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NASA Discovers 10 Potential Planets That May Be Habitable

NASA revealed Monday that one of its teams discovered hundreds of new potential planets, 10 of which may be habitable. The Kepler space telescope team added 219 new potential planets to its catalog, bringing its total findings over the first four years of observation to 4,034 planet candidates. Of those, 50 have now been flagged as potentially habitable because they are similar in size to Earth and 30 have been verified, NASA announced from its Ames Research Center in California. “This carefully-measured catalog is the foundation for directly answering one of astronomy’s most compelling questions – how many planets like our Earth are in the galaxy?” said Susan Thompson, a Kepler research scientist and lead author of the study. The 10 new potential planets could be rocky, and orbit in a range called the “habitable zone,” which means there could be liquid water on their surfaces. The Kepler spacecraft will continue its mission to search for new potential planets and collect information about the galaxy. This data will enable scientists to determine what kind of planets make up our galaxy and monitor possible Earth-like planets. […]

Nikki Haley Says Donald Trump Believes ‘Climate Is Changing’

(WASHINGTON) — Does he or doesn’t he? Believe in climate change, that is. You’d think that would be an easy enough question the day after President Donald Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the landmark global accord aimed at combatting global warming. But don’t bother asking at the White House. “I have not had an opportunity to have that discussion” with the president, responded press secretary Sean Spicer on Friday. “You should ask him that,” offered White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt dodged the question, too. The president also ignored it during an unrelated bill-signing. But his U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, answered the question in a new way this weekend. “President Trump believes the climate is changing,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” ”And he believes pollutants are part of that equation. So that is the fact.” If so, it’s quite a reversal for Trump, who spent years publicly bashing the idea of global warming as a “hoax” and “total con job” in books, interviews and tweets. He openly challenged the scientific consensus that the climate is changing and man-made carbon emissions are largely to blame. “Global warming is an expensive hoax!” he tweeted in 2014. But Trump has been largely silent on the issue since his election last fall. On Thursday, he made scarce mention of it in his lengthy remarks announcing America’s exit from the Paris accord. Instead, he framed his decision as based on economics. Here’s what he’s said before: ___ Trump’s Tweets: The president’s twitter feed once was filled with references to “so-called” global warming being a “total con job” based on “faulty science and manipulated data.” An Associated Press search of his twitter archives revealed at least 90 instances in which he has referred to “global warming” and “climate change” since 2011. In nearly every instance, he expressed skepticism or mockery. “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bulls— has got to stop,” he wrote in January 2014, spelling out the vulgarity. Often the president has pointed to cold weather as evidence the climate scientists are wrong. “It’s 46 (really cold) and snowing in New York on Memorial Day — tell the so-called “scientists” that we want global warming right now!” he wrote in May 2013 — one of several instances in which he said that warming would be welcome. “Where the hell is global warming when you need it?” he asked in January 2015. The same message was echoed in the president’s books. In “Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America,” Trump made a reference to “the mistaken belief that global climate change is being caused by carbon emissions.” “If you don’t buy that — and I don’t — then what we have is really just an expensive way of making the tree-huggers feel good about themselves,” he wrote. ___ Candidate And Skeptic: “I’m not a believer in man-made global warming,” Trump told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in September 2015, after launching his bid for the White House. He bemoaned the fact that the U.S. was investing money and doing things “to solve a problem that I don’t think in any major fashion exists.” “I am not a believer,” he added, “Unless somebody can prove something to me … I am not a believer and we have much bigger problems.” By March 2016, the president appeared to allow that the climate was changing — but continued to doubt humans were to blame. “I think there’s a change in weather. I am not a great believer in man-made climate change. I’m not a great believer,” he told The Washington Post. “There is certainly a change in weather,” he said. Then-campaign manager, Conway explained Trump’s view this way: “He believes that global warming is naturally occurring. That there are shifts naturally occurring.” ___ Evolving President: In an interview with The New York Times in November, after the election, Trump was asked repeatedly whether he intended to leave the Paris accord and appeared to have a new open-mindedness. “I’m looking at it very closely,” Trump told the newspaper. “I have an open mind to it. We’re going to look very carefully.” He went on to say that he thought “there is some connectivity” between human activity and the changing climate, but that, “It depends on how much.” Asked about the comment several days later, Trump’s now-chief of staff Reince Priebus told Fox News that Trump “has his default position, which is that most of it is a bunch of bunk.” “But he’ll have an open mind and listen to people,” he said. Stay tuned. […]

Black Lives Matter Groups Are Bailing Black Women Out for Jail for Mother’s Day

When Tanisha Bynum decided to drive to the beach with a suspended license two weeks ago, she didn’t know she was risking leaving her kids alone on Mother’s Day. And missing her son’s 3rd birthday. And skipping her daughter’s kindergarten graduation. But as Bynum, 25, drove from Alabama into Florida to head to the beach, another car ran a red light and collided with her truck, causing her to crash into a lamppost. Bynum wasn’t hurt, but she was arrested for driving with a suspended license and taken to jail. She had already gotten another ticket in Florida and skipped her court date because she lived in Alabama, so the judge set bail at $10,000, with a trial set for early June. Bynum, two months pregnant and mother to four kids under 8, would have to sit in jail to wait it out. “Those are milestones in my kids’ lives,” she says of the birthday and the graduation. “I didn’t want to miss them because of a traffic ticket.” But on Friday, Bynum was one of hundreds of black women bailed out of jail for Mama’s Bail Out Day, a Mother’s Day campaign orchestrated by more than a dozen groups affiliated with Black Lives Matter. So far, social justice groups like Color of Change and Southerners on New Ground and have raised more than $550,000 to bail out black women all over the country, with $345,000 going directly to bail money and the rest spent on local organizing efforts and services for the people who have been bailed out. The Mother’s Day effort is meant to call attention to how the money bail system (in which an arrested person is kept in jail awaiting trial unless they can pay a hefty bail) disproportionately affects black families and communities. These women have only been arrested — they haven’t been convicted of a crime. “The money bail system in this country is unjust and punishes people for being poor,” says Serena Sebring, a local organizer with Southerners on New Ground, a queer-focused social justice group. A new report from racial justice group Color of Change and the American Civil Liberties Union estimates that every day about 440,000 people are sitting in jail without being convicted of a crime, which amounts to roughly 70% of the incarcerated population. And the ACLU estimates there are eight times as many women incarcerated as there were in 1980. This is an issue that disproportionately affects black families: according to a 2017 Human Rights Watch report on how bail impacts low-income communities, black people are 6.5 times more likely to be locked up, and much less likely to be able to afford bail. In the weeks before Mother’s Day, the groups looked at local jail rosters to see who was currently incarcerated pending trial, and wrote letters to the women inside asking if they were mothers or caregivers. They also asked clergy who work in the jail system to help them identify mothers who might want to be bailed out. “We’re working with local public defenders, folks in the court system, service providers and families,” says Scott Roberts, senior criminal justice campaigns director at Color of Change. “If there are criteria, that’s determined on the local level.” But the groups are also concerned with making sure the recently released mothers have the services and the support they need as they await trial, whether that means temporary housing or beauty appointments. “We’re trying to go above and beyond to make sure they feel cared for and loved,” said Ashley Green, lead organizer of social justice network the Dream Defenders in Florida. “We’re taking them to get their hair done, their nails done, we’re making sure they have a clear place to stay, transportation to and from jail.” “Anything that’s taking parents away from their kids long term is just setting up their kids for future failure,” she says. Before her traffic incident, Tanisha worked as a nursing assistant. But because she wasn’t allowed to have her cell phone in jail, she assumes she’s probably lost her job because of her absence. Her kids have been staying with their father and grandfather, away from their rooms and toys in her house. The first thing she plans to do on Mother’s Day, she says, is go to church. Next, she plans to “wash up our clothes, cook up some dinner, and enjoy being with my kids. We might even go to Chuck E Cheese or something.” “They have a million questions, they want to know where I’ve been,” she says. “My mother used to tell me: ‘trouble is easy to get into and hard to get out of.’ I plan to tell them the same thing.” […]

Here Are the Best April Fools’ Day Pranks of 2017

Saturday, April 1 is officially April Fools’ Day, though one could argue that every day can feel like April Fools’ Day in the age of fake news. Yet most of the pranks pulled by marketers and ad agencies this week likely won’t have such real world consequences — and are meant to be all in good fun. For April Fools’ Day 2017, we’ll be constantly updating the following list of this year’s funniest pranks orchestrated by individuals and companies, so you can make sure you don’t fall for any of them. Or if you see gullible friends or family members passing them around, share this article with them and rub it in their faces. The gags that have made it on TIME’s list are ones that sound like they could totally exist already, or that will probably exist in the near future. • The fake spelling test given by Joe Dombrowski, a teacher at Oakland Elementary School in Royal Oak, Michigan. (CBS Detroit published a full list of the bogus words online.) • Burger King’s latest “Whopper” is a tube of toothpaste. • The new version of Amazon Alexa called “Petlexa” • The app “Snoozer”, which allows tired people to plug in their location and a representative from Mattress Firm will swing by with a “NapSack,” earplugs, and a teddy bear. • PETCO’s poop-scooping drone is BS. • Quilted Northern’s “uSit” bathroom tracker that records all sits, “including frequency, duration and exertion levels.” • A truly one-of-a-kind watch made out of animal fur designed by Analog Watch Co. ($199.99). “Simply groom your favorite furry friend with a brush, collect 2-4 ounces of their hair, seal it in a small bag, and drop it in the post…we’ll bound the fur into a high-density felted wool. It takes 23 days for us to transfer m the fur into a brand new material.” • Bob Evans’s beauty line offering a “farm to body experience.” • COFFEEMATE has a coffee-flavor COFFEEMATE brewing. • The wedding planning website The Knot’s notification to couples that their wedding checklists may have been deleted. • “Sofia” the first “smart sofa” by home goods site Wayfair that features a voice-recognition system that can read out the owner’s calendar and built-in parental controls that can correct rowdy children and pets that may start jumping up and down on it. • GlassesUSA.com‘s Invisible Glasses, which “change from green to invisible due to the heat emitted by your skin, allowing you to enjoy vision correction without the annoyance of wearing contact lenses,” according to the product page. • Trulia‘s online directory of “Rental Pawperties” of dog houses. • FreshDirect’s and FoodKick’s pitless avocados. • The new line of arcade game machines for cats and dogs called Mewsmnts and Barkade, respectively — both designed by Liberty Games. • High Brew Cold Brew’s coffee IV drip. • Dating app Hinge’s “Parental Controls Dashboard,” so parents can specific (parent-only) filters for: Occupation, “Timeframe for children,” “Distance from Mom & Dad,” and “Holiday availability.” Hinge • Google Gnome, a “Smart Yard” complement to Google Home that takes outdoor commands. Don Holtz Photography • Prune-flavored condoms offered by OurTime, a dating site for singles ages 50+. • LEXUS LC’s “Lane Valet,” which moves the slows cars ahead into the next lane over to save drivers a honk. • The e-commerce site Man Crates’s new service “Man Freights,” in which customers are shipped “inside fully-furnished 4’ x 4’ crates” outfitted with WiFi and mini-fridge “so they can surprise their long-distance loved ones in-person on their special day.” • Jim Beam had a gas ginning up a can of beans, specially aged for one day in a tin can. • Zappos.com’s attempt to combat package theft by shipping items in a new type of box called the “in secure box” that makes packages invisible so that they can’t be stolen. • Organic meal delivery kit brand GreenChef’s new “all-Kale meal kit.” • “Canoeber,” a company in Ely, Minnesota, that wants to be known as the “Uber for canoes” and “the world’s first water-based, ride-sharing service.” • The ultra fast food delivery service offered by Grubhub carried out by the some of the country’s fastest runners, parkour athletes, BMX riders and skateboarders, which includes an updated order tracking tool featuring livestream-equipped camera mounted to each driver’s helmet. • Beef broth gummy bears for dogs made by the candy boutique Sugarfina. • The magenta T-Mobile ONEsie, the wireless company’s foray into wearable tech that lets it monitor vital signs and sleeping — in addition to how much data your phone is using. • “She Sheds,” a version of “man caves” for women offered for $99 per month by storage company Life Storage. • Puzzles for Pets, an app loaded with puzzles for cats and dogs. • Florida Atlantic University‘s new policy letting students bring any kind of animal with them to class. […]

U.K. Parliament Passes Brexit Bill, Clearing the Way for E.U. Divorce Talks

(LONDON) — Britain lurched closer to leaving the European Union Monday when Parliament stopped resisting and gave Prime Minister Theresa May the power to file for divorce from the bloc. But in a blow to May’s government, the prospect of Scotland’s exit from the United Kingdom suddenly appeared nearer, too. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for a referendum on independence within two years to stop Scotland being dragged out of the E.U. against its will. In an announcement that took many London politicians by surprise, Sturgeon vowed that Scotland would not be “taken down a path that we do not want to go down without a choice.” Sturgeon spoke in Edinburgh hours before the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill passed its final hurdle in Parliament’s upper chamber, the House of Lords. The House of Commons approved the bill weeks ago, but the 800-strong Lords fought to amend it, inserting a promise that E.U. citizens living in the U.K. will be allowed to remain after Britain pulls out of the bloc. They also added a demand that Parliament get a “meaningful” vote on the final deal between Britain and the remaining 27 E.U. nations. Both amendments were rejected Monday by the Commons, where May’s Conservatives have a majority. A handful of pro-E.U. Conservatives expressed their unhappiness, then abstained from the vote. The bill returned to the Lords, in a process known as parliamentary ping pong. Faced with the decision of the elected Commons, the Lords backed down and approved it without amendments. Labour peer Dianne Hayter, who proposed the amendment on E.U. citizens, said the Lords had done their best, but “our view has been rejected in the elected House of Commons, and it is clear the government is not for turning.” Once the bill receives royal assent — a formality that should be accomplished within hours — May will be free to invoke Article 50 of the E.U.’s key treaty, triggering two years of exit negotiations, by her self-imposed deadline of March 31. May was forced to seek Parliament’s approval for the move after a Supreme Court ruling in January torpedoed her attempt to start the process of leaving the bloc without a parliamentary vote. The House of Commons and House of Lords battled over the bill’s contents, with the status of E.U. nationals in Britain — and Britons in fellow E.U. member countries — drawing especially emotional debate. Both British and E.U. officials have said such residents should be guaranteed the right to stay where they are, but the two sides have so far failed to provide a concrete guarantee, leaving millions of people in limbo. Scottish National Party lawmaker Joanna Cherry told the House of Commons that one constituent, a Lithuanian, had told her “the uncertainty caused by this government and this Parliament is making her feel worse about her personal situation in Britain than she did in Lithuania under the Soviets.” Brexit Secretary David Davis told lawmakers the government had a “moral responsibility” to the 3 million EU citizens living in Britain and the 1 million Britons in other member states, and intends to guarantee their rights as soon as possible after exit talks start. “That is why we must pass this straightforward bill without further delay, so the prime minister can get to work on the negotiations and we can secure a quick deal that secures the status of both European Union citizens in the U.K. and also U.K. nationals living in the E.U.,” he said. Pro-EU lawmakers accused the government and Brexit-backing lawmakers of running roughshod over the concerns of the 48% of Britons who voted to stay in the E.U. Conservative legislator Dominic Grieve called the government’s opposition of handing Parliament a final vote on Brexit “deranged,” and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas said lawmakers should not just hand ministers a blank check. “We were not elected to be lemmings,” Lucas said. Euroskeptics accused pro-E.U. legislators of trying to frustrate the will of voters who passed a June referendum to leave the EU. “The simple truth is this — deal or no deal, vote or no vote, positive vote or negative vote, this process is irreversible,” Conservative legislator Edward Leigh said. “We’re leaving the E.U., and that’s what the people want.” May is now free to trigger Article 50 as early as Tuesday, but the government signaled the move would come much closer to the March 31 deadline. May spokesman James Slack repeated the government’s position that it would happen by the end of March. “I’ve said ‘end’ many times, but it would seem I didn’t put it in capital letters strongly enough,” he said. The government’s satisfaction at victory in Parliament was tempered by the prospect of an independence vote that threatens the 300-year old political union between England and Scotland. Sturgeon said she would seek to hold a referendum between the fall of 2018 and the spring of 2019 so Scottish voters could make an “informed choice” about their future. While Britons overall voted to leave the E.U., Scottish voters backed remaining by 62 to 38%, and Sturgeon said they should not be forced to follow the rest of the U.K. into a “hard Brexit” outside the E.U. single market. In a 2014 referendum, Scottish voters rejected independence by a margin of 55% to 45%. But Sturgeon said the U.K.’s decision to leave the E.U. had brought about a “material change of circumstances.” May — whose government would have to approve a legally binding referendum — accused Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party of political “tunnel vision” and called her announcement “deeply regrettable.” […]

There Are Echoes of China in Today’s America

As Americans who write about and spend time in China, we are frequently asked what the People’s Republic is like. People often say things to us like “I hear things are really different over there.” Yes, in many ways they are. But we are troubled by how often lately we experience a strange sort of China-related déjà vu when following events in the U.S. Visa holders being turned away at airports. The country’s leader saying that a newspaper should be run “correctly” or shut down. Officials defending “alternative facts” that blatantly contradict … well, actual facts. These phenomena seem familiar yet strange. The strangeness lies in them originating on the American side of the Pacific, while our past experiences of them related to China. The White House’s denigration of specialized knowledge when it flies in the face of ideology brings to mind Mao Zedong’s insistence that the only “experts” to be trusted were ones thoroughly “red” in political thought. The notion that green cards held by people from seven Muslim-majority countries are special reminds us of Beijing arbitrarily revoking the passports of Uyghur residents of Xinjiang. We do not mean to suggest that all differences between the systems have disappeared. They have not. We are keenly aware of this as observers of protest, feminism, NGOs, journalism, and the Internet. You cannot be arrested in the U.S. for using social media to publicize an upcoming protest. You can in China, under laws prohibiting the spread of “rumors.” An independent judiciary can at least partly counterbalance other forms of power in the States — but this is true in only one part of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, and like all other forms of legal and political distinctiveness there, this has been under intense pressure. The leaders of the Women’s March were not detained on spurious grounds, as happened to China’s “Feminist Five” in 2015. Donald Trump may hate the New York Times, in part because it presses him to release his income-tax records, but its website is not blocked. The paper’s site is inaccessible in China, in part because of articles it published on the finances of relatives of top Chinese leaders. Some Chinese rights lawyers continue their work in the face of government surveillance and the threat of arrest, but China has no counterpart to the ACLU. And so on. What concerns is that until recently the distance between the systems of the two countries seemed to be widening but now appears to be shrinking. Since Xi Jinping’s rise four years ago, he has ramped up repression, extending moves toward tighter control that began under Hu Jintao. The contrast between the U.S. and Xi’s China — where things are tougher for rights lawyers, NGOs, feminists, crusading journalists, and freethinking academics than they have been for a quarter-century — should be so great by now that no one wonders if a report is about what Washington or Beijing is doing. But this is precisely what we sometimes wonder—and we are not alone. We know from what we have heard them say and seen them write that many journalists and academics familiar with China have wondered the same thing recently when specific stories have broken. We were never among those convinced that, over time, China’s political system was bound to democratize in a way that would make it resemble ours. This seemed just the latest version of the patronizing, unrealistic conversion fantasy that has long bedeviled mutual understanding between China and the West. We also strove to avoid romanticizing the way things were in our own country, often telling Chinese friends who seemed overly enamored of the U.S. how serious American problems of racial and other inequalities remained and how long it had taken for some rights to be protected. We felt it important that even as we criticized Beijing’s record on human rights, we did not turn a blind eye to problems on the other side of the Pacific. We thought that China was on a distinctive path. We did hope, though, that there would be some convergence between the two countries when it came to civil liberties and the public sphere. We thought the best chance of this happening lay in some practices with a solid basis on the American side of the Pacific setting down roots on the other. That seemed to be happening between the early 1990s and 2008, when China became less starkly authoritarian before reversing course. Now, alas, to the extent that the distance between the systems is narrowing, it is in the opposite way, via a convergence toward a location along the democratic to illiberal spectrum that is closer to the latter end point. Our familiarity with China’s actually existing authoritarianism convinces us that things have not gone as far in the wrong direction as some suggest. This same familiarity, though, makes us feel that things have moved far enough to make it urgent to celebrate, appreciate, and fight for the freedoms and checks and balances that exist in one of the two countries we care most about but not in the other. […]