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June 23, 2017

On Friday, a fifth Republican came out against the Senate's version of the GOP health-care bill. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said that "in this form," he would "not support" the Senate plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. "There isn't anything in this bill that would lower premiums," Heller said, calling claims otherwise a "lie."

Four other Republicans — Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), Mike Lee (Utah), Ted Cruz (Texas), and Ron Johnson (Wis.) — announced they would not support the bill shortly after it was unveiled Thursday. The bill, dubbed the "Better Care Reconciliation Act," proposes slashing Medicaid, eliminates ObamaCare's individual mandate, and allows states to waive some previously required benefits.

The GOP can only withstand two defections and still pass the bill. A vote is expected next week. Becca Stanek

4:37 p.m.

President Trump doesn't want former White House Counsel Don McGahn in front of Congress.

The West Winger turned fascinating Mueller report witness was subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee for testimony last week, though Trump has publicly said he wouldn't let McGahn attend. McGahn isn't in the administration anymore, but that didn't stop the Department of Justice from issuing a 15-page letter spelling out why McGahn could not legally be called to testify, and it didn't stop Trump from publicly directing him not to testify on Monday.

In the Monday letter to current White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel wrote that "Congress cannot constitutionally compel the president's senior advisers to testify about their official duties." He specifically cited an opinion from former President Bill Clinton's Attorney General Janet Reno, along with precedents from throughout presidential administrations. White House Press Secretary summed up this "bipartisan and constitutional precedent" in a statement, and affirmed that Trump had directed McGahn not to testify.

McGahn still hasn't said if he'll comply with Trump's order, but he faces a pitfall either way. If McGahn ignores Trump and testifies, he'll likely "damage his own career in Republican politics, but also put his law firm" at risk because Trump could tell its GOP clients to "withhold their business," The New York Times explains. But if McGahn steps out on Congress, he could face a contempt charge. Judging by Attorney General William Barr's jokes in the past few days, though, that doesn't seem to matter much. The Week Staff

4:32 p.m.

A group of scientists from Stanford University have proposed a rather unconventional plan to fight climate change.

Their research, published on Monday in Nature Sustainability, concluded that converting methane into carbon dioxide could actually help reduce the warming of the Earth. Methane and carbon dioxide are both so-called "greenhouse gases" — in fact, carbon dioxide is largely responsible for the climate predicament we find ourselves in, the Los Angeles Times explained. But as it turns out, more carbon dioxide might not be as disastrous as we think.

Methane traps much more heat than carbon dioxide, "on a molecule-for-molecule basis." So by converting much of our atmospheric methane into carbon dioxide, we could dramatically reduce the impact of climate change. This process would eliminate about one-sixth of human-caused global warming, while only adding a few months' worth of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, researchers found.

Of course, the best case scenario would be to stop greenhouse gas emissions entirely, as many scientists have been saying for years. But since that hasn't been a very popular plan, this could be the next best thing. Converting methane into carbon dioxide "would not be a deal-breaker," said Rob Jackson, the study's lead author.

Further research will be required in order to determine whether this plan would be realistic to achieve, but the study's authors are "cautiously optimistic." Learn more at the Los Angeles Times. Shivani Ishwar

4:04 p.m.

Game of Thrones just went out on top by breaking another viewership record.

The series' final episode, "The Iron Throne," drew 19.3 million viewers on Sunday, The Hollywood Reporter writes. This includes 13.6 million people who tuned into the initial 9:00 p.m. airing, as well as those who tuned in for replays and those who streamed the episode online.

This breaks Game of Thrones' previous ratings record — 18.4 million people tuned in last Sunday night to the season's fifth episode, "The Bells." It also sets a new record for HBO itself. The season 4 premiere of The Sopranos previously held the HBO record for biggest linear audience with 13.4 million viewers in 2002, although this was before the rise of streaming.

These impressive viewership numbers Game of Thrones has been drawing each week don't factor in those who watch the episode beyond Sunday night. When including those who watch later, HBO says the eighth season has been averaging 44.2 million viewers, Deadline reports.

Now, the network can only hope to retain these tens of millions of viewers for the forthcoming Game of Thrones spinoffs and that fans' watch hasn't ended quite yet. Brendan Morrow

3:43 p.m.

Of the many mysteries of the beloved former planet Pluto, the likely presence of a liquid ocean under its icy surface is one of the biggest. Now, a new study is offering up a theory on how its ocean has avoided freezing along with the rest of the dwarf planet.

The new research, published on Monday in Nature Geoscience, used data from NASA's New Horizon spacecraft, which collected data from Pluto and its moon Charon back in 2015. That data, combined with computer simulations, determined that Pluto's ocean is probably insulated from the well-below-freezing temperatures of its surface and atmosphere by a layer of gas, CNN reported.

Methane, which would likely be released from Pluto's core back while it was still forming, "would be thick and have low thermal conductivity," which would allow it to act as an insulator between the large amounts of ice on the dwarf planet's surface and the liquid water underneath.

It's possible that similar insulating layers of gas exist elsewhere in our galaxy and beyond, hiding similar oceans from the extreme cold of outer space. This would make "the existence of extraterrestrial life more plausible," said Shunichi Kamata, the study's lead author. Read more at CNN. Shivani Ishwar

3:42 p.m.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) is back with another scorching Twitter thread.

On Saturday, Amash, a common critic of Trump, became the first sitting Republican congressmember to call for the president's impeachment. His GOP colleagues predictably had a big problem with that, but Amash still spelled out why he thinks Trump's impeachment defenders "are resting their argument on several falsehoods" in a series of Monday tweets.

According to Amash's reasoning, Trump's defenders "say there were no underlying crimes," "say obstruction of justice requires an underlying crime," claim Trump should be able to end a "frivolous investigation," and attempt to redefine "high crimes and misdemeanors." But there were "many" crimes — not that obstruction of justice charges require them, Amash continues in his thread. The "high crimes and misdemeanors" portion of impeachment proceedings aren't even "defined in the constitution," Amash also said, adding that a president just has to commit "conduct that violates the public trust."

Amash's Saturday tweetstorm has already led Michigan state Rep. Jim Lower (R) to announce he'll primary Amash next year. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Fox News that Amash "just want to have attention," though as CNN's Haley Byrd said in a tweet, that doesn't usually seem to be Amash's top priority. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:22 p.m.

The Game of Thrones finale might have been highly controversial among fans, but the show's leads are defending it as a fitting conclusion.

Several cast members have begun to weigh in with post-finale interviews, including Emilia Clarke, who spoke with Entertainment Weekly and called Daenerys' final scene "beautiful and touching." While admitting she initially had a difficult time processing her character's fate, she ultimately concluded that it was the "logical" outcome.

In an interview with The New Yorker, Clarke also defended the finale as "the only way it could end," adding she's "not sure it could" have gone differently for Daenerys.

Kit Harington similarly defended Daenerys' ending, telling Entertainment Weekly "this has been building" for many seasons and that there's "nothing done in this show that isn't truthful to the characters." While he didn't comment on Jon Snow's own conclusion, Harington previously said he was "maybe not happy, but very satisfied" with how things wrapped up.

Recently, comments from Clarke, Harington, and other Thrones stars appearing to express negative feelings about season eight have gained traction online, with one such compilation racking up nearly 12 million YouTube views. But based on these new quotes, it's clear those clips don't exactly paint the full picture, showing Clarke appearing to laugh nervously while attempting to not give away whether her character has a happy ending and Harington being sarcastic when he calls the ending "disappointing" before clarifying he actually thought it was "epic."

Isaac Hempstead-Wright also wrote in a Monday essay that he was thrilled with the finale, which he argued is fitting because "life doesn’t have neat, happy endings," while Sophie Turner similarly praised it and slammed the fan petition to remake the season as "disrespectful."

While expressing their own approval, prior to the finale airing, a number of stars did predict it would be divisive, which turned out to be even more accurate than they might have had in mind. Brendan Morrow

2:30 p.m.

Artificial intelligence is officially joining the fight against cancer.

Google on Monday announced new research in training an AI tool to recognize the signs of lung cancer from a CT scan of a patient's chest. The research, which began in late 2017, has culminated in an AI capable of diagnosing lung cancer with better accuracy than certified radiologists.

In order to test the AI, Google showed it 45,856 chest CT scans, comparing the AI's diagnoses with those of six board-certified radiologists, Engadget reported. Google's AI was able to detect cancer in 5 percent more of these screenings than the radiologists; it also reduced false diagnoses by "more than 11 percent."

Radiologists typically have to view up to hundreds of images from a single CT scan in order to make a successful diagnosis for lung cancer; Google's AI is able to generate a three-dimensional image instead of 2-D ones, as well as detecting specific areas of malignant tissue in the lungs, which radiologists are often unable to do from images alone.

This AI modeling technique represents a breakthrough in the ability to diagnose cancers early on. Lung cancer, which accounts for more than 1.7 million deaths every year around the world, is often not caught until later stages, when treatment has a much lower chance of success. Google's technology will have to undergo further research and testing before becoming available as a diagnosis tool, but the company hopes to "make early detection more accessible." Shivani Ishwar

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