December 7, 2017
South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images

North Korea insisted on the "established fact" that if the United States and South Korea continue to antagonize it with military exercises, war would become inevitable, The Associated Press reports. The threats followed this week's ongoing joint drills between Washington and Seoul, which have involved hundreds of warplanes and simulated land strikes near South Korea's east coast.

"We do not wish for a war but shall not hide from it," a North Korean spokesman said, "and should the U.S. miscalculate our patience and light the fuse for a nuclear war, we will surely make the U.S. dearly pay the consequences with our mighty nuclear force which we have consistently strengthened."

The comments are in keeping with North Korea's combative attitude, and a North Korean spokesman additionally claimed that CIA Director Mike Pompeo had provoked Pyongyang by dismissing leader Kim Jong Un's understanding of the situation in comments that "impudently criticiz[ed] our supreme leadership which is the heart of our people."

In November, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile with "more than enough range to reach Washington, D.C.," said David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Read more about the possibility of coexisting with a nuclear North Korea at The Week. Jeva Lange

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

3:29 p.m. ET

President Trump offered his younger self some advice while speaking at a millennial-focused panel Thursday.

Asked for wisdom he'd pass on to his 25-year-old self, Trump offered a quip: "Don't run for president," he smirked.

Later in the discussion, Trump lamented how much negative press he received once he announced his bid for the White House. Prior to his involvement in politics, he "got the greatest publicity," he said. Despite all the critical coverage, Trump claimed, people "get it," because they now know about "fake news."

"There is a lot of fake news out there, and nobody had any idea," he continued. "I'm actually proud of the fact that I exposed it to a large extent. We exposed it. It's an achievement."

Trump was interviewed by the leader of Turning Point USA, a network of conservative college students. The president also discussed the opioid crisis, the need for more vocational schools, and young conservatives who are too afraid to vocally support his administration. Watch the clip below, via Bloomberg. Summer Meza

2:39 p.m. ET

Instagram's universally despised algorithm has been so widely criticized that the company announced Thursday that it is going to make significant changes to appease users. In a statement, Instagram said it will at last "ensure that newer posts are more likely to appear first in feed," which will hopefully mean you will no longer miss, well, everything. As Gizmodo puts it: "Instagram apparently no longer wants you to see Christmas Day photos on New Year’s Eve."

While that might seem like common sense, Instagram first started experimenting with a non-chronological feed in the spring of 2016. By 2018, the app was apparently rewarding posts with higher engagement, users who interacted with followers, and making tweaks based on how long other users spent viewing your post or engaging in the content, Later reports.

Other changes are coming too, like a "new posts" button "that lets you choose when you want to refresh, rather than it happening automatically." Finally! Jeva Lange

2:29 p.m. ET

President Trump says he would still talk to Special Counsel Robert Mueller even without his lead lawyer, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

Another day of legal chaos started Thursday morning as John Dowd, Trump's lead lawyer in Mueller's Russia probe, resigned. A little more than an hour later, Trump was asked if he'd still be willing to testify in Mueller's investigation.

"Yes. I would like to," he replied.

It's pretty much the opposite of what Dowd called for Saturday: an end to the investigation into connections between Trump's campaign and Russia, The New York Times reported. Dowd is said to have resigned because Trump wasn't listening to his advice; Dowd reportedly did not want the president to sit for an interview with Mueller's team, while Trump apparently feels he should. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:33 p.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The House passed the $1.3 trillion spending bill Thursday, approving the massive package to fund the federal government through September.

The 2,232-page bill was released late Wednesday after congressional negotiators finalized its terms. The proposal increases spending on the military and border protection and provides $1.6 billion for President Trump's proposed border wall — a fraction of the $25 billion the president sought. It does not address the DACA immigration program or defunding sanctuary cities, two hotly-contested provisions, though it does include provisions to increase school safety.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle applauded victories achieved in the omnibus bill while some criticized the ways it fell short. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) called it "the worst bill I have seen." The Senate will vote on the bill next, as lawmakers move quickly to meet a Friday night deadline to prevent a government shutdown.

Read more at The New York Times. Summer Meza

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