August 20, 2014

For those who believe there could be life in space, this discovery is huge: Scientists have reportedly found traces of plankton on the outside of the International Space Station.

Russian scientists discovered the plankton while studying samples from the exterior of the ISS — samples they only found because they were doing a routine cleaning of the ISS' windows. Scientists are now baffled about how these marine organisms made their way into space.

Vladimir Solovyev, head of ISS's Russian segment and orbital mission, told RT the plankton traces prove that life in space is possible for some organisms — the plankton survived even in subzero temperatures and without oxygen. "The results of the experiment are absolutely unique," Solovyev told Russia's Itar-Tass. "This should be studied further."

The even stranger part of the story is that the Russian scientists discovered the plankton aren't native to Baikonur, Kazakhstan, from where the Russian modules of the station blasted off. The scientists speculate that air currents may have carried the plankton into space.

NASA has not yet commented on the plankton discovery. Meghan DeMaria

12:51 p.m. ET

The Democratic National Committee quietly reversed its ban on donations by federal lobbyists and political action committees "at some point during the past couple of months," The Washington Post reported Friday. The reversal of the ban, which was introduced by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 as part of his promise to "change how Washington works," sparked concerns that the DNC is backtracking on efforts to limit special interest influence in Washington — and, in the process, providing an unfair advantage to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Critics contend that Clinton, who relies more heavily on large contributions than competitor Sen. Bernie Sanders, will reap a greater benefit from this rule change and, consequently, see a boost to her campaign. As reform advocate Fred Wertheimer told the Post, this reversal could be "opening up opportunities for influence-buying 'by Washington lobbyists with six-figure contributions to the Hillary Victory fund.'"

The DNC, however, says it removed the restrictions simply to ensure a Democrat is elected to the White House to continue "building on the progress we've made over the last seven years." "The DNC's recent change in guidelines will ensure that we continue to have the resources and infrastructure in place to best support whoever emerges as our eventual nominee," Mark Paustenbach, deputy communications director for the DNC, said in an email to the Post explaining the decision.

Read the full story over at The Washington Post. Becca Stanek

11:45 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Donald Trump is cruising into the final week ahead of South Carolina's Republican presidential primary with a comfortable 17-point lead. A new poll by Opinion Savvy out Friday indicates Trump's chances of repeating his New Hampshire victory in the Palmetto State are strong in the upcoming Feb. 20 primary, with 36 percent support to second-place Sen. Ted Cruz's 19 percent.

Sen. Marco Rubio is in third with 15 percent, followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (11 percent), Ohio Gov. John Kasich (9 percent), and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (5 percent). Five percent of voters remain undecided. The poll's margin of error is 3.5 percent. Becca Stanek

11:24 a.m. ET
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

If you want more affordable housing available to low-income renters, the best solution can be to build more expensive apartments. This isn't as counterintuitive as it first sounds. In fact, it's based in simple rules of supply and demand: If you increase the overall supply of housing — even by adding on the high end — competition for low-end units declines and so do their prices (or, at least, the rate of price growth).

A new report from the California Legislative Analyst's Office provides the data to back this up. In the San Francisco area, the study found, neighborhoods with heavy construction of market-rate buildings saw half the displacement of low-income residents that low-construction neighborhoods suffered since 2000:

The report concludes that boosting private construction would do more to broadly help poor households than expanding small and costly affordable housing programs that can serve only a fraction of them. Those programs also don't resolve the underlying cause of high rents — the housing shortage itself.

And that shortage actually undermines affordable programs like housing vouchers, because it's a lot harder for the poor to use vouchers in a market where they're fiercely competing with everyone else. [Washington Post]

Building new housing also allows older units to look worse by comparison, so old housing becomes affordable to the poor and middle class while the rich move into new luxury options. Bonnie Kristian

11:05 a.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is fine with any of the current GOP candidates becoming president — even Donald Trump. In an interview Friday with CBS This Morning, Priebus denied rumors that the Republican establishment has been fretting about Trump possibly winning the nomination.

"I'm not afraid of any of these folks running for president," he said. "I think all of them can beat [Democratic presidential front-runner] Hillary Clinton, who is under investigation by the FBI, or a socialist from Vermont," he added about the Democratic competition, Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

As far as any rumors that may be going around about establishment anxiety, Priebus dismissed those as just part of the competition. "In a competition, sure, candidates say, 'I'm going to be the best choice, this person isn't going to be that great,'" Priebus said. "That happens all the time. After a while, when you have six serious competitors out there on the campaign stump every day, you hear all kinds of things." Becca Stanek

10:48 a.m. ET

Donald Trump took to Twitter Friday morning to question whether fellow Republican candidate Ted Cruz is really a Christian. His tweet followed up on a post from Thursday night in which Trump said Cruz "is the worst liar, crazy or very dishonest. Perhaps all 3?"

Both tweets come in response to Cruz's suggestion that Trump (along with Marco Rubio) shared "the talking points of Barack Obama" on gay marriage. Trump's actual record on the issue is more complicated than Cruz implied.

Most of Trump's statements on the subject have been negative. In August, for instance, Trump said he is "against [same-sex unions] from the standpoint of Bible," and if he had a child who was gay he "wouldn't speak to them at all about it." Back in 2000, however, Trump said he supported a robust domestic partnership law, because "I think it's important for gay couples who are committed to each other to not be hassled when it comes to... simple everyday rights." More recently, he said gay marriage should have been left to the states, but that post-Obergefell it is the law of the land. Bonnie Kristian

10:11 a.m. ET

Ted Cruz is never one to miss the opportunity to take a swipe at Hillary Clinton over her email scandal, but his campaign took it to a hilarious new level on Friday with an ad that spoofs the printer-destroying scene in Office Space.

As a woman in a pantsuit and two male companions take bats, feet, and fists to a server in a field, a man raps, "Damn it feels good to be a Clinton":

A Clinton never needs to explain what, why it is, what they've done or with who

A real Clinton knows that they're entitled and you don't get to know what they do.

Watch the shenanigans below. Jeva Lange

9:58 a.m. ET
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Yeezy Season 3

It's been less than 24 hours since Kanye West debuted his new album, The Life of Pablo, in a splashy live show at Madison Square Garden — but true to form, the album is already stirring up controversy. Much of the backlash has stemmed from a couplet from the song "Famous," which seems to throw a cup of gasoline on the dying embers of West's long-standing feud with Taylor Swift: "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / I made that b---h famous."

In the hours that followed, several members of the Swift camp reacted; her brother Austin posted a video of himself throwing away a pair of shoes from West's Yeezy fashion line, and friend Jaime King deleted her initial, enthusiastic posts about West's show, declaring herself, "so sad right now & disappointed right now."

Kanye West, being Kanye West, responded to the controversy via his preferred medium: a typo-laden tweetstorm, in which he claimed (1) that he ran the lyric by wife Kim Kardashian first; (2) that he had an hour-long phone conversation with Swift, in which she said the line "was funny" and "gave her blessings"; (3) that the line originated with Swift anyway, who allegedly told a mutual friend that she couldn't be mad at Kanye because he "made [her] famous!"

Does that settle things? Probably not, since Swift's rep has already issued a statement claiming that Swift was totally unaware of the specifics of the lyric. Instead, the rep says, she declined a request from West to promote the song via her Twitter account, and "cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message." For now, it's he-said/she-said — until West starts tweeting again. Scott Meslow

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