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September 20, 2018

It turns out that an octopus on ecstasy doesn't act all that different than a human on ecstasy.

Scientists who for some reason felt compelled to dunk octopuses into an MDMA solution found that they became more sociable and relaxed, The Atlantic reported Thursday. The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine neuroscientists were surprised to find that the usually solitary and often surly creatures were suddenly interested in befriending their tank-mates and behaving more vulnerably.

Octopuses are extremely intelligent, but their brains are structured differently than those of mammals, neuroscientist Gül Dölen told The Atlantic. Their sophisticated brains are organized "much more like a snail's brain than ours," she said. While the octopuses in the trial were at first independent, a quick bath in an MDMA solution to allow them to absorb the drug through their gills made them willing to interact with one another. The serotonin-releasing amphetamine seemed to cause euphoria just like it does in humans. "They even exposed their [underside], where their mouth is, which is not something octopuses usually do," said Dölen.

The study is just a pilot, but it's still one of the first to show similar drug effects on such dissimilar brains. It provides evidence that serotonin has been an important chemical for social function for millions of years, stretching back to the most recent common ancestor of humans and octopuses, around 800 million years ago. As neuroscientist Robyn Crook told The Atlantic: "There are only so many ways to make an intelligent brain." Summer Meza

10:10p.m.

Wednesday was Don McGahn's last day as White House counsel, The Associated Press reports.

A person inside the White House confirmed that McGahn has officially stepped down, after a 21-month tenure. During an interview with AP on Tuesday, President Trump said Washington lawyer Pat Cipollone would replace McGahn, and the president reportedly had a 20-minute farewell meeting with McGahn on Wednesday. McGahn served as the Trump campaign's general counsel, and in August, Trump announced McGahn would leave after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court.

During his time in the White House, McGahn pushed for young conservatives to fill the Supreme Court, and reportedly threatened to quit in 2017 when Trump ordered the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He also cooperated with the Mueller investigation, sitting for about 30 hours of interviews. Catherine Garcia

9:03p.m.

While President Trump has been adamant about waiting for an investigation to take place before making any judgments, Rudy Giuliani told The Washington Post on Wednesday many senior members of the administration concluded last week that the Saudis ordered the murder of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi disappeared from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, and Turkey has said he was murdered inside the building by 15 Saudi agents. Turkish officials say they have an audio recording that proves Khashoggi was killed and dismembered, and U.S. officials have said privately they do not doubt this account, the Post reports. There is no definitive proof that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing, but there's also no reason to think he did not plan the operation, U.S. officials said.

The Trump administration and Saudi royal family are now trying to come up with an explanation for what happened that does not implicate the crown prince, the Post reports. U.S. intelligence reportedly discovered before Khashoggi's disappearance that the crown prince was trying to lure him from his home in Virginia to Saudi Arabia, and he told friends he did not trust overtures he was receiving from people inside the Saudi government.

Trump speculated earlier this week that "rogue killers" were behind Khashoggi's suspected death, and on Wednesday became defensive, telling reporters he's "not giving cover" to the crown prince. Giuliani, Trump's adviser and lawyer, told the Post "the only question is, was it directed from the crown prince or the king — or was it a group that was trying to please him?" He added, "I know the bloom is off the rose with the crown prince." Catherine Garcia

7:52p.m.

Investigators from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office have been peppering Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, with questions about his longtime friend and onetime business partner, Roger Stone, several people with knowledge of the matter told ABC News on Wednesday.

Stone served as a political adviser to Trump, and once ran a lobbying firm with Manafort. Manafort recently pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy in Washington, D.C., and was found guilty of financial crimes in Virginia, and is now one of Mueller's cooperating witnesses. Mueller appears to be focusing on whether Stone or his associates communicated with WikiLeaks or its founder, Julian Assange, before it released emails meant to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

Stone made several statements before the emails were released that seemed to show he knew WikiLeaks was going to publish the information, and close to a dozen of his associates have been interviewed by Mueller's team, with many also appearing before a federal grand jury. Stone told ABC News he's known Manafort since childhood, and is "highly confident" his friend "is aware of no wrongdoing on my part during the 2016 campaign, or at any other time, and therefore there is no wrongdoing to know about." Catherine Garcia

7:14p.m.

The Judy Blume classic Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was first published in 1970, and after decades of turning down producers, the author has agreed to turn the book into a movie.

Blume granted the rights to producer James L. Brooks and Kelly Fremon Craig, who collaborated on the 2016 movie The Edge of Seventeen. Fremon Craig will adapt and direct Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, a book that she told Deadline is "a right of passage for women and girls."

Margaret is a sixth grader dealing with moving from New York City to New Jersey, her parents having different faiths, making new friends, boys, and the changes that come with growing up. "It's rare for me to run into a woman or girl who hasn't read it and every time I've mentioned it to a woman, they clutch their heart and let out this joyful gasp," Fremon Craig said. "There's something so timely and full of truth, and I remember for me that at that age, it felt like a life raft at a time when you're lost and searching and unsure." She has just started working on the screenplay, and said Blume sent her an email saying "if someone were to make a film of one of her books, she hoped it would have the same tone and feeling that The Edge of Seventeen had." Catherine Garcia

6:28p.m.

At least 19 students were killed and 53 wounded in a shooting at a vocational school in Crimea on Wednesday.

Of the wounded, 12 are in serious condition. Police say the suspect, 18-year-old Vladislav Roslyakov, killed himself inside the Kerch Polytechnic College library. He was described as a "shy loner," The Associated Press reports, and local officials said he just recently was granted a permit to own a shotgun and only a few days ago purchased 150 cartridges. Sergei Aksyonov, regional leader of Crimea, said Roslyakov was "walking around and shooting students and teachers in cold blood."

There was confusion throughout the day, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying at one point the victims all died in an explosion at the same time Russia's Investigative Committee said the students were all shot. Explosive devices were found on campus. In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, and this is Russia's greatest loss of life in an act of school violence since the three-day school siege in Beslan in 2004, which left 333 people dead. Catherine Garcia

5:33p.m.

Indicted Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) is bringing in ex-White House strategist Stephen Bannon to help him stave off what could be a narrow loss this fall. In other words, his campaign isn't looking so good.

Since the congressman was indicted on insider trading charges in August, his formerly massive lead has nearly slipped to Democratic challenger Nate McMurray. His fundraising totals crumbled during the third quarter. And on Wednesday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee officially made the GOP-held district a top priority.

Collins, who was Trump's first public supporter in Congress, originally planned to suspend his campaign after being hit with criminal charges. The western New York Republican surprisingly revived his campaign in September, but his supporters didn't seem to get the message. Federal Election Commission filings released this week reveal Collins took in just $33,000 in the most recent fundraising quarter — a third of what he received in the quarter before that. Just about $750 of those dollars came from Collins' actual constituents.

In another blow, a Siena College/Spectrum News poll released Tuesday placed Collins a mere three points ahead of McMurray, well within the poll's 4.7 percent margin of error. The news led the DCCC to put New York's 27th Congressional District on its "Red to Blue" list on Wednesday, The Buffalo News reports. That likely means DCCC funding is headed McMurray's way.

Collins still has about $1 million to last the rest of the race, while McMurray has a little less than half that, per FEC filings. Collins also has Bannon slated to rally for him — and every other New York Republican — at a small-town fire hall in his district later this month. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:04p.m.

President Trump's confidence may leave him sorely disappointed.

Trump tweeted on Wednesday that college-educated women "will be voting for me" because they "want safety, security, and health care protections," and only he can sufficiently "supply" those things.

College-educated women largely didn't vote for Trump in the 2016 election — CNN exit polls show that 52 percent of college graduates overall voted for Hillary Clinton, and 42 percent went for Trump. More overwhelmingly, 72 percent of non-white college graduates voted for Clinton, and just 22 percent voted for Trump. The president's approval ratings plummet if polls look at women or college-educated voters alone.

While 52 percent of white women overall voted for Trump, and white women support him and the GOP at higher rates than non-white women, that seems to be changing. The Washington Post found in July that white women with college degrees now prefer Democrats by a margin of 47 points. Age matters, too: "Young women hate Trump," concluded Vox. Trump may be feeling pretty good about his odds with women voters, but the data shows he may need to stop tweeting things like "Horseface" to persuade any of them back over to his side. Summer Meza

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