February 28, 2016
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NBC has severed ties with Melissa Harris-Perry following an unusually public disagreement with the host, an MSNBC spokesman confirmed Sunday. Rumors that Harris-Perry would be leaving the network surfaced Saturday after Harris-Perry wrote an email to her coworkers earlier in the week saying she felt "worthless" in the eyes of network executives after several pre-emptions of her show for election coverage. "I am not a token, mammy, or little brown bobble head," Harris-Perry wrote. She also refused to appear on her program Saturday morning.

Harris-Perry was apparently displeased with the network's treatment of her program, which had been bumped in favor of presidential election coverage, and reportedly thought her show was on the verge of cancellation, something the network has denied. MSNBC has faced similar diversity criticism over its treatment of Jose Diaz-Balart's weekday show and its demotion of two African-American hosts, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Joy Reid, in order to air more breaking news coverage.

Harris-Perry has not yet commented on the latest announcement, but you can read the full memo she sent to her staff here. Kimberly Alters

9:59 a.m. ET

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson thinks it's only right that "elderly" candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton release their medical records. During an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Wednesday, the one-time 2016 GOP presidential candidate said that while it's already "common sense" for anyone running for president to "disclose their medical history," it becomes particularly pertinent if the candidates are getting up there in age. (Trump is 70, while Clinton will turn 69 just before Election Day.) "It makes sense. Because as people get older, things begin to happen to them," Carson said.

Last year, Trump released a letter from his gastroenterologist regarding his health that declared him ready to be the "healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency." Clinton's campaign, meanwhile, released a statement from her internist last summer detailing everything from her seasonal allergies to her concussion in 2012 — though that hasn't quelled rumors among conservatives that her health is failing.

Carson, a Trump surrogate, agrees with calls for Clinton to release her medical records — but he thinks that's a standard Trump should be held to as well. "Because [being president is] a very stressful job — it's not an eight-hour-a-day job, it's 24/7," Carson said. "We need to make sure that is taken care of."

Watch the segment, below. Becca Stanek

9:11 a.m. ET

The world's largest aircraft's second attempt at flight didn't go nearly as well as its first. A week after the Airlander 10 successfully completed its maiden flight, the 302-foot-long aircraft took a nosedive while attempting a second test flight Wednesday. The aircraft, nicknamed the "Flying Bum" because of its rounded backside, reportedly hit a telegraph pole while it was landing at Cardington airfield in Bedfordshire, located in south-central England.

"The flight went really well and the only issue was when it landed," a spokesman told BBC. The crew is reported "safe and well," but the Airlander 10 wasn't so lucky. Reports indicate the aircraft's "front and sides," as well as its cockpit, were damaged in the botched landing, Sky News reported.

The aircraft, which measures about 50 feet longer than the world's largest passenger jet, is a hybrid between a helicopter and a blimp, as it's filled with helium. When Airlander 10 is fully up and running, it's expected to be able to stay in the air for up to five days. Becca Stanek

8:23 a.m. ET
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Donald Trump used campaign money to buy thousands of copies of his own book, a move that experts are saying is suspicious and possibly illegal. A spokesperson for Trump explained to The Daily Beast that the books, bought from Barnes & Noble, were purchased "as part of gifting at the convention, which we have to do." Gift bags at the Republican convention indeed held copies of Trump's November 2015 release, Crippled America.

But that is where things start to get a little fishy. First of all, it is illegal to convert campaign funds into personal funds in any way, so Trump would be required to forgo any royalties he made off the purchase of those books. "What any author that I know would most likely do is go to the publisher and say, 'I want a bunch of these in the goody bag.' [The author would] come to the publisher and say he needed books for a charity or an event, and we would donate 500 all the time. And we'll sell more to you at a 40 percent discount," Ben Bruton, a publishing PR veteran, told The Daily Beast.

The fact that the purchases were made through Barnes & Noble adds another layer of intrigue. Book sales from Amazon or the book's publisher aren't looked at when composing bestseller lists; only purchases at brick-and-mortar locations like Barnes & Noble are.

Trump's book failed to make the charts the week of the purchase. Still, The New York Times is aware of attempts to bulk-purchase books and has measures in place to count against it on their bestseller lists. "You can't just buy your way onto the bestsellers list," Bruton said, although he added, "I do believe that [Trump's purchase] was definitely an attempt to both make money and to get onto the bestseller list." Read the full scoop over at The Daily Beast. Jeva Lange

8:12 a.m. ET

The National Park Service turns 100 years old on Thursday, and one of its goals for its second century is to attract more tourists of color to the 131,000 square miles of parks, monuments, and other public landmarks it manages. This isn't just a matter of diversity for diversity's sake or "this land is your land" idealism, say Felicia Fonseca and Beatriz Costa-Lima at The Associated Press. The U.S. is expected to be majority minority by 2050, and the National Park Service sees broadening its tourist base as an existential challenge.

"If public lands aren't telling their story, and they don't see themselves reflected in these beautiful places, they may not support them," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell tells AP. "They may not recognize that these are their assets and protect them for future generations." Studies commissioned by the National Park Service suggest that about 75 percent of park visitors are white, and there are several reasons minorities don't visit in proportionate number.

For black communities, there's not a strong tradition of visiting national parks, due in part to historic exclusion, says Myron F. Floyd, a scholar at North Carolina State University. Jose Gonzales, the founder of Latino Outdoors, says many Latinos don't know the national parks exist or have no transportation to get to them. Many Asian Americans, meanwhile, face language barriers at national parks or don't like to travel outside their ethnic enclaves, according to Mark Masaoka at the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council. You can see what the National Park Service plans to do about it, and be reminded of how beautiful some of the national treasures are, in the video below. Peter Weber

8:01 a.m. ET
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Truman Capote fans will soon have the chance to bring a piece of the writer home with them — literally. On September 24, Capote's ashes will go up for auction in Los Angeles, for a starting price of $2,000. The ashes are expected to sell for upwards of $6,000.

The author of In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's died 32 years ago, but the keeper of his ashes, Joanne Carson, the wife of former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, died last year. The ashes are part of her estate. Joanne was a close friend of Capote's, and the writer often lived and worked at her and her husband's home in Los Angeles until he died there in 1984.

While it might seem kind of macabre to auction off a dead man's ashes, some suspect this would've been right up Capote's alley. "In this case it's absolutely fine because it really embodies what Truman Capote was and what he loved to do," Darren Julien, president of Julien's Auctions, told The Guardian. "Truman told Joanne that he didn't want his ashes to sit on a shelf. So this is a different way of honoring his request. It is just furthering the adventures of Truman Capote." Becca Stanek

7:32 a.m. ET

The world's biggest pearl might have been discovered nearly a decade ago, but no one knew about it until now. That's because the Filipino fisherman who found the treasure hid it under his bed for 10 years as a good luck charm and didn't tell anyone about it, The Independent reports. His relatives eventually brought it to authorities.

(Aileen Cynthia Maggay-Amurao/Facebook)

The pearl measures an incredible 12 inches by 26.4 inches in size. It weighs a mind-blowing 75 pounds; the next largest pearl in the world weighs just 14 pounds.

While the pearl is confirmed to have come from a giant clam, if verified as authentic by international gemologists, it will be worth over an estimated $100 million. Jeva Lange

7:18 a.m. ET

The Washington Post's Aaron Blake says that Donald Trump appears to be "considering his biggest flip-flop yet," pivoting on his signature issue, immigration, while Slate's Jim Newell argues that Trump's "flip-flop" — in recent remarks on Fox News, Trump says he is "softening" his immigration positions, and would mostly follow President Obama's policies, "perhaps with a lot more energy," except he will eject the "bad" immigrants "so fast your head will spin" — is nothing more than a shuffling of adjectives and adverbs with nothing underneath. But what seems clear is that Trump's pledge to deport all 11 million illegal immigrants is, at least for now, off the table.

Given that building "the wall" — still in Trump's speeches — and cracking down on illegal immigrants are so central to Trump's campaign, won't his supporters be dismayed at this Clintonian triangulation? NBC's Katy Tur asked Trump voters outside a rally if they would still support Trump if he abandoned his deportation push, didn't build the wall, or even came up with some sort of amnesty. Their answers: Yup. Watch below. Peter Weber

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