March 28, 2019

President Trump's campaign is gearing up for a cutthroat race to 2020, and his backers are prepared to wield Attorney General William Barr's memo as their most effective weapon.

Barr wrote that Special Counsel Robert Mueller didn't establish any collusion with Russia, and The Atlantic reports that the Republican National Committee and America First, a pro-Trump super PAC, are prepared to attack anyone who says otherwise.

Reporters who suggest there's more to learn about Mueller's report — which hasn't been released publicly, aside from a few words quoted by Barr — or attack Trump more generally, will feel the wrath of a very-prepared defense team. "Any reporter who tries that will be hit with 30-second spots of all their ridiculous claims about collusion," a source told The Atlantic. "Their tweets have all been screencapped. It's all ready to go."

Trump reportedly plans to continue speaking publicly about his self-described exoneration and doesn't want to move on since Democrats and some members of the media won't accept his assertion that Mueller cleared him of any wrongdoing. His first big shot at a "victory lap" will come on Thursday night at his campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he's expected to skewer critics who inaccurately predicted Mueller's report would be more immediately damaging. The message will be that Democrats are willing to make up lies "to stop us from making America great again," said a campaign source, and that Trump's allies are ready to go on the offense.

Trump-friendly groups, a source warned, are "geared up for any nonsense to come." Read more at The Atlantic. Summer Meza

August 29, 2017

Grizzly bears are choosing to go vegetarian as they are increasingly forced to pick between salmon and berries, The Independent reports.

Typically, brown bears on Alaska's Kodiak Island eat salmon through roughly August, then switch to feeding on elderberries that grow in late August and early September when the fish leave the rivers. Researchers writing for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences observed that as Alaska gets warmer due to climate change, the elderberries are growing as early as July — and Kodiak bears are choosing to leave behind salmon-rich streams to forage instead for the tiny red treats.

While bears will continue to depend on salmon for energy in the coming years, "this prey-switching behavior attenuated an iconic predator-prey interaction and likely altered the many ecological functions that result from bears foraging on salmon," the researchers wrote. "If these trends continue, by 2070, the average onset of berry availability would occur during the average peak of salmon availability." Jeva Lange

August 17, 2016

Sean Spicer has a hard job, and lately it's just gotten harder. As the chief spokesman of the Republican National Committeee, Spicer has been on the party's front lines as this election season threatens to swallow it whole — which, coincidentally, is how Spicer likes to have his gum, as reported in a Washington Post profile published Wednesday:

Two-and-a-half packs of Orbit translate to 35 sticks of cinnamon gum, sitting undigested in Spicer's stomach before noon. It seems fitting that Spicer's constitution is seemingly unflappable, given the types of responsibilities he has shouldered with Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket. After all, as one Republican staffer told the Post: "To be a spokesperson you need to be able to defend the nominee without hesitation. I can assure you that 90 percent of the people … would have some hesitation."

Read the whole profile of Spicer — including how he laughed off his infamous My Little Pony argumentat The Washington Post. Kimberly Alters

May 5, 2015

As Charles Stross explains, it's an easy four-step process. First, build a Von Neumann probe — an automated spaceship that can refuel, repair, and make copies of itself. Second, program the probe to hunt out likely solar systems with a good bit of planetary mass, and when it gets there, to build a Matrioshka brain. Essentially, the probe breaks down the local planets into a networked system of solar-powered computers so numerous they capture all the local star's sunlight (as seen in Stross' book Accelerando).

Third, the brain uses radio astronomy to map nearby stars and search for signs of life: oxygen absorption signatures, non-natural radio signals, and so forth. Finally, if any life is detected on a nearby planet, the Matrioshka brain aims a Nicoll-Dyson beam at it — a phased array of lasers powered by all the star's energy. Such a beam would have a range of hundreds of light-years — and could destroy an Earth-sized planet in less than an hour.

That's it! All it would take is one high-tech civilization building one of those probes, and the galaxy would be sterile until all the stars go out in 100 trillion years. Ryan Cooper

December 31, 2014

According to FBI documents obtained by The Intercept, the hackers who broke into Sony's computer network and intimidated the company into canceling the planned premiere of its movie The Interview have also threatened a U.S. media organization. It is not clear which company was the target, since the FBI bulletin only refers to it as "USPER2."

On December 20, the hackers (who call themselves the "Guardians of Peace") posted a message on Pastebin, a free, anonymous text-sharing service, taunting the FBI and the media company "for the 'quality' of their investigations," according to the bulletin. The message further implied a future threat, but not a specific one.

U.S. media websites have struggled with using strong encryption (to protect against cyberattacks), since many ad servers do not support its use. But this alarming news, and the fact that Google is now boosting encrypted site rankings in its search algorithm, could be sufficient motivation to get both ad networks and media sites on board. Ryan Cooper

December 3, 2014

This is cool: The folks at the World Resources Institute have animated the history of carbon emissions, organized by country. Watch:

Two takeaways. First, while China is now the biggest emitter by a wide margin, the United States was the worst offender for most of industrial history. Second, human society is quickly running out of time to procrastinate on climate policy. Remember the year 2000? From that time to the present we blew through about a quarter of our carbon budget (the total amount we can release and still forestall dangerous warming). If we don't take serious action soon, we'll have blown through the rest of it by 2033. Ryan Cooper

May 1, 2014

The American West has been suffering a consistent drought for much of the last decade. This map shows that while it has much improved from this time last year, it's still very bad in some places, like North Texas. And in the decades before that, farmers had already been notorious for pumping out the fossil water in the Ogallala Aquifer at unsustainable rates.

Now the USGS has put together a very snazzy simulation showing just how this has happened, by measuring the water table year by year and calculating how much it has dropped. More northerly states like Nebraska seem to be doing fairly well, but North Texas in particular doesn't look good. Check it out below. --Ryan Cooper

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