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

April 9, 2019

Students at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland made a surprising discovery during their gross anatomy class last spring.

As part of the class, students opened up cadavers in order to get a closer look at the organs. When students opened the chest cavity of Rose Marie Bentley, a woman who died at age 99 of natural causes, they noticed the blood vessels looked odd. When the time came to examine her abdominal cavity, they discovered the "organs of the digestive tract ... were transposed entirely right to left," Prof. Cameron Walker told USA Today. "I'd never seen this before and the students were every bit as fascinated."

Bentley, it turned out, had a rare condition called situs inversus with levocardia. Her heart was in the correct spot, but other organs, including her liver and spleen, were in the opposite locations from where they should have been. It's believed that Bentley is the oldest person to ever have had the condition, which happens in roughly 1 in every 22,000 births.

There are only two documented cases of people with situs inversus making it to their 70s, and Walker estimates only 1 in 50 million people born with the condition live to see adulthood. Bentley's family said when she had her appendix removed, the doctor noted that it was in the wrong spot but didn't actually tell her that. Bentley's daughter, Louise Allee, told USA Today her mom "would think this was so cool. She would be tickled pink that she could teach something like this. She would probably get a big smile on her face, knowing that she was different, but made it through." Catherine Garcia

April 2, 2019

In major space news, the first-ever photograph of a black hole is expected to be unveiled next Wednesday.

Six international space agencies will hold simultaneous press conferences to "present a groundbreaking result from the Event Horizon Telescope," the European Southern Observatory announced on Monday. It's widely believed that a photo showing Sagittarius A, the supermassive black hole in the middle of the Milky Way, will be revealed.

A black hole is an area in space where gravity is so strong that not even light can escape. Black holes are invisible, and it's likely the photo will show the "event horizon," which is the edge of the black hole, USA Today reports. Capturing any image of Sagittarius A would have been enormously difficult, as Science Alert says it is "shrouded in a thick cloud of dust and gas." Catherine Garcia

March 20, 2019

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter made a most triumphant announcement on Wednesday, revealing that they will start filming a third Bill & Ted movie, Bill & Ted Face the Music, this summer.

Reeves and Winter will reprise their roles as Ted Logan and Bill S. Preston Esq., respectively. Entertainment Weekly reports that the movie will follow the best friends as they encounter a "visitor from the future [who] warns them that only their song can save life as we know it and bring harmony to the universe." After Reeves and Winter shared the big news, Orion Pictures announced the release date: Aug. 21, 2020.

Bill & Ted Face the Music is set to be directed by Dean Parisot, with Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, writers who worked on the earlier films, penning the screenplay. Catherine Garcia

February 7, 2019

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed on Thursday that the National Enquirer threatened to publish private photos of him and his mistress, Lauren Sanchez, if he didn't stop an investigation into how the publication was earlier able to obtain intimate text messages and photos between the two.

In a Medium post, Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, shared emails sent from top executives with the National Enquirer's parent company, AMI. AMI is led by David Pecker, a longtime friend of President Trump's who would pay for stories about Trump, then never publish them. Bezos said an AMI representative relayed that Pecker was "apoplectic" about his investigation, and soon after, he was verbally told the Enquirer had nude photos of him, and would release those pictures and texts if the investigation continued.

Bezos then started to receive emails, including one that requested he release a statement saying the company's reporting was not politically motivated. Bezos refused. "Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I've decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten," he said. Read Bezos' post and the emails with AMI at Medium. Catherine Garcia

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