May 10, 2018

Congress is considering a bill that would put $10 million towards the search for extraterrestrial life, The Atlantic reported Thursday.

If approved, the bill would fund NASA's effort to find "technosignatures, such as radio transmissions" to "search for life's origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe." Technosignatures are evidence of TV or radio waves that could be produced by intelligent civilizations elsewhere in the universe. NASA was focused on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI, back in 1992, when Congress funded a couple of massive telescopes to search for signals from aliens hoping to contact Earth, but the program was swiftly shut down when a Nevada senator led the charge to cut its funding, mocking it as "The Great Martian Chase."

Researchers have continued to search for alien life forms, but mostly through private research firms with independent funding. NASA has been focused on astrobiology as a way to find microbial life in space, rather than technosignatures, which would indicate an intelligent life form. The fact that the government seems to be inching towards support for SETI again is a "sea-change" and a "very big deal," astronomer Jill Tarter told The Atlantic. Even though the proposed $10 million over the next two years wouldn't get NASA too far in the universe-wide search, says Tarter, it's a start.

Read more at The Atlantic. Summer Meza

8:09 a.m.

Britain's lower house of Parliament voted 432-202 to reject Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan on Tuesday night, and opposition Labour Leader Jeremy Cornyn quickly set in motion a vote of no confidence in May's government. After hours of debate, that vote will be held at 7 p.m. GMT on Wednesday. With few signs of defections, May is expected to survive this vote. If she doesn't, her Conservative Party and Labour will have 14 days to try to form a new government, and if neither succeeds, Britain will hold new national elections. The future of Britain's divorce from the European Union is unclear.

Tuesday's 230-vote loss set a new record, smashing the 166-vote loss a previous government suffered in 1924; this was the first time Parliament has ever defeated a treaty. The last successful no-confidence motion was in 1979, when the Labour government fell by one vote, ushering in Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Peter Weber

7:09 a.m.

"The partial government shutdown is inflicting far greater damage on the United States economy than previously estimated," The New York Times reports, citing new White House projections. "The analysis, and other projections from outside the White House, suggests that the shutdown has already weighed significantly on growth and could ultimately push the United States economy into a contraction." It has already sliced half a percentage point from economic growth and is tipped to get worse with each passing week.

White House officials are now cautioning Trump, "who has hitched his political success to the economy," about the economic toll of the shutdown, the Times reports. "Some people involved in the shutdown discussions in the White House have privately said they anticipate that Mr. Trump will grow anxious about the economic impact in the coming days, accelerating an end to the stalemate. Others close to the president believe Mr. Trump has leverage and are encouraging him to stand by his demands."

On CNN's New Day, contributor Frank Bruni and senior political analyst John Avlon were skeptical.

"This shutdown is a serious matter, but the question is: Who budges with this information?" Bruni asked. "I don't see Democrats moving, because they feel very confident in their position and they have every reason to," given public opinion, but "on the other side, for the president, every day this goes on it becomes an ever-more-fierce point of pride." "On the one hand, you've got the practical implications of the shutdown on real people, and the president's pride — these are not actually equivalent position," Avlon said. "And the president who's hitched his star on the economy is going to maybe pay attention to this report, because this is twice as bad as they expected." Peter Weber

6:11 a.m.

Fox News senior analyst Brit Hume doesn't think Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) should get a pass for defending white nationalism and white supremacy, he told Marth MacCallum on Tuesday's The Story. "I'm sorry, the juxtaposition of what's wrong with those terms and white supremacism is just too close for comfort." But journalists have to be careful not to go "throwing the word racist around with abandon," he argued, because while the Civil Rights movement rightfully stigmatized racism in the 1960s, the word "racist" has since been "weaponized."

Hume singled out The New York Times for running an article listing "racist" things King has said, objecting to their inclusion of anti-Islamic statements, and he criticized NBC News for rescinding its guidance that NBC journalists shouldn't call King a racist. The media should just "accurately" quote what people say and let people "make up their own minds" if it's racist, he said. "I think it is absolutely one of the things it is wrong with the news media today and why we as an institution stand in such low esteem," Hume said. "People think we are biased, and this suggests that indeed we are."

As it turns out, Fox News is one of the few news organizations that called King's remarks racist.

"Fox News earned some credit on Twitter when its news alert called King's comments racist," but "the conservative network hasn't given the story much air time," notes HuffPost's Lydia O'Connor. "King's quote got a 30-second mention on Fox & Friends on Tuesday morning, in which the hosts referred to his statement as 'comments about white supremacy and white nationalism.' For comparison's sake, the show spent 12 minutes discussing a razor commercial that day." Peter Weber

5:03 a.m.

Tuesday's Late Show used President Trump's giant hamburger takeout order to remind everyone that he once cut a TV ad for McDonald's — only in this version, Grimace is very curious about why Trump is doing so much to help Russian President Vladimir Putin.

One of the bombshell reports about Trump last weekend was that he commandeered the notes his interpreter took of one of his secretive conversations with Putin. Luckily, Trump "kept his own notes," Stephen Colbert said, holding up a drawing. "See, there's Trump and Putin, and apparently that pile of cheeseburgers is Friendship Mountain. Fun fact: We wrote that joke yesterday morning, hours before the president posed in front of an actual mountain of 'hamberders.'" Trump has also spent the last year threatening to pull the U.S. from NATO, a top item "on Putin's Amazon Wish List," Colbert said, "along with Not Shirts and Western Ukraine."

Colbert pivoted to Rep. Steve King's (R-Iowa) recent defense of white nationalism and white supremacy. "King got a lot of heat for the comment, and it wasn't just because he was standing next to that cross," he joked, noting that Republican leaders finally responded by stripping King of all his committee assignments. "I applaud the Republican effort, but why now?" Colbert asked. He showed a reel of some of King's other greatest hits.

The Daily Show's Trevor Noah took a deeper dive into King's past comments. "As it stands, Steve King said a thing that's really racist, but he claims that he isn't racist at all," Noah recapped. "So which is it? Is he racist or not?" He transformed into "Trevor Noah, Racism Detective," and ran through the evidence. "On the one hand, we have Steve King being racists toward Mexicans, Muslims, and the entire non-white world," Noah said. "But on the other hand, he says he's not racist. Huh, even I'm not good enough as a racism detective to crack this one." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:39 a.m.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said early Wednesday that a terrorist attack at a luxury hotel and office complex in an upscale area of Nairobi was over, and at least 14 people were killed. "The security operation at Dusit is over and all terrorists have been eliminated," Kenyatta said. "We will seek out every person involved" and "relentlessly" pursue al-Shabab, the Somalia-based Islamist terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the attack. Kenyans should "go back to work without fear," and visitors should feel safe, he added. One American was among the dead, the U.S. State Department says.

The attack began Tuesday afternoon, when multiple suicide car bombs destroyed the security gate to the complex and at least four armed men stormed the lobby of the DusitD2 hotel. The hotel complex, in Nairobi's Westlands neighborhood, also has banks, offices, bars, and restaurants. You can watch an early report on the attack from BBC News below. Peter Weber

2:49 a.m.

President Trump's right hand had a small bandage on it when he visited McAllen, Texas, on Thursday, then again in New Orleans on Monday. In some photos from McAllen, there was blood visible underneath the bandage. It's just a scratch, White House Press Secretary Sara Huckabee Sanders told Politico. "The president was having fun and joking around with his son Barron and scratched his hand." Trump, 72, had his last known physical exam a year ago, and Sanders said Trump will undergo another physical sometime this year.

Blood on Trump's hand was visible in a photo Fox News host Sean Hannity posted to his Instagram account on Thursday, and "in a curious twist, a bandage is also visible on the back of Hannity’s left hand as the pair stand filming an interview," Politico notes.

Hannity told Politico that he hadn't noticed Trump's bandage but his was from a mixed martial arts fight. "What?" he added. "Do you think we colluded to have Band-Aids on?" Peter Weber

2:08 a.m.

In a court filing released Tuesday, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey asserts that the former president of Purdue Pharma, Richard Sackler, knew in the early 2000s that his company's powerful opioid painkiller, OxyContin, was being abused, but still pushed it on doctors and tried to blame users for becoming addicted.

"We have to hammer on abusers in every way possible," Sackler, whose family owns Purdue Pharma, wrote in a 2001 email. "They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals." This was one of several internal documents cited in the court filing, The New York Times reports, which also alleges that Sackler told sales representatives they needed to urge doctors to prescribe the highest dosage of OxyContin, because Purdue made the most money off of those pills.

In June, Healey sued eight members of the Sackler family, Purdue Pharma, and several directors and executives, accusing them of misleading doctors and patients about the risks of taking OxyContin. Purdue Pharma has long said the Sackler family was not involved in marketing the drug, which came on the market in 1996. Doctors were told that it was next to impossible for people to abuse the painkiller; since then, more than 200,000 people have died in the United States from OxyContin overdoses.

The court filing says the Sackler family also knew that Purdue Pharma was aware early on that OxyContin was being abused by some users and sold on the street, but never told authorities. Purdue Pharma said in a statement the court filing is "littered with biases and inaccurate characterizations." The Sacklers are extremely wealthy, with OxyContin sales helping boost their bank accounts, and involved in philanthropy. With this latest court filing, it's expected that many institutions will be urged to decline or give back their gifts, the Times reports. Read the entire complaint against Purdue Pharma at The New York Times. Catherine Garcia

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