NASA Discovers New Planets With High Likelihood of Life

An image of planets orbiting the sun.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Today, NASA held a news conference in which they announced the discovery of seven new earth-sized planets. All seven planets were found to be orbiting the same star about 40 light-years away.

Astronomers are taking a keen interest in this discovery for one special reason: these planets are similar to Earth in both size and climate, meaning that there’s a high likelihood that they can sustain life.

“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Answering the question ‘are we alone?’ is a top science priority, and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.”

The dwarf star that these planets are orbiting has been named TRAPPIST-1. Researchers believe that at least three of these planets are within the star’s habitable zone. These planets are known as TRAPPIST-1e, f and g. Some researchers speculate that these planets may even have oceans.

“I think we’ve made a crucial step towards finding if there is life out there,” said Amaury Triaud, a member of the research team and an astronomer at the University of Cambridge. “I don’t think any time before we had the right planets to discover and find out if there was (life). Here, if life managed to thrive and releases gases similar to what we have on Earth, we will know.”

Unfortunately, it’s going to take a very long time before researchers can confirm whether or not these planets support life. Because these planets are 40-light years away, it would take millions of years to reach this star system. Until then, researchers will just have to make do with what can be gleaned from their ultra high-tech telescopes.

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Believes Russia is Guilty of Meddling in Elections

A picture of James Mattis.

Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Photo credit: a katz / Shutterstock

On Thursday, Feb. 16, Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis said that he has “little doubt” that Russia has either directly influenced or attempted to influence foreign elections.

“There is very little doubt that they have either interfered or attempted to interfere in a number of elections in democracies,” Mattis stated at a NATO conference in Brussels.

Mattis’ tough approach to Russia has not gone over well with Moscow officials. After Mattis advised dealing with Russia from a position of strength, high-ranking Russian authorities released a statement that expressed their displeasure. However, Mattis claims he isn’t fazed by it.

“I have no need to respond to the Russian statement at all. NATO has always stood for military strength and protection of democracies and the freedoms we intend to pass on to our children,” Mattis declared.

Despite being appointed to his position by President Donald Trump, the two appear to have very different agendas when it comes to international relations with Russia. On numerous occasions, Donald Trump has called for restoring ties with Moscow. But that doesn’t seem to be the direction that Mattis wants to go. In fact, the New York Times reports that Mattis has actually rejected closer ties with Russia.

The latest news comes after former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned from his position following leaked information that revealed that he was in contact with Russian officials. The recent scandal has watchdog agencies on high alert about Trump’s potential ties with Russia. Trump has vehemently denied having any connections to Russia, and firmly asserts that any accusations thereof are “fake news.”

Currently, there is a Russian spy ship about thirty miles off the coast of the Eastern United States. Additionally, an American ship was buzzed by Russian planes in the Black Sea last week. The latest Russian activity has U.S. officials highly concerned.

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U.S. Politics Overshadowing Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown

The silhouettes of three nuclear power plants.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Most people are so preoccupied with American politics right now that a major nuclear meltdown is largely being ignored. According to a Fox News Insider report, radiation leaks at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant is at “unimaginable” levels.

That’s not to say that the immigration ban, the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, or Kellyanne Conway’s Bowling Green massacre comments aren’t relevant. It’s just that a nuclear meltdown ought to take a little more precedence in the grand scheme of things.

But perhaps people aren’t paying much attention to it because they don’t understand what’s at stake. During a recent investigation, Emmy and AP award-winning journalist Adam Housley found fuel leaks to be as high as 530 sieverts per hour.

“To put this in very simple terms. Four sieverts can kill a handful of people,” Housley explained.

The new finding has experts worried that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has been lying to the public about the severity of the situation all along. New reports show that the radiation levels are the highest they’ve been since the magnitude-9 earthquake that struck back in 2011.

But perhaps even more troubling is the fact that small levels of radiation are still being found on the California and Oregon coasts.

“The worry is with 300 tons of radioactive water going into the Pacific every day, what is that doing to the Pacific Ocean?” Housey remarked.

While scientists aren’t certain about the effect that nuclear radiation has on the ocean, it’s safe to say that it will likely kill off hundreds of thousands—if not millions —of marine organisms.

One only needs to look at the Chernobyl disaster to come to that conclusion. In 1986, the Chernobyl plant meltdown resulted in over four miles of surrounding forest completely dying out. It has been dubbed the “Red Forest.” Over 30 years later, and it is still considered one of the most contaminated areas in the world.

It’s a pretty big deal, and now that a similar situation is occurring in Japan, it’s about high time that people pay attention.

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Kellyanne Conway ‘Counseled’ After Breaking Federal Law

A photo of Kellyanne Conway.

Photo courtesy of
James McNellis at Flickr Creative Commons.

Kellyanne Conway found herself in hot water this morning after she told the public to purchase items from Ivanka Trump’s clothing line. The endorsement was a breach of federal law 2635.702, which reads:

An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity, including nonprofit organizations of which the employee is an officer or member, and persons with whom the employee has or seeks employment or business relations.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told journalists that Conway has been “counseled on that subject, and that’s it.” But that’s not it, because some politicians don’t want to see her get off that easy.

Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) is one such politician. He said that the endorsement was a “textbook violation of government ethics laws and regulations enacted to prevent the abuse of an employee’s government position.” Cummings is currently drafting a letter alongside Jason Chaffetz, Republican chairmen of the House Oversight Committee, to inquire as to what type of disciplinary action is necessary.

The news comes after upscale clothing retailer Nordstrom decided to drop Ivanka Trump’s clothing line. The company cited “performance” as the reason for discontinuing the brand.

“Over the past year, and particularly in the last half of 2016, sales of the brand have steadily declined to the point where it didn’t make good business sense for us to continue with the line for now,” a Nordstrom spokesperson told NBC News.

But that didn’t stop President Trump from attacking the company on Twitter.

A scathing tweet about Nordstrom sent from Donald Trump's Twitter account. Sean Spicer issued similar remarks, stating that, “This is a direct attack on his [Trump’s] policies and her name.”

Due to a high volume of calls and emails, the Office of Government Ethics has not yet responded to requests for comment.

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An Open Dialogue for Discussing the ‘White Male’ Scholarship

A photo of controversial Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos shown giving a speech.
Photo courtesy of Official LeWeb Photos at Flickr Creative Commons.

Greetings, everyone! Today, I want to do something a bit unusual. I want to foster a discussion around the “white male scholarship.”

If you haven’t already heard, Breitbart Editor Milo Yiannopoulos started a scholarship fund exclusively for Caucasian men. It’s been met with outrage from social justice advocates and civil rights groups.

But is this really wrong? Yiannopoulos would argue that it’s not, since there are a multitude of scholarships that are only offered to women, African Americans, and other minorities. In his eyes, he’s merely leveling the playing field so that everyone has an equal opportunity.

“It started as a joke, but if you’re a woman, or you’re black… If you’re disabled, or you’re Muslim, or a refugee… If you identify as an attack helicopter, you can get free money,” Yiannopoulos stated. “But the facts say that actually it is young white boys who are educationally underprivileged.”

The only fact that Yiannopoulos cited to support his argument was that men make up 43% of America’s 20.5 million college students. However, there is no evidence to suggest that this is due to financial reasons. For example, did it ever occur to him that more women enroll in college because the cultural stigma around educated, independent women has finally changed?

Another good point to bring up is that “white male scholarships” were not a thing up until now because for most of American history, those qualifications were just implied. Without ethnic and gender specific scholarships, colleges wouldn’t be nearly as diverse as they are today. I tend to think it’s a good thing that more minorities are enrolled in college than ever before.

At the same time though, I really do understand where he’s coming from with his whole “double-standard” argument. I do believe that a private funder should be allowed to offer grants or scholarships to whomever they so choose. That’s called freedom, which as an American value.

Look, I’m not on one side or the other. I only pose these questions because I don’t have all the answers myself. However, I’d be more than happy to engage in a thoughtful, intelligent debate. Please leave your thoughts below. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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