June 22, 2020

The area around Stonehenge is one of the most-studied archaeological landscapes in the world, which makes it all the more surprising that a team of archaeologists made one of the most striking finds in recent memory about 2 miles northeast of the famed prehistoric monument, The Guardian reports.

The uncovered area, which dates back around 4,500 years, is a 1.2-mile circle of deep shafts surrounding the likely sacred Neolithic henge monument known as Durrington Walls that reportedly sits precisely at the center. All told, archaeologists are describing the structure as the largest ever found in Britain. "This is an unprecedented find of major significance within the U.K.," said Prof. Vincent Gaffney, a leading archaeologist on the project. "Key researchers on Stonehenge and its landscape have been taken aback by the scale of the structure and the fact that it hadn't been discovered until now so close to Stonehenge."

The reason the shafts escaped notice for so long was because they had filled naturally over thousands of years, and were dismissed as natural sinkholes and dew ponds. But the latest technology helped show they were actually geophysical anomalies.

The Durrington Shafts discovery will shed light on the Neolithic communities' belief systems and also reportedly offers the first evidence that the early inhabitants of Britain had developed a counting method since constructing something of this size — the shafts are are each more than five meters deep and 10 meters in diameter — such careful positioning suggests the builders were tracking their paces. Placing each shaft would reportedly have required walking approximately 800 meters from the henge to the boundary. Read more at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

March 18, 2020

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin gave Republican senators a stark warning on Tuesday, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News, saying that if the government doesn't step in to offer economic relief amid the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. unemployment could reach 20 percent.

Mnuchin was trying to get support for his $1 trillion economic stimulus proposal, aimed at providing financial assistance to small businesses and wage workers. While meeting with lawmakers, Mnuchin also shared his thinking that the coronavirus could cause an economic fallout worse than the 2008 financial crisis, Bloomberg reports.

Treasury Department spokeswoman Monica Crowley said while speaking to the senators, Mnuchin "used several mathematical examples for illustrative purposes, but he never implied this would be the case."

Earlier Tuesday, Mnuchin said the Trump administration is "looking at sending checks to Americans immediately," because they "need cash now." Catherine Garcia

January 14, 2020

Text messages made public on Tuesday between Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, and Robert Hyde, a donor to President Trump now running for a House seat in Connecticut, deeply disturbed former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah.

Parnas provided the texts to lawmakers as part of the impeachment inquiry. They show that last March, Parnas and Hyde discussed then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch's movements in Kyiv, including when she was at the U.S. Embassy, when her computer and phone were off, and her security situation.

Politico's Natasha Bertrand tweeted, "This certainly makes it sound like Parnas and Co. were actively tracking Yovanovitch's movements," to which Rocah responded, "As a former mafia prosecutor, this sure sounds like a mob hit was being planned on a public servant in a foreign country by associates of the POTUS. A POTUS who said she was 'going through some things.' This takes Trump's lawlessness & misogyny to new level."

Rocah is referring to Trump telling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July that Yovanovitch was "going to go through some things." In April, Yovanovitch received a call from the State Department, warning there were concerns about her safety. She was recalled in May.

After the text messages were released, Yovanovitch's lawyer Lawrence Robbins issued a statement, saying, "Needless to say, the notion that American citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch's movements for unknown purposes is disturbing. We trust that the appropriate authorities will conduct an investigation." Catherine Garcia

November 14, 2019

SpongeBob is ready to get in on the Keanussance.

The first trailer debuted Thursday for next year's The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, and there's really no other way to put this: the movie features Keanu Reeves as a tumbleweed. Look out for that box office record, Avengers: Endgame.

Reeves is following in the grand SpongeBob tradition of actors inexplicably showing up in live-action, as when a shirtless David Hasselhoff appeared out of absolutely nowhere near the end of the original SpongeBob SquarePants Movie because, hey, why not? Presumably, Reeves' role is similarly minor, although with at least one SpongeBob spinoff reportedly headed to Netflix, one can only assume a tumblereeves-centric series is under consideration.

This also continues Reeves' apparent love for random cameos after he surprisingly showed up in Netflix's Always Be My Maybe earlier this year. What other films on the horizon could be hiding inexplicable Keanu roles up their sleeves? Sonic the Hedgehog? Godzilla vs. Kong? The Conjuring 3? Only time will tell. Brendan Morrow

July 6, 2019

The Los Angeles Clippers put a bow on the NBA's wild offseason on Friday evening.

The franchise reportedly agreed to a four-year max contract worth $141 million with NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, while also trading Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and a haul of future draft picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for All-Star Paul George. George and Leonard, who are both from the Los Angeles area, reportedly wanted to play together.

The Clippers, who made a surprising run to the playoffs last year, add two of the game's best two-way players to an already talented roster that includes Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly, and Montrezl Harrell.

Leonard's decision to sign with the Clippers is bad news for the other Los Angeles franchise. The Lakers were also trying to sign the superstar to play with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Leonard also spurned the Toronto Raptors, with whom he only played one season, albeit one that resulted in a championship. Toronto could now pivot toward a rebuilding effort.

George's departure from Oklahoma City was somewhat of a surprise considering he signed a long-term deal with the franchise last offseason to play alongside Russell Westbrook. The Thunder are now overflowing with draft picks and future building blocks, but their status as a contender has seemingly taken a hit in the present day, though Gallinari and Gilgeous-Alexander should help lessen the blow of losing George. Read more at ESPN. Tim O'Donnell

July 2, 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled out of a planned event centered on tourism on Tuesday after receiving word that 14 Russian sailors were killed when a fire broke out on Monday in a submersible research vessel. It was the worst naval incident in Russia in a decade.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the sailors died from smoke inhalation. It is unclear exactly when on Monday the fire broke out and when the deaths were first reported to Russian officials like Putin.

The vessel, designed for deep-sea exploration to study the ocean floor, is reportedly linked to a secret nuclear submarine project, and crew members were reportedly performing biometric measurements in Russian territorial waters.

The Defense Ministry did not give any details about the cause of the incident, though the vessel is reportedly now at the Russian Northern Fleet's Severomorsk base in the Murmansk region on the Barents Sea coast in the northernmost reaches of the country, above the Arctic Circle. An investigation into the cause of the fire is reportedly underway, though a military expert who spoke anonymously with Agence France-Presse said that it's unlikely the fire happened during scientific research. "Usually it's a cover for different type of work conducted on the seabed," like laying cables, the expert said.

The incident is the latest in a string of disasters experienced by Russia's navy, Agence France-Presse reports. AFP adds that Monday's incident is particularly reminiscent of the sinking of the Kursk submarine in 2000 that caused 118 deaths. Tim O'Donnell

June 25, 2019

Gen. Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, once Hugo Chávez's head of security and later Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's spy chief, is telling all about what he says he witnessed while serving as one of the government's top officials.

Figuera was named the head of SEBIN, Venezuela's intelligence police, last October, which landed him on a U.S. sanctions list in February. A month later, Figuera was approached by the opposition and joined the plot to push out Maduro, he told The Washington Post in an interview conducted last week and released Monday. He said that working as head of SEBIN made him realize "Maduro is the head of a criminal enterprise, with his own family involved," and he was ready to defect.

Figuera told the Post he learned that an assistant to Maduro's son ran a company that had a monopoly on gold, buying it from miners for a steal and selling it for much more to Venezuela's central bank, among other high-level corruption. The government also looked the other way as groups like Hezbollah and the Colombian guerrilla organization ELN operated inside the country, he said. "I found that the cases of narco-trafficking and guerrillas were not to be touched."

The uprising against Maduro was launched April 30, but it ultimately failed. Figuera told the Post he's not the only top official who joined the effort; he named the chief justice of Venezuela's supreme court, who has publicly denied being part of the plot. Maduro was nervous during the uprising, Figuera said, and once Maduro summoned him to the country's most infamous prison, he knew he had to flee. He went to Colombia, and on Monday, arrived in the United States. "I'm proud of what I did," Figuera told the Post. "For now, the regime has gotten ahead of us. But that can quickly change." Read more on the plot to oust Maduro and Figuera's story at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

May 10, 2019

The bottom of the ocean is dark. Like, really dark. So dark that some marine species have evolved ways of life that don't depend on light. There are microorganisms that live off of heat vents at the ocean floor, creatures that produce their own light in a phenomenon known as bioluminescence — and now, new research has found, fish that can see color even in the dark.

Until now, we've thought that all vision works more or less the same way: The cones in any animal's eye may allow for color vision in light, but vision in darkness is regulated by the rods in the eye, which means it's all monochrome. But a new study published in Science on Thursday found several species of deep-sea fish that have additional rods in their eyes, allowing for multicolored vision in darkness.

Even more interesting is the fact that not all of this type of vision seems to have come from the same place. Rather, there's evidence that it evolved "several times independently of each other," explained study co-author Walter Salzburger. This is a good sign that it's genuinely useful for deep-sea fish to "detect bioluminescent signals," he explained.

This newly discovered dark-vision may enable the fish that use it to see some colors at depths of up to 5,000 feet below sea level, Gizmodo reports. Light from the surface world can barely reach that deep, so it's impressive that anything can see at all down there, rather than relying on other senses to detect surroundings. Further research will be needed in order to determine exactly what deep-sea fish are using this extraordinary capability for, but it's clearly an advantage down in the depths. Learn more at Gizmodo. Shivani Ishwar

See More Speed Reads