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Tuesday, Jul 17, 2018
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Is this asteroid an alien ship?; Omarosa out; Newtown ‘still so raw’; more in U.S. news

Space

Is this asteroid an alien ship?

Scientists are studying an object thatís tumbling through our solar system to see if itís a disabled alien spaceship. You read that right. Unlike other asteroids, ĎOumuamua ó Hawaiian for "first messenger" ó is cigar-shaped. "Researchers working on long-distance space transportation have previously suggested that a cigar or needle shape is the most likely architecture for an interstellar spacecraft, since this would minimize friction and damage from interstellar gas and dust," the astronomical group Breakthrough Listen said in a news release. According to Scientific American, "That would mean it is like no asteroid ever seen before." University of Hawaii researchers discovered the object in October as it passed Earth at about 85 times the distance to our moon ó a stoneís throw, in astronomical terms, said Breakthrough Listen, funded by billionaire Yuri Milner. ĎOumuamua looped around the sun and is now halfway to Jupiter, said Scientific American, and is getting out of reach of the most powerful telescopes. Itís about a quarter of a mile long and 260 feet wide and has traveled up to 196,000 mph. On Wednesday, Breakthrough Listen aimed a telescope in West Virginia at ĎOumuamua for 10 hours. Milner said it would be able to "detect a signal the strength of a mobile phone coming out of this object. We donít want to be sensational ... and we are very realistic about the chances this is artificial" but wanted to use "the best equipment on the planet to check a low-probability hypothesis."

Washington, D.C.

Omarosa out at White House

Omarosa Manigault Newman ó the former Apprentice villain who became one of President Donald Trumpís most prominent African-American supporters ó has resigned from the White House. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said her last day will be Jan. 20. "We wish her the best in future endeavors and are grateful for her service," Sanders said. Manigault Newman served as an assistant to Trump and director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison. But the office languished under her watch, and chief of staff John Kelly had indicated changes were coming, including her dismissal, according to two White House officials who spoke on anonymity. Manigault Newman, better known as Omarosa, was escorted from the White House complex Tuesday night but was allowed to tender her resignation. The Secret Service tweeted it did not escort her, but it deactivated her access pass.

Justice official defends Mueller from Republican attacks

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein adamantly defended the character and impartiality of special counsel Robert Mueller as he came head-to-head on Wednesday with an increasingly aggressive campaign by Republicans to discredit the Russia investigation. The Republicansí effort received a jolt from the recent release of texts between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page last year describing the possibility of victory by Donald Trump as "terrifying" and saying Hillary Clinton "just has to win." Mueller removed Strzok from the Russia investigation as soon as he learned of the texts, a step Rosenstein praised. Still, Republicans used the messages as fodder to attack Muellerís impartiality during an appearance by Rosenstein before the House Judiciary Committee. But he said he would only fire Mueller if he had cause under Justice regulations ó and he said nothing so far met that standard.

Ohio

Rock Hall 2018 class: Nina Simone, Bon Jovi, Moody Blues

Iconic singer Nina Simone and rockers Bon Jovi lead the 2018 class of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, which includes four first-time nominees. The Cars, as well as first-time contenders Dire Straits, The Moody Blues and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, also are part of the 2018 class announced Wednesday. They will be inducted on April 14 in Cleveland. Tharpe, a pioneering guitarist who performed gospel music as "the godmother of rock Ďní roll," will be inducted with the "Award for Early Influence." She died in 1973. The other five acts will be inducted as performers. The jazzy and soulful Simone, also a first-time nominee, was a leader in pushing for civil rights and influenced the likes of Alicia Keys and Aretha Franklin before her death in 2003. The six inductees were chosen from a group of 19 nominees.

Nation

Target acquires Shipt delivery

Target plans to boost its same-day delivery capability by paying $550 million for Shipt, its latest move to try to catch up with Amazon. Shipt, which charges members $99 a year, sends people out to choose and deliver groceries from stores. Target said Wednesday that it will add more products to the service, such as home goods and electronics. Shoppers will have to make orders through Shipt and pay its annual fee, thought there are plans to incorporate Shipt into Targetís app and website. Target expects half of its 1,800 stores to offer Shiptís service by next summer. Itíll be available at most of its stores by the 2018 holiday shopping season. Shipt will operate independently from Target, remain in its Alabama headquarters and keep working with other retailers. Target said it expected the deal to be completed before the end of this year.

Alabama

Official: Automatic recount unlikely

Still-uncounted ballots are unlikely to change the outcome of the U.S. Senate race enough to spur an automatic recount, the stateís election chief said Wednesday as Democratic victor Doug Jones urged Republican Roy Moore to concede. Speaking Wednesday in Birmingham, Jones said a concession from Moore is the "right thing" to do, and that "itís time to heal." But Moore, who has been accused of molesting teen girls when he was in his 30s, hasnít budged after a stunning loss in a reliably GOP state. "Realize, when the vote is this close, it is not over," he told supporters, saying to "wait on God" late Tuesday. Moore did not make any public statements or appearances Wednesday. Jones is leading Moore by about 20,000 votes, or about 1.5 percent, with all precincts counted. In the meantime, Senate Republicans are hustling to move on a bill overhauling the tax code while they still have a two-seat majority. Jones declined to weigh in on whether the vote should be delayed until he is sworn in, which Democrats are demanding.

ó tbt* wires

Tangible reminders of the massacre still linger. On the door of the Blue Colony Diner in Newtown, Conn., a fraying sticker of a bear craddling a smaller one clings to the glass: "26 Angels" are "Always Here, Never Forgotten."

Not all the signs of the bloodshed that erupted five years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary are as visible. But they exist ó in the features of the new school building, like bullet-resistant windows and reinforced walls, meant to ease the fears of parents still haunted by memories of a 20-year-old gunman killing 20 first-graders and six adults.

There also is the uncomfortable silence that creeps into everyday conversations. The town struggles to figure out how to talk about what happened, but the community quickly developed a shorthand: "the tragedy," or "12/14," the date of the anniversary. Some say they knew it was coming today ó this "season of extra mourning," one teacher says ó as soon as the sun starts setting earlier in the fall.

"Itís still so raw," said a mother of children at a local elementary school.

In the five years since the shooting, which transformed a fairly anonymous town into a buzzword in the national debate on gun violence, armed men have killed people at a nightclub, an outdoor music festival, a social services center, movie theaters and churches.

But to see Newtown in 2017 is to see how grief endures and evolves, and how a community can, however fitfully, negotiate a way forward. It is an uncomfortable process, involving a delicate dance between not wanting to dwell on the loss and not wanting to stray from a vow to never forget.

The shock waves, now more subtle, still ripple throughout, stirring concentric circles of anguish, leaving people with varying degrees of pain and differing struggles. The victimsí relatives are at the core. Beyond them are teachers and students who witnessed the carnage and chaos; the officers, emergency workers and doctors who responded to it; and then an entire community.

Twenty-six families had 26 ways to respond. Some withdrew for solitude. Some formed charities. And there were some, like the Wheelers, who leapt into activism against guns.

Newtown has avoided public events or tributes but is planning a permanent memorial near the school. "People havenít taken that deep breath of, ĎIs this ever going to end?í" said Kyle Lyddy, of the commission planning the memorial. "It isnít. We have to get used to living with this new normal."

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