×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
March 22, 2018

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 10 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.

You can read more about Ata at The New York Times. Summer Meza

2:13 p.m. ET
CBS News/Screenshot

"This morning the president is again accusing the Justice Department and the FBI of misleading courts and illegally surveilling his campaign," CBS host Margaret Brennan said to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Face the Nation Sunday, referring to President Trump's angry response to the Carter Page surveillance documents. "Is he wrong?"

"No," Graham replied, breaking with his Senate GOP colleague, Florida's Marco Rubio. Graham then called for scrutiny of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, also known as the FISA court, which approved the spying on Page.

"I think that the whole FISA award process needs to be looked at," he said. "The warrant on Carter Page was supported mostly by the dossier that came from Michael Steele, who [was] being paid by the Democratic Party to do opposition research; and the dossier was collected, I think, from Russian intelligence services; and if you ask the FBI today how much of the dossier on Trump has been verified, [it's] almost none of it."

The extent to which the warrants were based on the dossier is subject to debate along predictably partisan lines. Less predictable is Graham's sudden discovery within himself of suspicion of the FISA court: Before Trump took office, the senator was a stalwart opponent of limits on the court's power, repeatedly voting to permit warrantless surveillance and prevent reform. In 2015, he claimed "anybody who neuters" the FISA court's "roving wiretap" program "is going to be partially responsible for the next [terrorist] attack." Bonnie Kristian

1:25 p.m. ET

President Trump claims the FBI spied on and undermined his presidential campaign in 2016 for partisan purposes. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) does not.

Responding to Saturday's publication of the FBI's application to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in connection to Russian election interference, Rubio said on CNN Sunday he "has a different view on it."

The feds "knew who [Page] was even before the campaign," Rubio explained on State of the Union. "I don't believe that them looking into Carter Page means they were spying on the campaign," he continued. "I also don't think it proves anything about collusion. ... I don't think it's part of any broader plot. The only plot here is the plot to interfere in our election by the Russians."

Also contra Trump, Rubio argued the FBI did not do "anything wrong" in its application to spy on Page: "I think they went to the court. They got the judges to approve it. They laid out all the information ― and there was a lot of reasons ... for why they wanted to look at Carter Page."

Rubio also addressed Trump's recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as Trump's plan for a second summit with Putin this fall. Watch the whole interview below. Bonnie Kristian

11:49 a.m. ET

Authorities are searching for a University of Iowa student named Mollie Tibbetts, 20, who disappeared Wednesday while out for an evening jog. Tibbetts was running in Brooklyn, a small town about halfway between Iowa City and Des Moines. She gave no indication anything was wrong before her jog, her boyfriend said.

"Everything's on the table, unfortunately," said Poweshiek County Sheriff Thomas Kriegel. "We're hoping that she's somewhere with a friend, and she'll show up Monday or Tuesday, and everything will get back to normal." Bonnie Kristian

11:36 a.m. ET
Alex Halada

"America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday, "and war with Iran is the mother of all wars."

Rouhani issued his warning to the Trump administration at a meeting of Iranian diplomats, arguing that attempts to undermine Tehran among the Iranian public would not be successful. "You are not in a position to incite the Iranian nation against Iran's security and interests," he said. In 1953, the U.S. helped engineer a coup to overthrow Iran's democratically elected government and support a pro-Western monarchy.

The Iranian president also addressed President Trump's June demand, since softened, that nations including China, India, and Turkey stop purchasing oil from Iran by early November. "Anyone who understands the rudiments of politics doesn't say, 'We will stop Iran's oil exports,'" Rouhani said.

Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal earlier this year, claiming future negotiations will lead to a better arrangement. That has yet to materialize. Bonnie Kristian

11:02 a.m. ET
Omar Jaj Kadour/Getty Images

Israeli troops evacuated 422 people from Syria to Jordan overnight Saturday and Sunday at the request of the United States and several European countries. The original plan was to evacuate 800, but complications including gains by the Islamic State hindered the rescue mission.

The evacuees were "White Helmet" volunteers, a civil defense group that conducts search and rescue operations, evacuations, and medical work in rebel-held areas of Syria. The group and their families were located in the Golan Heights area. Syrian government troops are advancing into the region, and the Bashar al-Assad regime considers the White Helmets a terrorist organization though they are credited with saving more than 100,000 lives.

The evacuees will be granted asylum and resettled in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada. "Humanity dictates that many of these brave first-aiders should now find protection and refuge, some of them in Germany," said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. The Canadian Foreign Ministry likewise expressed a "deep moral responsibility to these brave and selfless people." Bonnie Kristian

10:19 a.m. ET
Robyn Beck/Getty Images

When his Los Angeles Trader Joe's store became the site of a three-hour standoff with police Saturday, an employee named Sean Gerace sprang into action.

After hearing gunshots and screams, Gerace took several of his coworkers to the store's upper level. "I grabbed an emergency ladder, barricaded the hallway, grabbed a weapon, put the ladder out the window, and just tried to get the attention of a SWAT officer," he told a local TV station. Once he got the okay from the police, Gerace helped his group escape the store.

The standoff ended with one woman dead and six people injured. The suspect was being chased by police when he crashed his car outside the store, fired a gun at police pursuing him, and then barricaded himself inside the Trader Joe's.

The suspect has not been identified, but he was being chased by authorities after critically injuring his grandmother by shooting her seven times. He eventually surrendered to police custody, handcuffing himself for arrest. Bonnie Kristian

8:36 a.m. ET

President Trump raged on Twitter in response to the Justice Department's publication of the FBI's applications for warrants to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in connection to Russian election interference. Saturday evening, Trump claimed the entire Russia probe is a Democratic attempt to undermine the GOP in the 2018 midterms, repeating all his usual refrains:

On Sunday, Trump pivoted to accusing the DOJ and FBI of illegal actions and partisan aims:

The four "judges who signed off on this stuff" were all appointed by Republican presidents. Bonnie Kristian

See More Speed Reads