be compromised." He also said the United States "faces many challenges — in some instances perplexing foreign affairs relationships, and in other instances serious national security threats," and "in these times, your continued diligence and devotion to the State Department's mission has never been more necessary."

After he fired Tillerson earlier this month, Trump named CIA Director Mike Pompeo as his replacement, but he still needs to be confirmed by the Senate. His hearing is scheduled for April 12. Catherine Garcia

8:17 p.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump and John Bolton, the incoming national security adviser, have spent the last several weeks trying to figure out how Bolton could replace H.R. McMaster, CNN reports, and during negotiations, the hawkish Fox News analyst made a bold statement.

A person familiar with their talks told CNN's Kaitlan Collins that Bolton, who while part of the George W. Bush administration pushed for the Iraq War and has called for strikes against North Korea and Iran, promised Trump that if he gave him the position, "he wouldn't start any wars." Fingers crossed he keeps his word. Catherine Garcia

7:53 p.m. ET
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

President Trump's next national security adviser, John Bolton, is best remembered for his role in former President George W. Bush's administration, where he advocated for the Iraq War and became U.S. ambassador to the United Nations as a recess appointment, after the Republican-controlled Senate was unable to confirm him.

Trump announced Thursday on Twitter that Bolton is replacing H.R. McMaster, effective April 9. A hawk on North Korea and Iran, Bolton wrote a piece for The Wall Street Journal in late February titled, "The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First," and in January told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo that "talking to North Koreans is a waste of time." Bolton has been highly critical of former President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran, and in 2015 wrote for The New York Times an op-ed that stated a United States or Israeli airstrike on Iranian nuclear facilities would be a good thing. "Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed," he wrote. "Such action should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran's opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran."

Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump said he was against the Iraq War, which Bolton pushed. Under Bush, Bolton was undersecretary of state for arms control, and argued that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. His staff also wrote a speech that Cuba had an active biological weapons program, and when the State Department's lead bioweapons analyst refused to sign off on this false claim, Bolton screamed at him, Vox reports. That wasn't an isolated incident — several people who worked with Bolton have accused him of yelling at and threatening those who disagreed with him. Catherine Garcia

6:50 p.m. ET
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Thursday evening that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is being replaced by John Bolton, a former United States ambassador to the United Nations and a Fox News analyst.

"I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job and will always remain my friend," Trump said. "There will be an official contact handover on 4/9." Bolton is known for being a hard-line conservative, and has had regular contact with Trump throughout his presidency, discussing foreign policy.

McMaster is an Army lieutenant general, and will retire from the military, several officials told The New York Times. He's been planning his departure for weeks now, they said, and Trump made it clear he wanted his national security team in place ahead of his eventual meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. There has always been some amount of tension between Trump and McMaster, White House officials told the Times, especially when McMaster publicly commented on Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election. McMaster was Trump's second national security adviser, following the ouster of Michael Flynn, who has since pleaded guilty of making a false statement to the FBI and is cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Catherine Garcia

5:41 p.m. ET

A mummified skeleton found in Chile nearly two decades ago inspired many a conspiracy theorist to declare that alien life had made its way to Earth. But a buzzkilling new study published Thursday found that the bones simply belonged to a human with a series of bone mutations.

The 6-inch skeleton — dubbed Ata by researchers and alien aficionados — displays an unusual series of DNA mutations, reports The New York Times. The combination of mutations may have caused a hereditary disorder that has never been seen before in humans, the Times explains.

That explains the utterly bizarre appearance of Ata, whose tiny frame has just ten ribs, rather than 12; a pointy, elongated skull; and large, alien-like eye sockets. Researchers don't know exactly when Ata lived, but some scientists now believe that she was a miscarried or aborted female fetus, preserved by dry conditions in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.

Because the mutations are brand new discoveries, researchers who sequenced the skeleton's genome are hesitant to declare a definitive explanation for Ata's deformities — unlike, say, a 2013 documentary about UFOs that featured the skeleton as evidence of extraterrestrial life. At least some of the mystery of Ata remains, for now.

Read more about Ata at The New York Times. Summer Meza

4:44 p.m. ET

It's only been a week since Toys 'R' Us announced it would close all of its stores, but heartbreak has hit the shelves again. Toys 'R' Us founder Charles Lazarus died Thursday, the company confirmed. He was 94.

Former CEO Michael Goldstein took over the company from Lazarus in 1994, but told CNN Money that Lazarus' legacy as "the father of the toy business" lived on.

Lazarus got the idea for Toys 'R' Us as he returned from World War II, per USA Today. His friends were ready to start families, and he soon envisioned superstores stocked to the ceiling with toys. The company's name was a pun on Lazarus' last name, while the iconic backwards "R" mimicked a child's handwriting.

Toys 'R' Us thrived through the baby boom and hit its peak in the 1980s, per CNN Money, but the arrivals of Walmart and online behemoth Amazon eventually took their toll. Liquidation sales were scheduled to begin Thursday. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:47 p.m. ET

CNN President Jeff Zucker isn't quite sure Fox News is an accurate name for his competitor's cable channel.

"The idea that it's a news channel, I think, is really not the case at all," Zucker said at an industry conference Thursday, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Those were reportedly some of Zucker's tamer words, as he went on to label Fox News a "complete propaganda machine" that does an "incredible disservice to this country." He even drew comparisons to Russia, calling Fox News "state-run TV."

Tucker didn't limit his comments to President Trump's network of choice; he spoke on the president too. Trump, Zucker said, "doesn't even understand the danger he's causing to journalists" by sowing "anti-media sentiment" — though late last year, he credited Trump with making "journalism great again."

But that's what makes today the "heyday of cable news," Zucker said — and everyone from CNN to Fox News is benefiting from it. Kathryn Krawczyk

See More Speed Reads