Innovation of the Week
April 4, 2014

The startup Orange Chef has developed the Prep Pad, a "smart food scale" that pairs with an iPad app to help you learn more about the nutritional content of food. You place your ingredients on the scale and type a description on the iPad and the tablet then "mines a database of 250,000 foods to provide details of its nutrients and calories," said Laura Baverman at USA Today. Prep Pad also syncs with another Orange Chef offering, called Countertop, to make sense of all the data and allow users to track and improve their eating habits.

For those who have everything
9:37 p.m. ET
Courtesy Photo

Step up your office hoops game with the Killspencer Indoor Mini Basketball Kit ($795). Created by designer Spencer Nikosey, who specializes in luxury leather backpacks and duffel bags, the basic set includes a matte-black, solid maple backboard and a supple black leather net. Each 2-foot-tall backboard mounts to a wall with a cleat assembly system. A miniature rubber basketball is included, but you can buy a black leather mini basketball for $300. An upgrade to the 24-karat, gold-plated rim with gold-foil skirt costs $200.

9:58 a.m. ET

On Thursday, minutes after setting up a meeting with reporters from The Associated Press and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich fatally shot himself in what police are calling an "apparent suicide." Schweich, 54, had recently announced his campaign for the Republican Party's gubernatorial nomination, and he told the AP reporter that he planned to go public Thursday afternoon with allegations that the chairman of the Missouri Republican Party had started an anti-Semetic "whisper campaign" to sink his campaign.

Schweich is Episcopalian; his grandfather was Jewish. In his conversations with AP, he said that Missouri Republican Party Chairman John Hancock — a political consultant elected last Saturday — had been casually mentioning in phone calls that Schweich was Jewish, and wanted Hancock to step down.

Hancock denied that he was being anti-Semetic. "I don't have a specific recollection of having said that, but it's plausible that I would have told somebody that Tom was Jewish because I thought he was," he told AP, "but I wouldn't have said it in a derogatory or demeaning fashion." Schweich was also already subject of attack ads on the radio. Post-Dispatch editorial page editor Tony Messenger, who knew Schweich, explained why the Jewish whispers disturbed the auditor so much:

Missouri is the state that gave us Frazier Glenn Miller, the raging racist who last year killed three people at a Jewish community center in Kansas City. It's the state in which on the day before Schweich died, the Anti-Defamation League reported on a rise of white supremacist prison gangs in the state. Division over race and creed is real in Missouri Republican politics, particularly in some rural areas. Schweich knew it. It's why all week long his anger burned. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

Schweich is being remembered by his colleagues as a brilliant and devoted public servant.

Caught red-handed
9:54 a.m. ET
(AP Photo/U.S Department of Justice)

U.S. authorities seized a stolen Picasso painting at the Port of Newark, and it will be returned to its home at France's National Museum.

U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch filed papers to forfeit the cubist painting, "La Coiffeuse," which was taken from a storage unit at the Centre Georges Pompidou in 2001.

The painting was shipped to the U.S. via Federal Express from Belgium in December, and it was on its way to a climate-controlled storage facility in Queens. The original shipment had described its contents as a $37 "art craft."

"A lost painting has been found," Lynch said in a statement. The sender and recipient have not been publicly identified.

I can bearly handle the cuteness
9:42 a.m. ET

International Polar Bear Day has a more serious objective than "Hey, look at these cute creatures!"

Popularized by Polar Bears International, the 10-year-old holiday aims to raise awareness about the dangers to polar bears' survival caused by Arctic warming. You can read more about those initiatives here, but remember: Polar bears are cute creatures, so don't feel bad about taking a second to enjoy the photos, below, too. —Sarah Eberspacher

White Island, Canada. | (Paul Souders/Corbis)

Tierpark Hellabrunn, Munich, Germany. | (REUTERS/Michael Dalder)

Brookfield Zoo, Illinois. | (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

San Francisco Zoo, California. | (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

London Zoo's famous polar bear "Pipaluk" in 1968. | (Ron Case/Keystone/Getty Images)

Coming Soon
9:28 a.m. ET

Harrison Ford just can't escape his past. Seven years after playing an older Indiana Jones in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — and less than a year away from his performance as an older Han Solo in Star Wars: Episode VII — Ford is set to reprise the role of Rick Deckard in a sequel to 1982's Blade Runner.

The Blade Runner sequel, which takes place "several decades" after the original, will be directed by Denis Villeneuve, best known for Prisoners and Enemy. Ridley Scott, who directed Blade Runner, will produce.

8:47 a.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

In an interview with ABC News' Pierre Thomas, Attorney General Eric Holder said the U.S. is "working on" a plan to either kill or capture the ISIS member known as "Jihadi John." Yesterday, The Washington Post published an interview in which several sources claim to have identified "Jihadi John" as Mohammed Emwazi, a young man from London.

"Jihadi John" appears in several of ISIS' videos, in which the terrorist group beheads hostages. Holder declined to confirm that Emwazi was "Jihadi John," though, saying the confirmation would "cut back the operation possibilities" the U.S. is considering. He did say, however, that "Jihadi John" will "be brought to justice in some fashion."

"The vow that I can make to the American people, along with our allies, is that we will hold accountable all the people who have been responsible for these heinous, barbaric acts," Holder said. "That is something that we are focused on each and every day."

POTUS listens
8:20 a.m. ET

Friday's weekly StoryCorp interview featured Noah McQueen, 18, and a special interviewer, President Obama. McQueen — part of the president's year-old My Brother's Keeper initiative, a program for young men of color — started out talking about his unstable childhood and run-ins with the law.

"Did you know your dad?" Obama asked. When McQueen said yes "but, you know, he's down the street," and he didn't have a relationship with him, the president brought up his own absent father: "Well, that's one of the things we have in common. As I get older, I start reflecting on how that affected me. How do you think that affected you?" You can listen to the whole interview below, and it's worth it to hear McQueen talk about his pivotal trip to a Christian retreat:

Obama isn't the first sitting president to do a StoryCorps interview, the organization notes: George W. Bush and Laura Bush sat down with Bush's sister, Dorothy Bush Koch, after the 2008 election.

7:54 a.m. ET


Paleontologists from the American Museum of Natural History and the National University of San Marcos in Lima, Peru, found remains from an astonishing seven ancient crocodile species during a dig in northeastern Peru, near Iquitos. Three of the species are newly identified, and the crocodiles are estimated to have lived 13 million years ago.

In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the scientists explain that the find marks the largest number of crocodile species to cohabit one area in all of Earth's history. The crocodile fossils offer unprecedented insight about the region's ecosystem before the Amazon river was formed, about 10.5 million years ago.

The researchers note that the crocodiles lived at the peak of ancient wetlands' size, and the various crocodile species could have survived thanks to a variety of available food sources. For example, the Gnatusuchus pebasensis species had rounded teeth and a snout to gather clams from swamp bottoms, while other species had longer snouts to catch swimming fish.

The scientists believe the Amazon river system caused a downturn in mollusk populations, which caused crocodile species like Gnatusuchus to go extinct. Other species with "broader palates," meanwhile, were able to survive, the researchers noted.

Greek debt crisis
7:07 a.m. ET
Carsten Koall/Getty Images

On Friday, Germany's lower house of parliament voted, 542 to 32, to approve a four-month extension of Greece's financial bailout. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble had reluctantly urged his colleagues to approve the extension, arguing that failing to do so would cause Germany and Europe "great damage." But "the discussions before and after the elections in Greece didn't make this decision any easier," he added, "and neither have the discussions of the past few days and hours, to put it mildly." Under the terms of the agreement, Greece has to reform its labor laws and judiciary to fight corruption and tax evasion.

6:42 a.m. ET

In 1950, Earl Lloyd became the first African-American to play in the NBA, making his debut with the Washington Capitols before going on to play with the Syracuse Nationals and Detroit Pistons. He won a championship with the Nationals, then became one of the NBA's first black coaches. Lloyd died on Thursday at age 86.

Lloyd said that his first pro appearance on the court — in Rochester, New York, on Oct. 31, 1950 — was pretty low-key, Kenneth Shouler writes at ESPN. "I stepped onto the court and the world kept spinning," Lloyd said. "No one said a word — not the fans, players, anybody. Nothing was ever said about me being the first black. They acted as if I was a player, period." That same season, Charles Cooper and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton also made their NBA debuts.

Even if he was nonchalant about integrating the NBA, other players hold him up as a pioneer. Below, you can watch Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkely talk about what Lloyd meant to them, during a break in Thursday night's Oklahoma City-Phoenix game. —Peter Weber

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