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May 22, 2019

Much like the Democratic presidential primaries, NASA is collecting a long list of names for 2020.

"Travelers" can have their names sent to Mars during NASA's 2020 space launch. The names will be stenciled in tiny letters on chips attached to a rover that will track any signs of life on Mars, the agency said. Researchers are calling the rover a "robotic scientist" that will collect samples and analyze climate on the red planet.

"As we get ready to launch this historic Mars mission, we want everyone to share in this journey of exploration," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "It's an exciting time for NASA, as we embark on this voyage to answer profound questions about our neighboring planet, and even the origins of life itself."

Although no humans will be onboard, space-lovers can earn "frequent flyer" miles for the trip and any other mission they choose to submit a name for. Participants will also receive a souvenir boarding pass for participating in NASA's launch.

The rover is slated to reach Mars in February 2021. Participants can still add their names to NASA's list here. Tatyana Bellamy-Walker

12:58 a.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his close personal relationship with President Trump a centerpiece of his just-concluded election campaign, even picturing the two leaders together on campaign billboards. Trump apparently doesn't see it that way.

The election did not go well for Netanyahu. Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he hasn't spoken with the Israeli leader since the vote, adding, "Our relations are with Israel, so we'll see what happens."

In the election, Netanyahu fell far short of his goal of a 61-seat parliamentary majority — with 90 percent of votes tallied, his conservative Likud party has 32 seats, versus 33 for challenger Benny Gantz's centrist Blue and White Party. Some Israeli commentators are writing Netanyahu's political obituary, and even if he is able to cobble together a governing coalition or power-sharing agreement, he's now unlikely to get the immunity from three pending corruption charges he was hoping a majority government would grant him.

For Trump, that all smells like weakness, and he wants little to do with a "loser," Dan Shapiro, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, tells The Washington Post. An Israeli official concurred, telling the Post: "Yes, he is friends with Bibi, but he also likes winners and he does want to move his peace plan forward no matter who the prime minister is." Aaron David Miller, a longtime U.S. adviser on Mideast issues, said Trump doesn't think he needs Netanyahu to please Jewish Republicans and Israel-fixated evangelical Christian voters. "Trump only cares about one election, and it's not Benjamin Netanyahu's," Miller said.

Trump liked that Netanyahu was a political "survivor" and viewed him as a partner in undermining former President Barack Obama's legacy, people who've talked Israeli politics with Trump told the Post. But he differed with Netanyahu about whether any deal with Iran is good — Netanyahu doesn't think so, Trump believes he can make a better deal than Obama. And he might be able to do that better with another Israeli in power. Peter Weber

12:22 a.m.

Slowly but surely, the coral reefs in Jamaica are making a comeback.

In the 1980s and '90s, Jamaica lost 85 percent of its coral reefs due to hurricanes, overfishing, and water pollution that caused algae and seaweed to take over. Coral sustains one-quarter of all marine species, and as the reefs disappeared in Jamaica, so did the fish.

To revive the reefs, at least 12 organizations have launched "coral nurseries" underwater, where pieces of staghorn coral are tied to suspended ropes, slowly growing until they reach the size of a human hand, The Associated Press reports. Then, those pieces are taken to reefs and tied to rocks, where the limestone skeleton ultimately becomes attached. The groups have had great success restoring sections of different reefs through this process.

Thanks to the hard work of coral gardeners, as well as the volunteers who patrol the nurseries and fish sanctuaries to stop illegal fishing, the reefs are growing and the fish populations are increasing. "When you give nature a chance, she can repair herself," marine biologist Stuart Sandin told AP. "It's not too late." Catherine Garcia

September 18, 2019

The White House is expected to soon announce it will withdraw the nomination of Jeff Byard, President Trump's choice to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency, CNN reports.

Byard's nomination was announced seven months ago, and several lawmakers recently said issues came up during his background check. Trump has now settled on nominating Acting FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor, people with knowledge of the matter told CNN.

In a letter obtained by the network, Byard wrote to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan last week, letting him know that he wanted his nomination withdrawn as it "would be best for me to focus entirely on pressing issues related to my current role as the associate administrator for response and recovery." Catherine Garcia

September 18, 2019

A whistleblower complaint filed on Aug. 12 by an official in the U.S. intelligence community involves President Trump's communications with a foreign leader, two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter told The Washington Post on Wednesday.

During the interaction, Trump made a "promise" to the foreign leader that the whistleblower found so troubling they decided to file the complaint to Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, the Post reports. In turn, Atkinson found the complaint worrisome enough that he marked the matter of "urgent concern" and submitted it to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. Maguire replaced former DNI Dan Coats, who resigned in August.

By law, Maguire was supposed to send the complaint on to Congress, but after asking Justice Department officials for legal guidance, he refused, the Post reports. The House and Senate intelligence committees only learned of the complaint after Atkinson, not Maguire, notified them earlier this month, though he did not say what was in the complaint. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is trying to get intelligence officials to share the details with lawmakers, and Atkinson is scheduled to appear before Schiff's committee for a private session on Thursday.

One former official told the Post the communication in question was a phone call. It's not immediately clear which foreign leader Trump was speaking to or what he promised them. In the five weeks before the complaint was filed, White House records show that Trump spoke and interacted with at least five foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Catherine Garcia

September 18, 2019

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized on Wednesday night for a 2001 photo showing him at an Arabian Nights–themed gala wearing brownface makeup.

At the time, Trudeau was 29 and working as a teacher at West Point Gray Academy in Vancouver. The picture, published on Wednesday by Time, appeared in the private school's 2000-2001 yearbook. Trudeau is seen wearing a turban and robe, with his face, neck, and hands darkened. A Vancouver businessman gave the yearbook to Time, saying that after he saw the photo in July, he thought it needed to be made public.

Trudeau confirmed he attended the gala, dressing up as Aladdin and donning makeup. "I shouldn't have done that," he said. "I should have known better, but I didn't, and I'm really sorry." Trudeau is running for a second term, and the election is scheduled for Oct. 21. He is already facing one scandal, as the former attorney general says Trudeau's administration pressured her into settling corruption charges against a major engineering firm. Catherine Garcia

September 18, 2019

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton turned a private lunch into a roast of President Trump, several attendees told Politico.

Bolton was asked to speak by the Gatestone Institute, a conservative think tank, and the invitation came before he resigned (or was fired, depending on who you ask). The lunch, held Wednesday in Manhattan, was attended by billionaire Rebekah Mercer, attorney Alan Dershowitz, Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, and former Fox News host John Stossel, and Bolton made it clear he thinks Trump's foreign policy is the pits, two attendees said.

Bolton took umbrage at Trump inviting the Taliban to Camp David, saying it sent a "terrible signal" and was "disrespectful" to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, as the Taliban let Osama bin Laden hide out and plan the attack in Afghanistan. He said negotiations with North Korea and Iran were "doomed to fail," and all Pyongyang and Tehran are worried about is easing sanctions so they can have a bit of economic relief. Bolton, one attendee told Politico, "ripped Trump, without using his name, several times."

Bolton is a longtime hardliner on Iran, and attendees said he mentioned several times that because Trump did not retaliate against Iran for shooting down an American drone in June, it emboldened Tehran. This, Bolton suggested, could be one of the reasons why Iran allegedly attacked Saudi oil facilities over the weekend. Read more about Bolton's criticisms, and how the audience received them, at Politico. Catherine Garcia

September 18, 2019

Documents and figures released by the Pentagon show that since August 2017, the U.S. military has spent close to $200,000 on about three dozen separate stays at President Trump's Turnberry resort in Scotland.

The information was provided to the House Oversight Committee. The Pentagon said that on average, from August 2017 to July 2019, the cost of a room at Turnberry for service members was $189. The total amount of expenditures was $124,578.96, plus $59,729.12 in unspecified charges to government travel credit cards, Politico reports.

In a letter to Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper sent Wednesday, Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said that if these numbers are correct, "it appears that U.S. taxpayer funds were used to purchase the equivalent of more than 650 rooms at the Trump Turnberry just since August 2017 — or the equivalent of one room every night for more than one-and-a-half years."

Earlier this month, Politico reported that the committee began investigating in April whether this was a violation of the domestic emoluments clause, which prohibits the president from receiving any compensation from the federal government that is not a salary. Last week, the Air Force confirmed that since 2015, crews have stayed at Turnberry up to 40 times, and an internal review is now underway. Catherine Garcia

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