February 25, 2018
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Despite the U.N. Security Council unanimously passing a cease-fire resolution Saturday, Syrian government forces continued airstrikes in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area outside Damascus, killing at least 22 people on Sunday.

Since this offensive began seven days ago, more than 500 people have been killed in the violence. Doctors in the area said one of the bombs that was dropped contained chlorine gas, and one child suffocated to death from that bomb. Panos Moumtzis, U.N. regional coordinator for Syria, said he was "very, very disappointed" by the attack but thinks there is a still a chance an agreement could be made to bring food and medicine into the area. An estimated 350,000 civilians remain in Eastern Ghouta.

In order to get Russia, a Syrian ally, on board with the cease-fire, the resolution had to exclude "terrorists," The Washington Post reports, and because the Syrian government often refers to all of its opponents as "terrorists," this could be the military's justification for its continued airstrikes. This interpretation was bolstered by an Iranian military official, who said Iran and Syria will abide by the resolution, but Eastern Ghouta is "under terrorists' control." Catherine Garcia

7:36 p.m. ET
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While still employed as the FBI's deputy director, Andrew McCabe authorized an investigation into whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied while testifying during his congressional confirmation hearing in January 2017, three people familiar with the matter told NBC News.

Sessions' lawyer, Chuck Cooper, told NBC News the probe ended without criminal charges, and a Department of Justice official said Sessions had no idea about the investigation when he decided to fire McCabe last week, just days before his retirement was set to kick in. At his hearing, Sessions said he never met with any Russians while serving as a campaign surrogate for President Trump; it was later revealed that Sessions did meet multiple times with the then-Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sessions went on to defend himself by saying the interactions took place in his capacity as a senator, and they were not important enough to remember.

One person told NBC News that after Sessions' testimony, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) referred a perjury inquiry to the FBI. This is a common occurrence, they added, but these inquiries rarely end in prosecution because they are very hard to prove. Catherine Garcia

6:47 p.m. ET
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The family of Mark Anthony Conditt, the Austin bombing suspect who died early Wednesday after he blew himself up in his car, said they are "devastated and broken" by what happened, and "had no idea of the darkness that Mark must have been in."

In a statement to CNN, the Conditt family said they were "grieving" and "in shock," and "right now, our prayers are for those families that have lost loved ones, for those impacted in any way, and for the soul of our Mark." Law enforcement officials said that late Tuesday, they identified Conditt, 24, as a suspect in a string of bombings across Austin, which left two dead and four injured, and were moving in on a hotel in Round Rock to arrest him. Conditt drove away, tailed by police, and after he drove into a ditch, detonated an explosive that killed him. Police have not revealed a possible motive.

Two of Conditt's roommates were detained and questioned, and police said it's possible he planted or mailed other packages before he died. The Los Angeles Times reports that it found a blog he started in 2012 as part of an assignment for a class at Austin Community College. Conditt described himself as a conservative "but not politically inclined," and wrote posts in favor of the death penalty and against abortion and making gay marriage legal. Conditt was home schooled and fired last year from his job at a manufacturing company, and one of his former friends told the Times "a lot of people jump to conclusions and want to make him out to be a conservative terrorist. But I think it has more to do with loneliness and anger than it has to do with anything else." Catherine Garcia

4:52 p.m. ET
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to the growing Cambridge Analytica scandal in a lengthy Facebook post Wednesday, outlining a plan to avoid a similar breach in the future.

Zuckerberg described the timeline of events that led up to to what he called a "breach of trust," in which the data analytics firm reportedly accessed private information from tens of millions of users without permission. The Facebook co-founder said that many measures were already in place to prevent such an issue, but introduced a three-pronged plan for the future: investigate all third-party apps that log sensitive data, further restrict third-party developers from accessing personal information, and create a tool for users to easily control which apps can access profile data.

Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with reported ties to President Trump's campaign, obtained access to information that was originally collected in accordance with Facebook's policies, reports CNN. But the data was transferred to third-parties without permission rather than deleted, even after the company told Facebook it would dispose of the information. The breach was originally reported by The New York Times and The Guardian on Saturday, and Zuckerberg had remained silent on the scandal until Wednesday's post.

"I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I'm responsible for what happens on our platform," wrote Zuckerberg. Lawmakers are calling for Zuckerberg to testify before the Senate to address privacy and accountability issues for web-based companies. Summer Meza

3:35 p.m. ET

A crew of three astronauts blasted off Wednesday afternoon, embarking on a flight from Kazakhstan to the International Space Station, where they will spend five months conducting research.

The Soyuz MS-08 rocket successfully launched NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, along with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev, into space. The crew will orbit the Earth for two days, before docking at the ISS on Friday, where they will join three other astronauts, who are from Russia, Japan, and the United States.

Once all six members are at the station, NASA reports, they will conduct research to test how certain materials react to a space environment, study the effects of microgravity on bone marrow, and develop the "Veggie" plant growth facility that provides astronauts with "salad-type crops."

Watch the liftoff below, via CBC News. Summer Meza

3:21 p.m. ET

On Wednesday, President Trump defended his controversial decision to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his re-election earlier this week, tweeting that "getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing" and adding, "PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH!"

The Washington Post had reported that Trump was warned in all caps by national security advisers not to congratulate Putin, although he went ahead and did it anyway. Aides also told the president he needed to condemn the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in England earlier this month, which has been widely blamed on Moscow; Trump didn't bring this up, the Post adds.

Analysts say Russia's election was undemocratic, and there are videos showing ballot box-stuffing. Jeva Lange

2:32 p.m. ET

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve raised benchmark rates for the sixth time since the financial crisis, following the conclusion of its two-day meeting, the first under new Chairman Jerome Powell, CNBC reports.

The hike, of a quarter of a point, raised the Fed's key rate from 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent, its highest level in a decade. The Fed additionally signaled it would raise the rate two more times this year and three times in 2019. "The economic outlook has strengthened in recent months," the committee said in a statement.

Rate hikes "lead to higher rates for businesses looking to invest or consumers looking to buy cars or homes," writes The Washington Post, but they "also fight inflation and make the Fed better prepared for a future recession." Jeva Lange

1:10 p.m. ET

Do you dread walking into a store only to have some chipper salesperson pop up out of nowhere and ask, "Do you need help finding anything?" You're not alone, Racked reports. A stunning 95 percent of people "want to be left alone in stores," per a new study of 2,900 North American shoppers conducted by HRC Retail Advisory.

Many other studies have looked into the effect of salespeople on shoppers, including an extremely relatable one from 2016, where researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that attractive salespeople actually scared off potential customers (never mind that the sample was 164 "socially inept" men with "obsessive interest in computer technology who visited a shop selling figures based on Japanese comics," as The Telegraph puts it).

Customers seem to prefer to be the ones to make the first move — another study, in 2014, by a University of Pennsylvania professor, found that 50 percent of potential customers will still seek out an employee for advice or questions while shopping.

Still, if there is an alternative to interaction, people prefer it. The HRC study also found that 85 percent of people would rather use a scanner to find out the price of an item than be forced to ask another human. Jeva Lange

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