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November 1, 2017

Man's best friend just got an upgrade. Sony announced Wednesday that it is bringing back its beloved robo-pooch, Aibo, which was discontinued in 2006, The Japan Times reports. "Today I am pleased to introduce an entertainment robot we have been developing for the past year and a half that's worthy of love and is a delight to nurture through emotional connections with people," said Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai.

Of course, technology has come a long way since Aibo first went on the market in 1999, and in the meantime, Sony's been working like a dog. The new Aibo model, which will be out in January, "uses ultra-compact actuators that allow its body to move along 22 axes, and its eyes use two OLED panels to show a range of expressions," The Verge writes. And being a not-so-old dog, it can even learn new tricks: Aibo connects to the Cloud to better "learn" how to interact with people based on the experiences of other units.

At least initially, Aibo will only be available in Japan, where it costs the equivalent of $1,700. Users will also be required to pay for a minimum three-year subscription service to keep the dog up to date; that will run about $26 a month.

Meanwhile, adoption fees for real dogs at the Humane Society start at $50. Jeva Lange

October 24, 2017
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

On Monday, the Iditarod Trail Committee identified four-time champion Dallas Seavey as the musher whose dogs tested positive for a banned substance, the opioid pain reliever Tramadol, after initially declining to release his name, citing legal advice and a lack of proof of intent to dope. A group of 83 current and former competitors in the 1,000-mile Alaska dogsled race had demanded Monday morning that the committee identify the suspected musher within 72 hours, prompting an emergency meeting. After the meeting, the Iditarod organizers said they had decided to name Seavey due to the "level of unhealthy speculation involved in this matter."

In a video posted on Facebook Monday evening, Seavey denied giving banned drugs to his dogs and said he has withdrawn from the 2018 race, because he won't be "thrown under the bus." Seavey, 30, said he has "done absolutely nothing wrong" and doesn't care if he ever races again. He added that he would probably have been banned from the race anyway, citing the Iditarod Trail Committee's rule against mushers criticizing the race or its sponsors. This is the first case of banned substances found in dogs in the Iditarod's history. Peter Weber

October 19, 2017
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

There is controversy brewing in the last frontier. One of the top 20 finishers in the 2017 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race possibly gave their team the banned opioid pain reliever Tramadol, Alaska Dispatch News reports. It is the first time dogs have tested positive for an illegal substance in the history of the nearly 1,000-mile race.

While the president of the Iditarod Officials Finishers Club, Wade Marrs, did not name the musher in question (he or she is referred to only as "Musher X"), the positive test for Tramadol was reportedly isolated to a single top-finishing dog team.

"Race officials have refused to provide the musher's name, citing 'legal concerns,' the Dispatch News writes. "They have said they cannot prove the musher's intent, so they cannot penalize the musher under the 2017 race rules, which they have since revised." Musher X denied administering the drug and "repeatedly offered to submit to a polygraph and complied fully with all requests," Marrs' statement said.

"It's not a good situation," Iditarod Board member Aaron Burmeister told The Associated Press. "I'm hoping that we can turn a positive light on it and the musher steps forward." Jeva Lange

August 1, 2017

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) is one of the most vulnerable senators up for re-election in 2018, a position made even more precarious by his recent vote in favor of the "skinny repeal" health-care bill after voting down earlier efforts. That "betrayal" is the focus of a blistering new attack ad released by his opponent, Democrat Jacky Rosen, on Tuesday.

In the one-minute ad, Heller is quoted claiming he cannot support legislation "that takes insurance away from tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans," then voting "aye" for a bill that would leave 16 million Americans without health-care coverage. The ad implies that Heller flip-flopped because he "decided not to cross Trump."

A Public Policy Poll survey released Tuesday found that just 22 percent of Nevadans approve of the job Heller is doing in office. Watch Rosen's brutal ad below. Jeva Lange

April 12, 2017
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

It's safe to say that former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) isn't a fan of President Trump's foreign policy plans. In a scathing speech Tuesday at a Foreign Policy Association event, Lugar tore into Trump's "simplistic, prosaic, and reactive" foreign policy goals, The Indianapolis Star reported, citing a transcript of Lugar's prepared remarks.

While Lugar slammed Trump on everything from his plans to build a U.S.-Mexico border wall to his recent decision to strike Syria, noting the U.S. "cannot bomb our way to security," he was most critical of Trump's "America first" outlook. Lugar, a senator for 36 years and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, deemed Trump's approach indicative of "a selfish, inward-looking nation that is being motivated by fear, not a great superpower with capacity to shape global affairs."

Lugar warned that without "a strong and comprehensive American leadership" on the global stage, "the people of the United States and most countries of the world will become poorer and will have to endure more frequent conflict." "Other power structures will occupy the void," he said, "and many of them are not sympathetic to American values and interests." Becca Stanek

August 30, 2016

Man's best friend actually knows what man is saying, according to a new study out of Hungary on how dogs react to language.

By training 13 family dogs to sit still in an fMRI scanner, the authors of the study discovered that by saying positive words in an excited manner, two different regions of the dog's brain lit up — the left hemisphere, which is connected to the meaning of words, and the right hemisphere, which is connected to how words are emotionally said. The same regions are connected to meaning and intonation in human brains, too.

"Dogs not only tell apart what we say and how we say it, but they can also combine the two, for a correct interpretation of what those words really meant," study author Attila Andics said in a statement.

Perhaps most fascinating of all, the study shows that processing meaning and emotion in separate hemispheres of the brain before tying them together developed in non-primates long, long before people ever began saying, "Who's a good dog?"

"Using words may be a human invention, but we now see that the neuromechanisms to process them are not uniquely human," Andics said. Jeva Lange

April 30, 2016

Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook is perhaps best used for admiring photos of Mark Zuckerberg's dog. Beast, a Puli Hungarian Sheepdog, is quite good at camouflaging himself, as you can see in photos the social network's founder posted Friday:

This rug has eyes.

That's an awfully big mop. Julie Kliegman

June 27, 2015

One human took home a $1,500 prize Friday night just for owning an unattractive dog. Quasi Modo, 10, is a pit bull-Dutch shepherd mix with a birth defect that left him hunchbacked. A panel of three judges at the World's Ugliest Dog Contest in Petaluma, California, deemed Quasi Modo uglier than his 26 competitors, The Associated Press reports.

"My appearance can be a little unsettling to some (I have had grown men jump on top of their cars to get away from me because they thought I was a hyena or Tasmanian devil) but once they get to know me I win them over with my bubbly personality," the dog's biography reads.

We can only hope the contest, in its 27th year, will someday be fodder for a Best in Show sequel. Julie Kliegman

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