August 20, 2014

For those who believe there could be life in space, this discovery is huge: Scientists have reportedly found traces of plankton on the outside of the International Space Station.

Russian scientists discovered the plankton while studying samples from the exterior of the ISS — samples they only found because they were doing a routine cleaning of the ISS' windows. Scientists are now baffled about how these marine organisms made their way into space.

Vladimir Solovyev, head of ISS's Russian segment and orbital mission, told RT the plankton traces prove that life in space is possible for some organisms — the plankton survived even in subzero temperatures and without oxygen. "The results of the experiment are absolutely unique," Solovyev told Russia's Itar-Tass. "This should be studied further."

The even stranger part of the story is that the Russian scientists discovered the plankton aren't native to Baikonur, Kazakhstan, from where the Russian modules of the station blasted off. The scientists speculate that air currents may have carried the plankton into space.

NASA has not yet commented on the plankton discovery. Meghan DeMaria

knew you were trouble
2:39 p.m. ET
Phil Inglis/Getty Images

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the possibility that airlines have been secretly colluding in order to keep ticket prices high, The Associated Press has learned. Justice Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce confirmed the report, saying that the antitrust investigation seeks to uncover any "unlawful coordination" among some airlines. Although Pierce would not name the companies under investigation, some airline stocks have already begun to drop in the wake of the report.

Mergers have left American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines in control of 80 percent of the seats available in the United States, AP says. Tactics like eliminating unprofitable flights and filling higher seat percentages are allegedly used to keep the supply of tickets down, thus boosting prices. Jeva Lange

uber drama
2:32 p.m. ET
AP Photo/Nelson Antoine

Talk about some global issues. After last week's protests in Paris led to the indictment of two Uber executives in France, the ride-sharing company has already hit another roadblock — on the other side of the world.

In Brasilia, Brazil's capital, the city council voted to ban ride-sharing apps. And now Sao Paolo, the country's biggest city, is on its way to doing the same, voting 48-1 on Tuesday to prohibit its 12 million citizens from using smartphone-based ride-sharing apps. While Sao Paolo's ban still needs another vote and then approval from its mayor, and Brasilia's needs a final sign-off from its governor, Uber has remained defiant, posting on its Facebook page that the company "defends the right of users to choose the way they want to move about the city."

Uber has assumed a similarly flippant attitude in response to similar allegations in France, which a spokesperson for Uber called a "piece of pure calumny," The Wall Street Journal reports. The two Uber executives in France are facing charges including the illicit storage of personal data and the enabling of illegal taxi services. Becca Stanek

Takei Takedown
2:13 p.m. ET

Former Star Trek star George Takei and MSNBC's The Last Word host Lawrence O'Donnell agree that there's nothing especially "traditional" about Donald Trump's view of marriage — come on, the man's been married three times! But during an appearance on The Last Word, Takei was able to offer the insider scoop to O'Donnell.

Takei had formerly appeared on the fifth season of Celebrity Apprentice, and during a press conference for the show, Takei — himself an LGBT activist — asked Trump to discuss marriage equality over lunch. Trump, to his surprise, agreed. During the lunch, Trump further surprised Takei by revealing he'd just come from the gay wedding of a "very important Broadway personality."

"He said, 'You know what, George, I just came from a gay marriage,' and he told me, 'They are good friends of mine, it was a beautiful marriage,'" Takei said. "And I said, 'Then why can't you support marriage equality? You go to weddings of same-sex couples.' And he said, 'Well, I'm for traditional marriage.'"

But Trump's own marital history is "not traditional," according to Takei, who himself has been wedded to his husband, Brad Altman, for seven of their 27 years together.

"I think Donald Trump's interpretation of marriage is something that he really himself doesn't really believe in," Takei said.

Takei added that he believes Trump could come around on his so-called "traditional marriage" opinion, though. "He's a businessman," Takei said. "I think he's capable of saying anything that will be good for business or in whatever situation he should find himself in." Watch the full interview below. Jeva Lange

1:52 p.m. ET
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

In 1938, a British stockbroker traveled to Czechoslovakia, and through a combination of hard work, fundraising, bribes, and great personal risk, rescued 669 Jewish children from the Nazis. He then said nothing about what he had done for 50 years.

His name was Nicholas Winton, and he died today at 106 years old. The dramatic rescue only came to public attention after his wife discovered a scrapbook about it in 1988. He was subsequently hailed as the "British Schindler," and given the Czech Republic's highest award, among many others, though he was reportedly baffled by all the attention.

By the end of the war, practically all of the children were orphans, their parents having died in Nazi extermination camps. Today, they and their descendants number over 6,000. Ryan Cooper

1:41 p.m. ET

Liberian officials just confirmed a second diagnosis of Ebola only seven weeks after the country was declared Ebola-free. The case comes from Nedowein, the same town where officials recently detected Ebola on a teen's corpse. The infected person has been moved 30 miles north to the country's capital, Monrovia, for treatment.

As if the return of Ebola wasn't bad news enough for Liberia, the country's health workers are protesting. The Associated Press reports that Ebola treatment workers stormed the Ministry of Health on Wednesday. They say that they have not been paid for their work since the country was declared free of the disease on May 9.

Liberia is one of the three West African countries hit hardest by the deadly virus. Since last year, more than 11,000 people in West Africa have died from Ebola. Becca Stanek

who thinks TOOTHBRUSH?
1:22 p.m. ET

Love is dead, basically: More people are thinking about their phones when they wake up than their significant others, a study by the Braun Research Center and Bank of America has found. Thirty-five percent of respondents said the first thing they think about in the morning is their smartphone; 17 percent think about coffee (okay, fair); and only a measly 10 percent of you think about your significant other! Perhaps most surprising of all, though, is that according to the findings, an entire 13 percent of people wake up and immediately think: "Toothbrush." Jeva Lange

1:10 p.m. ET

An individual's science knowledge is a "significant factor" in whether or not he or she believes it's safe to eat genetically modified foods, a Pew Research study finds. Adults who are more "science literate" than their peers are also more comfortable with the use of bioengineered organs for human transplant as well as the consumption of foods grown with pesticides:

The Pew study was intended to make sense of underlying patterns in public views about science. Researchers discovered that results were affected by political ideology, religion, education level, age, race and ethnicity, and gender. Men, for example, feel more favorably about eating GMOs than women do; women, on the other hand, more strongly oppose animal testing in research. The study — and all of the results — are available on the Pew Research Center's website. Jeva Lange

See More Speed Reads