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September 28, 2015

The possibility that there are actual Martians on Mars got a whole lot more likely on Monday, when NASA announced it found signs of liquid water on the red planet. In light of that news, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power knocked the odds of finding life on Mars from 100-1 to 22-1. Now finding life on Mars has better odds than some have had for the Yankees winning the 2015 World Series (and about the same odds the Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens have of getting Super Bowl rings next year).

There's probably not a whole lot of actual science going on behind bookies' numbers, aside from the fact that life as we understand it depends fundamentally on the presence of water. What's even more exciting, then, is that Alfred McEwen, the principal investigator for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), is feeling pretty good about the chances of life, too. "The possibility of life in the interior of Mars has always been very high," McEwen said. "It's very likely I think that there is life somewhere in the crust of Mars."

"On Earth, wherever we find water, we find life," Dr. Joe Michalski of the Natural History Museum confirmed. Of course, any life on the red planet will probably be microscopic: Microbes or bacteria, for example, rather than little green men. Still, that's life — and for it to exist independent of Earth would be incredibly significant. Jeva Lange

1:37 a.m.

Over the years, the people on Floyd Martin's mail route came to be like family.

He spent almost 35 years delivering letters, cards, bills, and catalogues to residents of one Marietta, Georgia, neighborhood. Last summer, he decided it was time to retire, and Thursday was his last day. Jennifer Brett accompanied him for one final trek through the neighborhood, documenting it all on Twitter.

People waited for Martin outside their homes, shaking his hand and offering their well-wishes, and several decorated their mailboxes with balloons, banners, ribbons, and photos. Lorraine Wascher told Brett Martin has delivered her mail for more than 20 years, and "always had a smile, always had a wave." Martin was known for passing out treats to dogs and lollipops to kids, including Mae Bullington, who dressed up like him for her school's career day. "I was so flattered," he said. "It touched my heart."

Martin lives in Atlanta with his dog, Gigi, and told Brett one of his retirement goals is to take a trip to Hawaii. He was surprised to see how many people stopped to say goodbye to him along his route, but was stunned at the end of the day when he realized they were holding a giant block party in his honor. More than 300 people attended, and Martin was invited back to judge the neighborhood's annual Halloween parade. "You were there when I needed you, even if you didn't know it," he told the crowd. "Continue to take care of each other, and smile when you think of me." Catherine Garcia

12:51 a.m.

Not long after he immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, Frank Baez got a job that would change the course of his life.

He was 17, and started working as a janitor at New York University's Tisch Hospital in order to help support his mom and two brothers. Baez became intrigued by the medical field and was impressed by the hard-working nurses, and decided he wanted to become one. Baez earned his bachelor's degree from Hunter College, becoming the first person in his family to graduate from college, and then returned to NYU, enrolling in the Rory Meyers College of Nursing.

Nataly Pasklinsky, director of simulation learning at the school, worked as a nurse at Tisch Hospital when Baez was a janitor. "He was always compassionate to patients and families," she told CNN. "He would ask the nurses questions about patient care and what it takes to become a nurse. My colleagues and I encouraged him to follow his dream." This week, Baez, now 29, graduated with his nursing degree. He remembers what it was like to barely speak English when he first came to the U.S., and hopes to work with Spanish-speaking patients, removing language barriers. He still has to take his licensing boards, but plans on applying for a nursing position at NYU as soon as he can. Catherine Garcia

12:39 a.m.

For months, President Trump has repeatedly and aggressively urged the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Homeland Security officials to award border wall contracts to Fischer Industries, a North Dakota construction company whose CEO frequently appears on Fox News to pitch his wall-building skills, The Washington Post reports, citing four administration officials and Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), a Fischer friend and advocate.

Trump's "push for a specific company has alarmed military commanders and DHS officials," the Post says, given "decades-old procurement rules that require government agencies to seek competitive bids, free of political interference." Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commanding general of the Army Corps, and former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen separately explained to Trump that he can't just pick a company, the Post reports, but "Fisher was added to a pool of competitors after the Army Corps came under pressure from the White House."

Fischer CEO Tommy Fisher has said on Fox News and other conservative outlets that he can build barrier wall faster and cheaper using a new technique his company is showcasing in New Mexico, where it's building a half-mile of border fence on private land using crowdsourced funds. Trump reportedly repeats Fischer's claims.

DHS rejected the concrete border wall prototype Fischer built, and Fischer switched to promoting a steel design. Army Corps officials evaluated Fisher's new proposal and determined it doesn't meet the project's requirements, lacked regulatory approval, and cost less because it wasn't as high-quality as competing bids, the Post reports. Also, a barrier project Fisher did in San Diego was late and over-budget, DHS told the Army Corps. Fisher sued the government in late April.

"The president is one of the country's most successful builders and knows better than anyone how to negotiate the best deals," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the Post. Cramer said Trump learned about the company from Tommy Fischer's Fox News appearances. "He always brings them up," he said. Peter Weber

May 23, 2019

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) revealed on Thursday night that Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants to privately testify before the committee, with the transcript later made public.

When asked by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow why Mueller wouldn't want to testify publicly, Nadler said he's speculating, but it's likely because Mueller "envisions himself, correctly, as a man of great rectitude and apolitical and he doesn't want to participate in anything he may regard as a political spectacle." The House Judiciary Committee thinks it's "important for the American people to hear from him and to hear his answers to questions about the report," Nadler added.

The goal of the panel is to "open all of this up to the American people, and have everybody relevant testify so people can understand what was in the Mueller report, what wasn't in the Mueller report," he said. The White House has stonewalled the committee by not letting current and former staffers who have received subpoenas testify, but "we're going to beat them in court," Nadler said. "It's ridiculous from a legal point of view." Catherine Garcia

May 23, 2019

The White House announced on Thursday night that President Trump has given Attorney General William Barr "full and complete authority" to declassify intelligence related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In a statement, the White House said Trump also "directed the intelligence community to quickly and fully cooperate with the attorney general's investigation into surveillance activities during the 2016 presidential election." The White House claims this "will help ensure that all Americans learn the truth about the events that occurred, and the actions that were taken, during the last presidential election and will restore confidence in our public institutions."

Trump has long called the Russia investigation a "witch hunt," and his allies insist the evidence used to launch the FBI probe was flimsy. Catherine Garcia

May 23, 2019

Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced movie producer who has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women, has reached a tentative $44 million settlement with the women, creditors, and the New York attorney general, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

The Weinstein Co. filed for bankruptcy last year, and lawyers told a bankruptcy court judge on Thursday that a deal has been reached, but not finalized. Under the proposed deal, the alleged victims, former Weinstein Co. employees, and studio creditors would receive $30 million, the Journal reports, with an additional $14 million going toward legal fees. The money would come from various insurance policies.

The New York attorney general's office filed a civil rights lawsuit in 2018, alleging that the Weinstein Co.'s board members and executives did not do enough to protect employees from Weinstein's misconduct; if the deal goes through, it would end the suit. Weinstein is also set to go on trial in September on rape and other sexual assault charges. He denies ever engaging in nonconsensual sex. Catherine Garcia

May 23, 2019

The Trump administration is preparing to bypass Congress in order to sell $7 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, current and former U.S. officials and lawmakers told The New York Times on Thursday.

Right now, Congress has the sale on hold, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior aides are urging Trump to invoke a provision in the Arms Export Control Act that would let him circumvent lawmakers, the Times reports. This is sure to stoke tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which considers Saudi Arabia its biggest rival, and anger Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who are already upset with Trump over his reaction to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year and his support of the Saudi-led coalition fighting in the Yemen war.

"It sets an incredibly dangerous precedent that future presidents can use to sell weapons without a check from Congress," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Ct.) told the Times. "We have the constitutional duty to declare war and the responsibility to oversee arm sales that contravene our national security interests. If we don't stand up to this abuse of authority, we will permanently box ourselves out of deciding who we should sell weapons to." Read more about the broad implications of Trump sidestepping Congress at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

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