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February 16, 2016
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The conspiracy theory mill has been turning ever since Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead on Saturday at the age of 79. "We discovered the judge in bed, a pillow over his head. His bed clothes were unwrinkled," Cibolo Creek Ranch owner John Poindexter told the San Antionio Express-News after discovering the body.

Never mind that officials said Scalia "suffered from a host of chronic conditions" and that his death appeared "entirely natural and normal" — fingers have been pointing instead at everyone from the CIA to Dick Cheney. One theorist, Alex Jones, said in an "emergency broadcast" that his "gut" told him Obama was behind Scalia's death and that the president was seeking to obtain "unprecedented power... during his last year in office."

Now even Donald Trump has thrown his weight behind the rumors, wondering aloud about the exact circumstances of Scalia's death. No stranger to conspiracy theories, Trump spoke Tuesday with talk show host Michael Savage about the possibility of foul play.

"I just landed, and I'm hearing it's a big topic — that's the question," Trump told Savage, adding, "And it's a horrible topic, but they say they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow." Listen below. Jeva Lange

3:05 p.m. ET
Newsmakers

The oceans are rising, Oregon will basically fall into the sea when the Big One hits, and the globe just keeps getting hotter. But hey, look on the bright side — at least the giant hole in the ozone is on track to be fully healed later this century!

The spot of good news comes from Susan Solomon, the lead author in a study published Thursday in Science that appears to prove that the hole in the ozone above the Antarctic is on track to actually repair itself sometime around 2060. The researchers praise the 1987 Montreal Protocol as at least partially responsible for the progress, thanks to its ban of chlorinated compounds in refrigerator coolants and aerosols, which used to float up to terrorize the stratosphere.

"I think a lot of people feel that environmental stories always have bad endings. In this case, the recovery will happen, but it'll take time," atmospheric chemist Susan Strahan said after evaluating the researchers' evidence.

Solomon agreed. "This is a reminder that when the world gets together, we really can solve environmental problems. I think we should all congratulate ourselves on a job well done," she told Gizmodo.

There you have it — give yourself a pat on the back. Good work, team. Jeva Lange

1:58 p.m. ET

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has announced that transgender members of the military will be allowed to serve openly, putting an end to the Pentagon's ban. Carter added that the changes will begin to be implemented over the course of the next year.

Although there are already thousands of transgender people in the military, they risked being discharged if discovered, just as gay and lesbian troops did before "don't ask, don't tell" was repealed in 2011. Still, some in the upper ranks of the military have worried that the "social experiment" could hurt the military's ability to operate effectively, although Carter has condemned the transgender ban as being outdated. Studies have also failed to prove that the inclusion of transgender members would stunt the military's preparedness. Jeva Lange

1:29 p.m. ET
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The United Nations Human Rights Council voted Thursday to create a role for a global LGBT rights monitor, the first position of its kind in the U.N. The person will be an "independent expert" who works as a watchdog for "violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity." The resolution passed in a vote of 23 to 18, with six nations abstaining, and it marks a major step toward the international community recognizing LGBT rights as legal, universal rights.

Pakistan led the opposition to the resolution on the behalf of the majority of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, with Albania being the only OIC member to support the resolution. The IOC managed to pass amendments highlighting the respect for local values, "religious sensitivities," and domestic policies, BuzzFeed reports. The bloc also managed to add an amendment disapproving of countries that take up "coercive measures" in order to influence local policies, such as when the U.S. changed its aid to Uganda following an anti-LGBT law that was passed there in 2014. Jeva Lange

1:13 p.m. ET
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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is being vetted as Donald Trump's possible running mate, say sources who have been briefed on the process and who spoke anonymously with The New York Times. Trump's foe in the primaries, Christie has since settled in as the presumptive GOP nominee's right-hand man — the extent of which draws henchman-like comparisons as Christie has been rumored to fetch Trump McDonald's orders and was mocked for looking like a hostage as he shadowed Trump during a speech.

"I think he's been diminished by the way the Trump organization has used him, and I think that's really unfortunate," Christie's New Hampshire strategist, Joel Maiola, observed.

Still, those familiar with Christie's role in the Trump campaign aren't surprised that Trump has vowed Christie will find a prominent place in his White House. Christie has reportedly advised Trump on his speeches, policies, and was one of the insiders who suggested Trump drop Corey Lewandowski as campaign manager.

Trump has joked that Christie is even responsible for bulldozing fellow 2016 competitor Marco Rubio out of the way for him during the primaries. According to recent attendees of a fundraiser, Trump went as far as to thank Christie for "being the bad guy." Jeva Lange

12:29 p.m. ET
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The incident involving the capture of 10 American sailors by Iran in January was the result of "failed leadership at multiple levels from the tactical to the operational," according to a new report by military investigators released on Thursday. The numerous mistakes ranged from the crews being poorly prepared to the boats failing to be properly maintained to sailors' conduct after being captured not adhering to military standards, including an incident where one sailor disobeyed a direct order.

Additionally, the sailors apparently swung off course almost immediately and had no idea where they were when one of the boats suffered mechanical problems. However, the report found that while the Americans didn't break international laws, the Iranians did by impeding the boat's "innocent passage."

Two officers have already been fired, and six other crew members could face discipline. Read more of the Navy report's finding at CNN. Jeva Lange

12:14 p.m. ET
iStock

Freeze! Put the spoon down. Back away slowly from the refrigerator. And don't even think about putting that cookie dough in your mouth.

Crushing the appetites of bakers everywhere, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it is unsafe to eat raw cookie dough, even if there are no raw eggs involved. While everyone knows that eggs can give you salmonella, it is actually the raw flour that the FDA is now saying is unsafe — so say goodbye to gnawing on the brownie spoon, too.

Part of the risk comes from the fact that flour is not typically treated for bacteria, and animal waste can get into the grain before it gets processed. While that bacteria is killed in the process of baking, roasting, or frying, it doesn't get killed when you eat the flour raw. In the past several months, dozens of people have been sickened due to E. coli in flour, with 38 people in 20 states falling ill since December. General Mills ended up recalling flour products Gold Medal, Signature Kitchens, and Gold Medal Wondra if they were made between November and early December.

The flour strain of E. coli can give you abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea, and for the elderly and those under 5 years old it can even result in kidney failure. But if that's the risk you're willing to take — go ahead, take a bite. Jeva Lange

11:25 a.m. ET
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A New Jersey teacher called the police when one student in her third grade class made a comment another child said was racist. "He said they were talking about brownies," which the class was eating for an end-of-the-year party, said the boy's mother, Stacy dos Santos. "Who exactly did he offend?"

Dos Santos reports her son was "traumatized" by his interaction with the police, and she hopes to send him to a different school in the fall. "He was intimidated, obviously," she said. "There was a police officer with a gun in the holster talking to my son, saying, 'Tell me what you said.' He didn't have anybody on his side."

Police are called to the elementary school in question as often as five times per day, as teachers prefer to dial the cops rather than dealing with routine misbehavior themselves. Following the brownies incident, the local police department reiterated its guidelines for the school as to appropriate circumstances for bringing officers to discipline elementary school hijinks. Bonnie Kristian

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