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January 26, 2017

Scientists may soon be able to grow organs for transplants instead of waiting for donors — and it's all thanks to a human-pig hybrid. On Thursday, an international team of scientists announced they had created the first successful human-animal hybrid embryo, publishing their research in the journal Cell. These hybrids, known as chimeras, are controversial, but they could be key to the future of organ replacement by enabling human organs to be grown outside of human bodies and inside of animal ones.

The scientists first experimented with growing mouse-rat hybrids, National Geographic reported, when a mouse pancreas grown in a rat was transplanted back into a mouse; the mouse was cured of diabetes as a result. The scientists then tried to create a rat-pig hybrid, but the effort failed due to the major genetic differences between the two species. Pigs proved to be the perfect match for humans, however, because the two species have similarly sized organs, making it more likely that a pig could grow functioning human organs.

It's big news for a medical industry that's facing a critical organ shortage. Every day, 22 people die while waiting for organ transplants, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Scientists are now one step closer to solving that problem, though the scientists said it'll probably be years before they can grow functioning human organs. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:25 p.m.

Weed is thriving in the stock market, but companies will need to hash out some legal issues if they want to reap the benefits in the U.S.

The stock market has given several marijuana companies valuations as high as $20 billion, but these stocks are listed with the caveat that they are unable to operate in the U.S. due to federal restrictions, reports Markets Insider. Under current laws in the U.S., the production, possession, and consumption of marijuana remains a criminal act.

Despite these restrictions, weed stocks are "astronomically valued" when compared to the tech, alcohol, and tobacco sectors, per Markets Insider.

Support for the legalization of marijuana is at an all-time high in the U.S., and 11 states have made the drug fully legal. But despite some states' support, weed companies cannot be listed in the U.S. market without violating federal law. Marianne Dodson

1:35 p.m.

Rudy Giuliani is refusing to apologize after sending a doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) out to his 317,000 Twitter followers.

Giuliani on Thursday tweeted a video that had been spreading online, which takes footage from a Pelosi speech and slows it down to make her sound drunk. Giuliani wrote, "Her speech pattern is bizarre." He later deleted the tweet.

President Trump's lawyer told The New York Times that he "didn't know" the video was doctored when he shared it and had "no reason to believe" it was because it "looked like enough of an extension of the way she communicates anyway." He also suggested it's "hypocritical" to "overreact" to him sharing this fake video because Pelosi in recent days has questioned Trump's "competence."

Giuliani also claimed to CNN he had "no way to know" if the video was fake and asked the Times, "Where do you go to check that it's inaccurate? How could I have figured out that it was inaccurate?” The Washington Post's Aaron Blake shot back on Twitter, "there is no way he couldn't have known."

Giuliani separately told the Post he shared the video because he has "been noticing a gradual change in [Pelosi's] speech pattern and gestures for some time."

On his Twitter page, Giuliani on Friday refused to apologize for posting the fake video, first sending an incomprehensible tweet in which he seemed to coin the word "ivesssapology." In a follow-up, he said that Pelosi must "withdraw her charge" that Trump needs an "intervention" before he apologizes.

Trump himself also shared an edited video of Pelosi on his Twitter account, although this one did not doctor her actual speech but instead edits together different moments from a press conference in which she stumbles over words. Asked on Friday about the manipulated footage of Pelosi spreading online, Trump claimed he "doesn't know about the videos." Brendan Morrow

12:40 p.m.

President Trump on Friday announced plans to send 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East amid escalating tensions with Iran.

"We want to have protection," Trump told reporters on Friday, saying it will be a "relatively small number of troops, mostly protective." He confirmed the 1,500 number that had previously been reported and said that "some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now, and we'll see what happens."

The president spoke after The Associated Press reported the administration had notified Congress of its plan, saying that the troops' activities will be "defensive in nature" and will protect U.S. forces in the region. U.S. officials in recent weeks have warned of a "number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings" from Iran, with the State Department ordering the evacuation of non-emergency personnel from the Baghdad embassy.

"Our job is deterrence," Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said, The Washington Post reports. "This is not about war." Trump had said on Thursday he did "not think" it would be necessary to send more troops to the Middle East but that he would "certainly" do so if necessary, and he was reportedly convinced during a Thursday meeting. He tweeted last week that "if Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran." Brendan Morrow

12:09 p.m.

Congress' effort to advance a disaster relief package before Memorial Day was just derailed by a Republican lawmaker.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) on Friday objected to the passage of this disaster relief bill by unanimous consent, calling for a recorded vote, CNN reports. Since each member would have to be present for this full recorded vote, and most have already left Washington for Congress' Memorial Day recess, this forces a delay until after the holiday weekend.

The Senate had previously passed this $19.1 billion disaster relief measure, which includes aid for Puerto Rico but doesn't include the border wall funding President Trump had originally requested. Roy complained about this absence of wall funding on Friday, also bemoaning the legislation's lack of offsets, Politico reports. Trump had signed off on the bill, saying it had his "total approval." As Politico notes, this package has already been delayed for five months.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) slammed Roy's move on Friday as a "last-minute sabotage" and an "act of staggering political cynicism," The New York Times reports.

The Washington Post reports lawmakers will once again attempt to pass the package on Tuesday by unanimous consent, while most representatives are still on their recess, which lasts until June 3. Roy said when asked if he'll pull the same move on Tuesday, "We'll see." Brendan Morrow

11:12 a.m.

Alabama's restrictive new abortion law has just prompted a federal lawsuit from Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The two organizations announced the filing of this lawsuit on Friday, with Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, arguing in a statement that the new law is "blatantly unconstitutional."

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of abortion providers in the state, with a doctor from the Alabama Women's Center arguing in the filing that the law "directly conflicts with Roe and more than four decades of Supreme Court precedent affirming its central holding," The Washington Post reports.

Alabama's new law, which was signed by Gov. Kay Ivey (R) last week, makes performing nearly all abortion a felony in the state except in cases where the mother's health is at risk or where the fetus has a "lethal anomaly," with no exception for rape or incest. Doctors who perform abortions could be punished with up to 99 years in prison. The law will not actually go into effect until 2020, however.

The law has received significant pushback even among some Republicans, with Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel saying she personally supports exceptions for rape and incest. President Trump also tweeted on Saturday that he too supports exceptions for rape and incest but that the party must stay "united."

Upon signing the Alabama law, Ivey signaled that it would inevitably face legal challenges, saying it provides the Supreme Court an "opportunity" to "revisit" Roe v. Wade. Brendan Morrow

9:29 a.m.

The NASA executive tasked with strategizing a mission to the moon by 2024 has already resigned amid growing skepticism that the five-year deadline is feasible.

Mark Sirangelo on April 9 was appointed special assistant to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, with NASA saying at the time he would help develop the 2024 strategy, as is the Trump administration's goal. The administration has sped up the timeline from the previous goal of 2028, with Vice President Mike Pence saying in March, "Failure to achieve our goal to return an American astronaut to the moon in the next five years is not an option."

But six weeks later, Sirangelo has resigned, and Reuters reports that his "ouster was sealed by increasing skepticism that 2024 was a realistic deadline for moon landings." This also comes after a proposal from NASA to create a separate directorate for lunar missions was rejected by lawmakers. Bridenstine said on Thursday that "given NASA is no longer pursuing the new mission directorate, Mark has opted to pursue other opportunities."

President Trump has proposed providing an additional $1.6 billion to NASA in furtherance of this 2024 goal, but the administration has been met with resistance on Capitol Hill to taking that money from a Pell grant program surplus, The New York Times reports. Should NASA not get this additional money, Bridenstine says the timeline would probably move back to 2028. Brendan Morrow

8:44 a.m.

Could President Trump's tax records end up dropping right at the height of the 2020 presidential election? That's looking increasingly possible.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Thursday decided to expedite its review into the president's request to block Congress' subpoena of his accounting firm for years of financial documents, as The Washington Post reports. The court called for oral arguments by July, and Democrats have agreed to suspend deadlines from the subpoena.

This new timeline, the Post writes, "could set up a decision from the Supreme Court that could land in the thick of the 2020 presidential campaign." After all, the report notes that experts expect the president's lawyers to immediately appeal to the Supreme Court should they lose in the D.C. Circuit.

This comes after several setbacks this week for Trump, as a New York judge previously refused to block subpoenas for Trump's financial records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One. Judge Amit Mehta with the District Court for the District of Columbia also upheld Democrats' subpoena for the financial records from his accounting firm, prompting Trump's lawyers to appeal. Democrats are also looking to have the IRS hand over years of Trump's tax returns, a fight that is expected to head to court after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rebuffed their subpoena.

With all of this in mind, Politico reports on Friday on the "decent chance the White House could lose the fight and be forced to hand over Trump's tax records before the election," as federal courts are "ruling quickly" on these other cases and the Supreme Court might not even take up the IRS case at all. If it doesn't, this might allow for a final decision from the lower courts in about a year — meaning in the end, as Politico writes, this could "leave the GOP wishing Trump had ripped off the tax-return Band-Aid sooner." Brendan Morrow

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