Scientists Say Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Made Earth's Surface Act Like Liquid

A computer illustration of a large asteroid colliding with Earth. (Size may not be to scale.) Such an impact is believed to have led to the death of the dinosaurs some 66 million years ago. Mark Garlick /Getty Images/Science Photo Library RM hide caption

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Mark Garlick /Getty Images/Science Photo Library RM

When the asteroid believed to have killed off the dinosaurs smashed into Earth some 66 million years ago, its sheer force made the planet’s surface momentarily act like a liquid.

The asteroid ripped open a 60-mile-wide hole. From miles deep in that abyss, rock hurtled upward to a height twice that of Mount Everest and then collapsed outward to form a ring of mountains.

And it all happened within 5 minutes — 10 tops, as Sean Gulick, a geophysicist at the University of Texas, Austin, tells The Two-Way.

Gulick helped lead a team of researchers that drilled for samples of that mountain ring in the Chicxulub crater off the coast of Mexico earlier this year. Their initial findings were recently published in the journal Science.

He says these samples immediately settled a major debate about how a planet’s surface behaves during an asteroid impact — and how the mountain ring, known as a “peak ring,” is formed.

Some researchers have argued that the process is dominated by melting on the surface, which would mean that the ring is mainly formed from material moving from side-to-side. “So things collapse in from the sides, fairly shallow, and in that model this ring of peaks are created by shallow material kind of moving towards the center and being uplifted,” he says.


Others have suggested that it was a much more dramatic kind of movement, involving the fluid-like propelling of material from deep within the Earth’s crust. Gulick says there was a very clear moment during the expedition when the team knew this theory was correct.

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“It was just so obvious, even on the drill floor when we’re out there, out in our hard hats and so on, looking at these cores coming up,” Gulick says. The researchers were seeing pink granite that is typically found deeper within the Earth — and not the limestone that would have been on the surface during the Cretaceous Period.

“And it was just plain as day,” he says, “and everybody staring at it went, ‘Wow, there’s the answer. It’s from deep.’ “

Gulick likens the rapid process to what happens when you toss a rock into a pond:

“It makes a hole initially as the rock penetrates into the pond. And the sides will sort of collapse inward toward the hole while the center kind of rebounds up like a big water droplet rising up.

“If you picture all of this happening in a slightly slower-moving fluid than water would be, you can envision that the center that rebounds upwards and splashes upwards would kind of collapse outwards. So just as the sides are falling in, this rebounding center is sort of collapsing outwards to create … this ring of mountains, made from material that ultimately came from fairly deep.”

It’s worth noting that even though the rock behaved like liquid, Gulick says it remained solid. However, the materials were “either shocked or damaged so much that they’re able to temporarily lose their cohesion and move like a slow-moving fluid.” Big questions remain about how that physical process actually works, he says.

The pink granite that emerged from about 6 miles deep in the Earth might provide hints about how life came back to ground zero after the asteroid’s impact erased most of the species on the planet.

The rock is “completely shot through with fractures and faults,” and is much more porous and less dense than typical granite, Gulick says. Those nooks and crannies could have provided a habitat for microbial life. He says the “pore spaces and the hot fluids and the interesting chemistry that takes place in the wake of an impact” could be hospitable to these microscopic creatures.

Gulick’s team thinks the fluid-like movement “is probably the right way to think about impact processes” on the moon or on crater-laden planets such as Mercury or Venus.

And he says that if we’re looking for evidence of life on other planets, these findings indicate that crater sites would be a good place to start.

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Venezuelans Used To Cross Borders For Luxuries; Now It's For Toilet Paper

Colombian Enelbia Pedroso (right), used to make a decent living selling snacks to Venezuelans who came across the border to shop. Now there are few visitors and they have little money. She has set up an informal “tollbooth” for Venezuelan vehicles that sneak across the frontier on dirt trails. John Otis for NPR hide caption

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John Otis for NPR

The town of Maicao, in Colombia’s Guajira Desert, just a few miles from the Venezuelan border, used to be jammed with visiting Venezuelans snapping up TVs, computers and 12-year-old Scotch. On good days, Jaider Heras, who owns a liquor warehouse, sold up to 300 cases of whisky and rum. But amid Venezuela’s worst economic crisis in modern history, Heras is struggling.

Venezuelans’ buying power has evaporated due to the collapse in the currency, the bolivar. The 100-bolivar note, the largest denomination, is now worth about six cents.

The country is also grappling with triple-digit inflation as well as critical shortages of medicine and food. Now Venezuelans shoppers in Macao stock up on basic foods, toilet paper and other staples that are hard to get in their country.

“Look how I have had to change my store,” Heras says as he points to boxes, bags and canisters of food. “I now sell rice, sugar and cooking oil, which is what Venezuelans are looking for.”

Heras’s profits have shrunk, but at least he’s still in business. More than 150 Maicao stores employing about 1,500 people have shut down, says Grace Aguilar, the No. 2 town official who oversees commercial and security issues.

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The border problems began a couple years ago amid a steep drop in oil prices and what critics describe as failed economic policies by the socialist government that has ruled Venezuela since 1999.

These include import and foreign exchange restrictions, the confiscation of farms and businesses, and price controls that can make it unprofitable to produce food.

The country’s president, Nicolás Maduro, blames the food shortages and other production problems on his country’s business leaders and the political opposition whom he claims are waging an “economic war” against his government. He also blames smugglers who bring tons of subsidized Venezuelan food across the border to resell for huge profits.

To crack down on these so-called contrabandistas, Maduro last year closed Venezuela’s land borders with Colombia. But the move did nothing to alleviate the food shortages while it hurt business owners in Maicao by cutting them off from their customers, Aguilar says.

The border re-opened in August, but only for pedestrians.

People wait at the border in Maicao, Colombia, just across from Venezuela. Venezuelans used to come to buy TVs, computers and other expensive goods. But with the Venezuelan economy in ruins, they now come to buy basic items like rice and sugar. John Otis for NPR hide caption

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John Otis for NPR

Even so, some Venezuelan vehicles manage to get to Maicao on clandestine dirt trails. Along the way, they pass informal tollbooths set up by Colombians who have been thrown out of work by the economic downturn along the frontier. They stretch lengths of rope across the trails, then demand small change from drivers.

One of these toll collectors is Enelbia Pedroso, a mother of five who used to make a decent living selling snacks to Venezuelan shoppers. But Pedroso says her business dried up when the border shut down.

“I haven’t been able to work for two years,” Pedroso says after a driver hands her a 20-bolivar bill, worth about a penny. “Now look at me.”

Ricci de Luque, who runs a 37-room hotel on the border, used to turn away customers but now she’s lucky to rent out a few rooms per day. She borrowed money to build the hotel 14 years ago and fears her bank will soon foreclose on the property.

“I could lose everything that I have spent my whole life building,” de Luque says.

But tough as things are on the Colombian side of the border, conditions are still better than in Venezuela. That’s why some Venezuelans are moving here. Immigration officials say about 65,000 Venezuelans have relocated to Colombia since the land border re-opened for pedestrians.

According to Aguilar, the town official, this influx of destitute Venezuelans has provoked a sharp increase in street crime and prostitution in Maicao. In addition, Aguilar says Venezuelans are willing to accept lower wages and have displaced many Colombians in construction and other jobs.

One recent arrival, Juan Suárez, sells oranges and limes on the streets of Maicao to support his wife and 16-month-old son back in Venezuela. He’s now thinking of moving his whole family to Colombia, which he describes as an “escape valve” for Venezuelans.

“We are in the middle of an enormous crisis,” Suárez says. “There is nothing in Venezuela. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.”

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The New Debate Over Bed Nets

A mother and her 7-month-old daughter sit beneath a mosquito net at a hospital in Mogadishu. Roberto Schmidt /AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Roberto Schmidt /AFP/Getty Images

Have bed nets lost their power to protect people from malaria-carrying mosquitoes?

That’s the subject of debate among researchers looking for ways to cut down on malaria cases and deaths.

Over the last two decades, the insecticide-treated bed net has been one of the most powerful tools against malaria.

The nets work in two ways. They block mosquitoes from biting people while they sleep, and the insecticide kills mosquitoes that try to penetrate the webbing and fail. So the nets not only provide protection for a single individual, they reduce the overall number of malaria-carrying mosquitoes in a community.

Since the year 2000 more than a billion insecticide-treated bed nets have been handed out in Africa alone. Aid groups have also distributed them in impoverished malarial zones in Southeast Asia and the Americas.

These insecticide-treated bed nets last for years and have been credited with helping drive down the number of deaths from malaria dramatically. There were roughly 438,000 deaths in 2015 according to the World Health Organization, a significant drop from the 800,000-plus deaths in the year 2000.

“Bed nets have been very, very important in controlling malaria in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa,” says Charles Mbogo, the chief research officer with the Kenya Medical Research Institute.

But there’s growing evidence that mosquitoes are developing resistance to the insecticide used in the nets.

Now the World Health Organization has just completed a 5-year, 5-country study looking into whether nets might be becoming less effective.

On the one hand the picture is bleak. WHO found that the insecticide has a range of effectiveness from 1 percent to 100 percent in Kenya. So in some places the chemical killed all the mosquitoes all the time while in other places it hardly killed any. Elsewhere the effectiveness of the insecticide ranged wildly. It was 20-to-100 percent effective in Benin, 47-to-100 percent in Sudan, and 86-to-100 percent in India.

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The good news is that the effectiveness of the insecticide did not seem to have much impact on rates of malaria transmission. In areas where the insecticide barely worked, the nets offered the same level of protection as in areas where the chemicals still packed a knockout punch.

“What we found in the study was that there was no clear indication that the impact of the nets was declining as we saw an increase in the resistance of the mosquitoes,” says Tessa Knox, a technical officer in the Global Malaria Program at WHO.

“So this is a very positive outcome because it means that this push to have universal coverage [with nets], it’s justified based on the evidence we currently have,” she says.

Knox was part of a team that presented the findings of the study last week at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene’s annual meeting in Atlanta.

But the new study didn’t reassure everyone.

Helen Pates Jamet is the head of entomology at Vestergaard, one of the world’s largest producers of bed nets. She points to the study’s findings that the insecticide in the nets has a wide range of effectiveness in actually killing mosquitoes. If that’s the case, she says, the community benefit — the killing of malaria-carrying mosquitoes — appears to be evaporating.

“The concern is that if we continue the way we are today by just putting out the same tool [pyrethoid-infused bed nets],” she says, “all the gains of the last 20 years will be reversed.”

Why is just one class of insecticide — pyrethroids — used in these nets?

Because this class of chemical has been highly effective in the past and is the only one approved by WHO. The result, says Jamet, is the dramatic rise in mosquitoes who are immune to pyrethoids. Her company would like to see WHO sign off on more options.

“The approval process for getting brand-new bed nets through with alternative ingredients, it’s very muddled,” she says. “It takes a very long time. It’s a constantly changing process.”

Without WHO approval, international aid agencies won’t put up the significant amounts of money needed to produce and distribute the nets. Other combinations of insecticides have been proposed for use in nets but pyrethroids remain the only one with WHO’s stamp of approval.

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Former Univ. Of Cincinnati Officer To Be Retried Over Killing Of Black Motorist

Former University of Cincinnati police Officer Ray Tensing shot and killed unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose during a routine traffic stop in July 2015. John Minchillo/AP hide caption

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John Minchillo/AP

Former University of Cincinnati police Officer Ray Tensing will go on trial again over the fatal shooting of black driver Sam DuBose during a traffic stop last year.

As we’ve reported, Tensing’s first trial ended in a mistrial earlier this month after jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on murder and manslaughter charges.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters told reporters Tuesday he is again pursuing a murder conviction and will request that the new trial be moved to a different venue.

Tara Weingartner of member station WVXU reports that Deters wants the new trial to begin by next spring. She adds:

“Deters says he firmly believes former University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing committed murder when he shot and killed Sam DuBose during a 2015 traffic stop. He plans to retry Tensing for murder and voluntary manslaughter, and he’ll ask to move the trial elsewhere in Ohio.”

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Deters hinted that the reason he was seeking a venue change was because of the intense scrutiny the original case received.

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“It is our belief that the public attention that has been focused on the Tensing case could have in fact seeped into the jury room. And we’re going to try to alleviate that by moving the trial,” Deters said.

Deters said he decided to seek a new trial after reviewing transcripts and conducting interviews with jurors. He said jurors initially were split 10-2 on the involuntary manslaughter charge, and three or four jurors favored a conviction on the murder charge.

“That helps me make my decision,” he said.

Deters said he expects to meet with county Judge Megan E. Shanahan next week to discuss logistics.

Tensing stopped DuBose because of a missing front license plate. After a brief interaction, Tensing shot him at point-blank range, as we’re reported. Here’s more background on the case:

Body-cam footage of the shooting created an uproar after it showed that Tensing, who is white, engaged in a brief struggle with DuBose before firing his pistol into the car. Seconds before, the two had been discussing whether DuBose had a license, and whether he should take off his seatbelt.”

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Bobby Rush On World Cafe

Bobby Rush’s latest album is called Porcupine Meat. Rick Olivier/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Rick Olivier/Courtesy of the artist

  • “Porcupine Meat”
  • “I Don’t Want Nobody Hanging Around”
  • “Got Me Accused”
  • “Garbage Man”

You could call him the King of the Chitlin’ Circuit. You could call him the Godfather of Folk-Funk. You could call him the last of his kind, a blues legend who played alongside Muddy Waters and earned the respect of B.B. King, cutting his teeth with the greatest of the great in 1950s and ’60s Chicago. He calls himself Bobby Rush — never just Bobby. And there is absolutely nobody like him.

For over 60 years, Rush has served up Southern soul-blues with a healthy side of humor, sex and wit. (To give you an idea, his biggest hit to date is 1971’s “Chicken Heads.”) Rush is in his 80s now, but he can still funk with the best of them. He’s still shaking his hips like a 20-year-old, and he’ll still shock you with raunchy lyrics and stories that would make your mama blush. He’s also lived through a lot of dark history — he’s a black musician who started touring in the South long before the civil rights movement, and he’s come through shocking stories of racism and discrimination with plenty of hope and forgiveness to spare. He lets all that and more hang out on his 2016 record Porcupine Meat, and he stopped by World Cafe to talk about it. Hear the session at the audio link, and watch a performance video below.

VuHaus VuHaus
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Notre Dame Must Vacate 2012, 2013 Football Wins Over Academic Violations

The Notre Dame Leprechaun mascot runs onto the field before a 2013 game between the Fighting Irish and the Navy Midshipmen at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Navy 38-34. The school has been ordered to vacate all its victories that season, as well as those in the season before. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images hide caption

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The University of Notre Dame must vacate two seasons’ worth of football victories because of academic misconduct by a student athletic trainer, the NCAA announced Tuesday.

The affected seasons are 2012-13 and 2013-14. The university has also been slapped with a $5,000 fine, a year of probation and public censure. The former student trainer must cut ties with Notre Dame’s academic program for two years, and if she’s hired in an athletic role at an NCAA member school during that time, she must appear before an NCAA panel.

“The school ripped the NCAA for its decision to strip the wins, which included the best season of coach Brian Kelly’s tenure in charge of the storied program,” The Associated Press reports. “The Rev. John Jenkins, the university president, said the NCAA has never before vacated the records of a school that had no involvement in the underlying academic misconduct.”

Notre Dame says in a statement it will appeal the decision, arguing that the student in question committed intellectual dishonesty on her own and that the school “investigated aggressively and thoroughly” when it was uncovered.

The school’s statement offers more details on the cheating that led to the censure:

“The penalty was based on misconduct by a former student who participated in the University’s student trainer program. She wrote papers for student-athletes, which was obviously unauthorized academic assistance. The University discovered the academic misconduct in 2014, and then addressed that misconduct through its honor code process. …

“The University immediately suspended the involved student-athletes from all athletic activities. At the conclusion of its honor code process, the University dismissed four student-athletes and imposed retroactive grade changes in the affected courses.”

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The NCAA says the former student trainer “completed coursework for [two] student-athletes” and that she “provided impermissible academic assistance to six additional football student-athletes in a total of 18 classes.”

While the Fighting Irish argued that they had demonstrated “exemplary cooperation” by quickly intervening, the NCAA was not impressed.

“While the panel commends the institution for acting swiftly and decisively … removing student-athletes from competition is required conduct for member institutions,” the decision-making panel wrote. While Notre Dame might have met its requirements, the panel decided, the university didn’t go above the call of duty in a way that would justify waiving the penalty.

In the 2012-13 season, Notre Dame went on a 12-0 run but ended “with a blowout loss to the Crimson Tide in the national championship game,” the AP notes. The team went 9-4 in the 2013-14 season.

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Eat It, Don't Leave It: How London Became A Leader In Anti-Food Waste

Junior Herbert, a volunteer with Olio, collects leftovers from vendors at London’s Camden Market. London has become a hub for apps and small-scale businesses that let restaurants and food vendors share leftovers with the public for free, and otherwise reduce the amount of edibles they toss. Maanvi Singh for NPR hide caption

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Maanvi Singh for NPR

It’s around 6 o’clock on a Sunday evening, and Anne-Charlotte Mornington is running around the food market in London’s super-hip Camden neighborhood with a rolling suitcase and a giant tarp bag filled with empty tupperware boxes. She’s going around from stall to stalll, asking for leftovers.

Mornington works for the food-sharing app Olio. “If ever you have anything that you can’t sell tomorrow but it’s still edible,” she explains to the vendors, “I’ll take it and make sure that it’s eaten.”

Olio wants to make it easy for busy food sellers to avoid wasting food. “These vendors usually don’t have enough surplus to donate to a charity or something, but they still end up having to throw away quite a lot at the end of the day,” Mornington explains. “So either I or some volunteers will come everyday to collect any scraps and put it on the app.”

In fact, anybody in London with a smartphone — be it a restaurant, grocer or just a regular Joe — can upload pictures of their leftover lunches and dinners, spare ingredients or unwanted produce onto the app. Those hankering for a free meal can then peruse the offerings, message those who’ve got food to spare and then go collect it — for free.

Olio is just one of many start-ups and small enterprises working to reduce food waste in London. When researchers at Trinity College Dublin recently launched a database identifying more than 4,000 food-sharing and waste-reducing enterprises in 100 cities around the world, they found that London — with 198 such enterprises — had more than any other city.

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“We decided to focus on cities, because more than half of the world’s population now lives in cities,” explains Anna Davies, a professor of geography and environment at Trinity who led the research. City dwellers produce more than a billion tons of solid waste annually — and about half of that is food waste. But cities are also centers of innovation, Davies says. “So we were curious — what difference is technology making to the way we share food in cities?”

Quite a lot, it turns out.

Over the past three years, technology has transformed the way Londoners are approaching food waste, says Laura Hopper, the CEO of Plan Zheroes, a social network that connects charities that need food with local businesses that have a surplus. “We have so many organizations in London doing good work.”

Initially, the idea for Plan Zheroes came from Lottie Henley, a nonagenarian whose experiences as a refugee during World War II motivated her to do something about food poverty in London. Back in 2011, through a city-wide program designed to encourage green entrepreneurship, Henley got some seed money and teamed up with some techie types to design Plan Zheroes.

Now restaurants, coffee shops and small grocers that have just a little bit extra can use the platform to find nearby homeless shelters and food banks in need. The organization also recruits a small army of volunteers who help run food between the businesses and the charities.

“This isn’t a large-scale thing. It”s really about helping communities connect,” Hopper says. “Plan Zheroes fills a very specific niche.”

Several other London-based enterprises do the same — they aim to reduce food waste in one or two small, specific ways. London-based startup Snact makes snacks out of produce that would otherwise be wasted, and Rejuce, turns waste from London’s wholesale markets into smoothies and juices. A company called Rubies in the Rubble uses surplus fruit and veg to make relishes, and another called ChicP uses vegetables that are past their prime to make hummus.

Then there’s Sole Share — a sort of Blue Apron for seafood — which helps both consumers and fishermen avoid waste by allowing the former to specify online exactly how much they need so that the latter can deliver exactly that, no more and no less. And Day Old is an online catering service that will bring boxes of day-old donuts, pastries and other baked goods straight to your office — and the proceeds all go to charities that tackle child hunger.

“Of course, technology alone isn’t enough to build a sustainable food-sharing community,” says Davies from Trinity College. “The social connections are important — but what technology can do is help people make those connections.”

Back at London’s Camden market, Anne-Charlotte Mornington from Olio has collected over 30 portions of food. Anna Kidd, who works as a volunteer with Olio, has joined Mornington in the task of cataloguing and photographing all the nosh: several servings of fragrant, spiced rice from an Indian food stall, Thai chicken curry, a chicken masala wrap and a bag full of hot dogs.

It’ll all be gone within a day or two, as hungry Londoners come to collect it all. About 85,000 Londoners interested in either donating or collecting surplus food have made accounts on Olio so far.

“It feels so good that we’ve saved all of this from going in the bin,” says Kidd, who herself uses the app to pick up odds and ends for her pantry.

“I don’t think I’ve bought any spices since I’ve got the app,” Kidd says. “It’s amazing.” Plus, Olio has an added benefit, she says. “You get to meet people and have conversations when you pick up the food. I’ve really gotten to know my area better.”

Maanvi Singh is a writer based in London.

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Trump Video Lays Out Priorities, But Questions Of Conflicts, Transparency Remain


President-elect Donald Trump put out a video Monday night that gave an update on the transition process — and laid out some of his “policy plans for the first 100 days.”

Much of what Trump proposed wasn’t new, from deregulation of the energy industry to a lobbying ban to tearing up the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It closely resembled the 100-day agenda he outlined in a speech he gave in October in Gettysburg, Pa.

President-elect Donald Trump at Trump International Golf Club in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. Drew Angerer/Getty Images hide caption

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A couple of new, but non-detailed items were included, like asking the Defense Department and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to come up with a plan to combat cyber-attacks and to have the Labor Department look into visa-program abuses that “undercut the American worker.”

Trump also notably, however, left out some of the most sweeping and controversial promises he had made in that Gettysburg speech — like building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border (and that Mexico will pay for it), repealing and replacing Obamacare and term limits for members of Congress, a proposal that has already hit a wall (so to speak) with Republican leaders in Congress. (More on what’s in and what’s not from Trump’s 100-day agenda based on the video at the bottom of this post.)

More broadly, though, Trump, who criticized Hillary Clinton during the campaign for not holding a full press conference for some months, hasn’t held one of his own since July. No president-elect has gone longer without holding a news conference after being elected dating back to at least Jimmy Carter. (Trump has also still declined to release his tax returns, something that was done by all presidential candidates except Gerald Ford in the last 40 years.)

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Since being elected president, Trump has conducted sit-down interviews, with CBS’s 60 Minutes and the Wall Street Journal, for example, and reporters from the New York Times were livetweeting their conversation with Trump at Trump Tower Tuesday. But the president-elect has not made himself available to take questions about his policy agenda in a less-controlled, more spontaneous way with the broader press, many of whom are not just national media but local media covering the president in Washington.

All politicians try to avoid the press to some extent. Democrat Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail was fond of talking with local media rather than the national press, for example.

Presidents have long tried to get around the so-called filter of the news media by going directly to the American people using the latest technology, be that radio, television or social media.

President Obama pioneered ways around the media with social media. The Obama White House live-streamed events; the president chatted with YouTube stars; he even posted his prepared remarks for a State of the Union on Medium — before giving the press a look, which had been custom. And Obama did plenty of day-time and late-night talk shows, including slow-jamming the news.

He’s also often lectured the news media on its focus on what he sees as “small” subjects. In that way, Trump and Obama share a frustration with the press — and its focus.

But Trump’s avoidance of press conferences, in combination with his aggressive — and sometimes personal — criticism of members of the media and its institutions goes further. Obama’s White House didn’t always like adhering to long-held media customs, but it listened to the press corps’ requests and found ways to comply — even if it didn’t go as far as the news media would like in all instances.

Aside from a handful of relatively controlled interviews, most of Trump’s communication with the public has been through Twitter and Facebook, two platforms on which he has tens of millions of followers. Almost every morning and a few evenings, he has turned to Twitter to boast about his transition process, to air his grievances — with the New York Times, the cast of Hamilton the musical and even the late-night comedy satire Saturday Night Live — and sometimes a mix of both.

For the most part, since his election, Trump has spent his time focused on the transition at a golf course he owns in New Jersey and at Trump Tower in New York. Aside from waving at cameras over the weekend, and making perfunctory comments about various potential cabinet members, Trump has been largely out of public view.

Trump has also, however, mixed in some business ties. He “met in the last week in his office at Trump Tower with three Indian business partners who are building a Trump-branded luxury apartment complex south of Mumbai,” the New York Times reported. The Trump campaign called it informal and a courtesy call.

Trump also admitted in a meeting with New York Times reporters Tuesday that he asked Nigel Farage, the right-wing, pro-Trump British politician who advocated for Brexit, to oppose wind farms that could impair the view from two of his Scottish golf courses.

“He did not say he hated wind farms as a concept; he just did not like them spoiling the views,” Andy Wigmore, a media consultant who was at a meeting with Trump and Farage recently, told the Times.

Trump said Tuesday that “he might have brought it up.”

“I might have brought it up,” Trump says of Farage meeting and wind farms.

— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 22, 2016

Trump’s children run his business conglomerate, but also advised his candidacy and figure to play a prominent role in his White House. Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager and senior adviser to the transition, dismissed potential conflicts that his children pose in playing dual roles in an interview Monday on NPR’s All Things Considered.

All of it raises more questions of transparency about the president-elect, what kind of president he would be, how he would govern — or if he cares about real or perceived conflicts. Would he seek to use his newfound influence to enrich himself and his family, for example? It’s unclear, but possible given his meetings with Indian businessmen and his request of Farage.

Trump told reporters from the New York Times during a meeting Tuesday, “The law’s totally on my side; the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”

Trump on his businesses/conflict q’s: “The law’s totally on my side, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”

— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 22, 2016

But that’s not quite how conflicts of interest work. And Americans don’t appear convinced that he’s done enough. A new CNN/ORC poll out Tuesday showed almost six-in-10 (59 percent) didn’t think he was.

Trump’s view? He tweeted Monday that it was well known that he had business holdings all over the world and that the media were the only ones making this a “big deal.”

Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world.Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 22, 2016

Would Trump speak openly, honestly and frankly to the American people through the American media? At this point, that seems unlikely, based on the contentious relationship he and his campaign have forged so far with the press.

Some advisers, however, Conway in particular, appear to be trying to change that with meetings with heads of media organizations, though Trump himself has seemed intent on settling some scores before any detente.

There’s no indication this pattern is likely to change anytime soon. Conway told NPR in an interview on All Things Considered yesterday that Trump would hold a news conference “at some point,” but that “anytime you try to apply conventional techniques to Donald Trump you’re going to be disappointed.”

Trump could answer some of those open questions in a news conference. He would likely face a series of uncomfortable questions about his overseas business entanglements, that business meeting with Indian real-estate developers during the transition — not to mention the $25 million settlement of the fraud lawsuit against Trump University or what exactly his administration has planned with a registry of Muslims.

Jason Miller, Trump’s communications director during the campaign, told CNN, that “Trump has never advocated for any registry or system that tracks individuals based on their religion.” But that a “registry of foreign visitors from countries with high terrorism activity” was in place during the past two administrations.

But rather than have to parse language through advisers and surrogates, the president-elect could clarify for the American people what exactly he is — or is not — proposing.

As far as what is known about Trump’s policy, the video gives the first official look directly from the next president. In the video, Trump repeated the slogan of his campaign as he outlined the philosophy that will guide his first 100 days:

“My agenda will be based on a simple core principle: putting America first, whether it’s producing steel, building cars or curing disease, I want the next generation of production and innovation to happen right here on our great homeland, America, creating wealth and jobs for American workers.”

Trump said he has asked his transition team to develop executive actions he can take on day one and that was the focus of his short video message. Here’s what’s new from the video, what’s the same and what’s missing:

What’s New?

  • “On national security I will ask the Department of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a comprehensive plan to protect America’s vital infrastructure from cyber attacks and all other form of attacks.”
  • “On immigration, I will direct the Department of Labor to investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker.”

What’s The Same?

  • “On regulation, I will formulate a rule that which says that for every one new regulation two old regulations must be eliminated. So important.”
  • “On ethics reform, as part of our plan to drain the swamp, we will impose a five year ban on executive officials becoming lobbyists after they leave the administration and a lifetime ban on executive officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.”
  • “On trade, I am going to issue a notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a potential disaster for our country. Instead, we will negotiate fair bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back onto American shores.”
  • “On energy, I will cancel job killing restrictions on the production of American energy including shale energy and clean coal, creating many millions of high paying jobs. That’s what we want. That’s what we’ve been waiting for.”

What’s Missing?

Much of what Trump had promised in October that wasn’t included in his first video message as president elect would require congressional action, though not all of it. He had previously promised to introduce legislation and work with congress to get it passed within the first 100 days.

  • “propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress”
  • “a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition (exempting military, public safety, and public health)”
  • “a complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections.”
  • “I will announce my intention to renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205”
  • “I will direct my Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator.”
  • “I will direct the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately”
  • “lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward”
  • “cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure”
  • “cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama”
  • “begin the process of selecting a replacement for Justice Scalia from one of the 20 judges on my list, who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States”
  • “cancel all federal funding to Sanctuary Cities”
  • “begin removing the more than 2 million criminal illegal immigrants from the country and cancel visas to foreign countries that won’t take them back”
  • “suspend immigration from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur. All vetting of people coming into our country will be considered extreme vetting.”
  • “Middle Class Tax Relief And Simplification Act. An economic plan designed to grow the economy 4% per year and create at least 25 million new jobs through massive tax reduction and simplification, in combination with trade reform, regulatory relief, and lifting the restrictions on American energy. The largest tax reductions are for the middle class. A middle-class family with 2 children will get a 35% tax cut. The current number of brackets will be reduced from 7 to 3, and tax forms will likewise be greatly simplified. The business rate will be lowered from 35 to 15 percent, and the trillions of dollars of American corporate money overseas can now be brought back at a 10 percent rate.”
  • “End The Offshoring Act. Establishes tariffs to discourage companies from laying off their workers in order to relocate in other countries and ship their products back to the U.S. tax-free.”
  • “American Energy & Infrastructure Act. Leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years. It is revenue neutral.
  • “School Choice And Education Opportunity Act. Redirects education dollars to give parents the right to send their kid to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice. Ends common core, brings education supervision to local communities. It expands vocational and technical education, and make 2 and 4-year college more affordable.”
  • “Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act. Fully repeals Obamacare and replaces it with Health Savings Accounts, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, and lets states manage Medicaid funds. Reforms will also include cutting the red tape at the FDA: there are over 4,000 drugs awaiting approval, and we especially want to speed the approval of life-saving medications.”
  • “Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act. Allows Americans to deduct childcare and elder care from their taxes, incentivizes employers to provide on-side childcare services, and creates tax-free Dependent Care Savings Accounts for both young and elderly dependents, with matching contributions for low-income families.”
  • “End Illegal Immigration Act Fully-funds the construction of a wall on our southern border with the full understanding that the country Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such wall; establishes a 2-year mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for illegally re-entering the U.S. after a previous deportation, and a 5-year mandatory minimum for illegally re-entering for those with felony convictions, multiple misdemeanor convictions or two or more prior deportations; also reforms visa rules to enhance penalties for overstaying and to ensure open jobs are offered to American workers first.
  • “Restoring Community Safety Act. Reduces surging crime, drugs and violence by creating a Task Force On Violent Crime and increasing funding for programs that train and assist local police; increases resources for federal law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors to dismantle criminal gangs and put violent offenders behind bars.
  • “Restoring National Security Act. Rebuilds our military by eliminating the defense sequester and expanding military investment; provides Veterans with the ability to receive public VA treatment or attend the private doctor of their choice; protects our vital infrastructure from cyber-attack; establishes new screening procedures for immigration to ensure those who are admitted to our country support our people and our values”

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Watch Earth's History Play Out On A Football Field

NPR’s Skunk Bear YouTube

Grant Ernhart works with the U.S. Biathlon Team, so he spends a lot of time among snow-capped mountains. From the Canadian Rockies, he lobbed a question to Skunk Bear, NPR’s science Youtube channel.

“I’m standing next to some mountains that are millions of years old,” Ernhart said, “and the Earth is itself 4.5 billion years old. How do I even wrap my mind around that length of time?”

It’s a tough question. A human life is so short compared to the life of the planet. But we decided the perfect place to tackle this problem of perspective was out on a football field.

Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md., let us take over their stadium one fall afternoon before practice, and we used the gridiron as a giant timeline. The distance between the end zones – 100 yards – would represent Earth’s 4.5 billion year history. Every inch was 1.3 million years. As we slowly marched down the field, traveling through time, we marked out the places that corresponded to the era when different sorts of creatures arrived on the scene — first simple cells, then fungus, fish, dinosaurs, mammals and, eventually, Homo sapiens.

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We got the idea for this football field metaphor from Oregon State University professor Eric Kirby. You can listen to him describe the long history of the Rockies while taking a beautiful 360-degree tour of its peaks.

Just how close to the end zone do humans appear? Follow the 100-yard journey in our video at the top of this post to find out.

Got your own science-y question for us? Use this form to send it our way. We’ll be answering questions from NPR’s Skunk Bear community every other Tuesday.

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Trump Foundation's Tax Returns Reportedly Acknowledge Violating IRS Rule

President-elect Donald Trump arrives at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on Sunday. Carolyn Kaster/AP hide caption

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Carolyn Kaster/AP

The Donald J. Trump Foundation has acknowledged in a tax filing that it violated the ban against “self-dealing,” or using its assets to help its leader’s business or personal interests, The Washington Post reported.

The Post quoted copies of the foundation’s 2015 IRS tax returns, which had been uploaded, apparently by the foundation’s attorneys, to a nonprofit tracking site called GuideStar. The newspaper said it hadn’t yet confirmed whether the forms had actually been sent to the IRS.

The returns asked whether the foundation has transferred “income or assets to a disqualified person” or had engaged in any acts of self-dealing in past years. In both cases, the foundation checked the box for “Yes.”

There was no indication what the returns were referring to, or what kind of self-dealing might have taken place.

Trump’s transition team did not respond to a request for comment.

Under IRS regulations, an admission of self-dealing by the leader of a nonprofit foundation can lead to a fine.

The Trump foundation has been accused of using its assets to pay debts incurred by Trump and his businesses over the past decade. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating the foundation.

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In one case, the Post said Trump settled a dispute with Florida’s Palm Beach County over the size of a flagpole at his Mar-a-Lago club by agreeing to make a donation to a veterans’ charity. Trump made the donation using funds from the foundation, the newspaper reported.

In another case, Trump is said to have used funds from the foundation to settle a dispute with a man who made a hole-in-one at Trump’s golf course in Westchester County, N.Y.

Trump also reportedly used foundation funds to pay for items that he and his wife, Melania, bought at charity auctions, including a 6-foot-tall painting of Trump himself.

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