May 20, 2019

John Oliver used his last Game of Thrones lead-in to discuss death. "Specifically, this story is about the people who investigate deaths when they happen," he explained on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "And if you're thinking, 'I don't want to see that on TV,' are you completely sure about that? Because death investigators aren't just supporting characters on some of the most popular shows."

"In real life, every year about 2.8 million Americans die," Oliver said, and while doctors identify cause of death on most death certificates, "if someone dies under suspicious or unnatural circumstances, their body may be sent for further examination and possibly a forensic autopsy. That's what happens to about a half a million bodies each year, and those investigations are incredibly important. A death certificate isn't like a degree from USC — it actually means something." Autopsies are important in murder investigations, but they also highlight trends in drug deaths, help identify defective products, and warn of infectious disease outbreaks.

"So tonight, let's learn about our death investigation system, specifically how it works, why it's such a mess, and what we can do about it," Oliver said. First, medical examiners and coroners aren't synonymous — medical examiners must be doctors, coroners are often elected, with shockingly few qualifications. That's "frankly weird enough," he said, but "in some jurisdictions, the coroner is also the county sheriff, and that has led to some serious problems."

The medical examiner system is better, but there are problems there, too, Oliver said. "The resources crunch is so bad that some offices wind up outsourcing work to private contractors, and this is where this story gets absolutely incredible." He focused on one contractor. "Look, I know this issue is tempting to ignore — it combines two things that people hate thinking about the most: Death and municipal funding," he said. But he tried to make it palatable, roping in Beyoncé, Glenn Close's spleen, and Tracy Morgan. (There's NSFW language.) Peter Weber

5:32 p.m.

Anyone looking to stream the Democratic debate on YouTube on Wednesday night will run headlong into the president. The Trump campaign has purchased some of the most valuable ad space on the internet — the YouTube homepage banner — and is using the spot to ask users to text the campaign and "stand with President Trump."

The ad spot likely cost between $500,000 and $1 million, The Independent reports based on similar ad buys by other clients.

The ad will reportedly be on the top of YouTube for a total of 24 hours, The Wall Street Journal reports. Depending on where viewers are located, different elements of the ad are swapped out, although it generally addresses border safety, immigration, drugs, and terrorism while placing blame for failures on Democratic leaders.

Democrats have also utilized the YouTube homepage banner spot in the past, such as before the midterm elections last November. Jeva Lange

5:06 p.m.

Both parties in the Senate agree on one thing: There's a dire situation at the southern border.

The Senate on Wednesday voted 84-8 to approve $4.6 billion in emergency funding for the U.S.-Mexico border, sending $2.88 billion to the Office of Refugee Resettlement and other funding to the Defense Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The House's version of the bill passed Tuesday doesn't include the DoD or ICE funding, setting the two chambers up for reconciliation discussions, The Washington Post reports.

The Senate's vote came as outrageous conditions on the border become even more apparent, with reports indicating last week that migrant children were being held in disgusting conditions in a remote Texas detention facility. ORR, which cares for these children, has been cutting services as its funding dries up. The Democratic House's version of the emergency spending bill requires greater scrutiny of private detention centers that house migrants, meaning it will have to work with the GOP-held Senate to decide if that provision makes it to President Trump's desk.

Ahead of Wednesday's vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) brought up a stunning photo of a father and daughter who drowned crossing the Rio Grande, and asked Trump to see the migrants as "people fleeing a horrible situation in their home country for a better life." Trump has hinted that he prefers the Senate's version of the bill, and suggested the two chambers "get together" to work out a deal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the House bill's stricter requirements "poison-pill riders which the president would veto." Kathryn Krawczyk

5:04 p.m.

They say there is no such thing as bad publicity — which may be true, at least so long as you're not a candidate in a political debate (you can take that one from Rick Perry). Yet even with President Trump threatening to live tweet the Democrat's showdown on Wednesday night, the opposing campaigns are taking things in stride. Or, to put it more bluntly: "We don't give a s--t about that at all," Julián Castro's spokesman, Sawyer Hackett, told Vice News.

Trump will reportedly be watching the debate on board a plane headed to the G-20 summit in Japan, and has already told NBC News that he believes the evening will be "very boring" due to the "very unexciting group of people" on stage. Trump nevertheless has already begun honing his attacks, having recently called former Vice President Joe Biden, who will appear in Thursday's debate, a "lost soul" who "doesn't know where he is."

Castro's spokesman skewered Trump for making the night about himself, adding that the president "can't even let the Democratic process play out without inserting his ego into it." Other campaigns that spoke to Vice News seemed similarly disinterested in engaging with the president on Twitter, with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' team saying they planned to stay "focused on the audience of voters."

Still, there might be something to be said for preparing for attacks; the Republican National Committee has already readied at least four dozen surrogates to respond to the debate around the country, Politico reports. "We know what a lot of the Democrats are going to say about several things," one Trump campaign official confirmed, "but we'll be ready for the unpredictable as well." Jeva Lange

4:19 p.m.

Drones are all the rage now, but can you imagine one the size of a bug?

Meet the RoboBee X-Wing, a new robot created by scientists at Harvard University. Standing under three inches tall, with a wingspan of less than two inches, this tiny machine flaps its little wings 170 times a second. It also runs on solar power, starting to fly whenever its solar cells are exposed to light. This makes it the lightest device ever to fly without being attached to an external power source, New Scientist reports.

Currently, it's not quite ready to be flying outdoors — it needs light three times as intense as sunlight, so it needs some improvements before it can embark on its first real expedition. But one day, the RoboBee might be used to monitor the environment, or get into spaces too small for people or other robots. At its size, it's even light enough to "land on a leaf," said Noah Jafferis, one of the RoboBee's creators.

You can read the study detailing the RoboBee X-Wing's capabilities at Nature, or watch it fly below. Shivani Ishwar

4:01 p.m.

The popular pro-Trump Reddit community The_Donald has been quarantined due to posts that reportedly encouraged violence.

Reddit users who visit The_Donald, the subreddit for Trump supporters that currently has more than 750,000 users, will now first be presented with a warning message saying the community has been "restricted due to significant issues with reporting and addressing violations of the Reddit Content Policy," including "threats of violence against police and public officials." The subreddit has not been banned, and clicking "continue" will bring up the regular page.

According to Reddit's policies, while quarantined, The_Donald will not appear in the site's search or recommendations, and it will not generate revenue.

An announcement on the page from a Reddit moderator details the decision, saying there has been "repeated rule-breaking behavior" in the community and telling the subreddit's moderators there has been an "overreliance" on Reddit admins to remove content encouraging or inciting violence. The violent content in question reportedly concerned police and public officials in Oregon; Media Matters had recently detailed such posts in an article.

The admin goes on to tell the community's moderators that they must "unambiguously communicate to your subscribers that violent content is unacceptable." This post attracted thousands of comments from users of The_Donald, who expressed outrage at the decision and suggested it was made for political reasons.

The_Donald is considered to be one of the biggest online hubs of Trump supporters, and the president himself visited the subreddit to take questions in 2016. He has also at times posted content that originated from The_Donald on his official Twitter account. Brendan Morrow

3:46 p.m.

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took humankind's first steps on the moon, they weren't just taking a stroll. They also collected 48 samples of lunar rocks, bringing them back home so that scientists could examine them ... eventually.

Now, 50 years after the first men walked on the moon, scientists are finally getting their hands on the original samples collected on Apollo missions from 1969 to 1972. The lunar samples have been kept in a locked vault at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Fox News reports, waiting for the wonders that 21st-century scientific technology will be able to learn from them.

That was a pretty wise move on the part of NASA officials back in the 70s, said Ryan Zeigler, a sample curator for NASA's Apollo missions. "We can do more with a milligram than we could do with a gram back then," so we can still conserve most of the sample material gathered decades ago. The samples being sent out now range from the weight of a paper clip to so small "you can barely measure it," Zeigler said.

In total, 842 pounds worth of lunar samples were collected on the Apollo missions, collected by 12 astronauts — the only 12 people who have ever walked on the moon. But NASA's new plan will soon expand that number: By 2024, it aims to send more people to the moon's surface.

Until that happens, these moon rocks are the most tangible link we have with our closest satellite. And now, "a new generation of scientists will help advance our understanding of our lunar neighbor and prepare for the next era of exploration of the moon and beyond," said Thomas Zurbuchen, an administrator at NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

Read more at Fox News. Shivani Ishwar

3:25 p.m.

2020 Democrat John Hickenlooper's name recognition is so low ahead of the first 2020 presidential debates, he almost didn't even get in.

Upon arriving for the event in Miami on Wednesday, Hickenlooper apparently wasn't recognized by security as the former two-term governor of Colorado who announced his candidacy for president nearly four months ago. Instead, he was asked if he was a reporter looking to pick up his credentials, NPR's Scott Detrow reports. "I'm a candidate," Hickenlooper had to say, typically not an ideal sequence of three words to utter during a presidential campaign. Security took his word for it, evidently.

Hickenlooper is set to participate in the second night of debates on Thursday alongside several other candidates who thousands of Americans will no doubt be frantically Googling, from Marianne Williamson to Andrew Yang. After getting inside the venue and speaking to reporters about this embarrassing little confusion, ABC's Rick Klein reports the former governor described this ordeal as the "story of my life." Brendan Morrow

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