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April 16, 2018
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Monday marked the beginning of the annual Lyrid meteor shower, EarthSky reported. Lasting for nine days — until April 25 — the shower is composed of debris from the comet Thatcher, whose orbit crosses Earth's around this time every year. The comet was last spotted in 1861, and its 415-year-long orbit means it won't return until 2276.

But while we earthlings won't get to see the full-on comet, we will get to see parts of it light up the sky. The Lyrids are named after the Lyra constellation, the closest one to where they typically appear in the night sky. They comprise one of the oldest observed meteor showers, with early records of the Lyrid meteor shower dating back to 687 B.C., Business Insider notes.

The most meteors are expected to be visible from April 21 to April 23, with the peak just before dawn on April 22, Business Insider reported. Because of the waxing moon, it's expected that about 10 to 20 falling meteors per hour will be visible in areas of low light pollution during the peak. The brightness of the shower should enable it to be observed by the naked eye, and Business Insider noted that narrowing your point of view with a telescope might actually make you more likely to miss meteors falling.

Read more about how best to get a peek at EarthSky. Shivani Ishwar

6:31 p.m. ET
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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on Monday 10-9 in favor of Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, becoming the next secretary of state.

After saying he would oppose Pompeo's nomination, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced right before the vote that he had changed his mind, following a conversation with President Trump. The full Senate will vote later this week. Catherine Garcia

5:29 p.m. ET

The temperature reached near 70 degrees in Washington, D.C., on Monday, so Sen. Rand Paul broke out his flip-flops.

The Kentucky Republican had long maintained his opposition to Mike Pompeo, President Trump's nominee for secretary of state, stating repeatedly that he intended to vote against Pompeo because of his hawkish instincts. During Pompeo's confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month, Paul pressed Pompeo over whether Trump's use of military force in Syria without congressional approval was constitutionally sound, and said that Pompeo's view of the war in Afghanistan is at odds with Trump's desire to withdraw from the country.

But on Monday, Paul said that after speaking to Trump and Pompeo, he had "received assurances" that Pompeo does not in fact want to prolong America's presence in Afghanistan. Trump "believes that Iraq was a mistake, that regime change has destabilized the region, and that we must end our involvement with Afghanistan," Paul wrote on Twitter, and on Monday he "received confirmation that [Pompeo] agrees" with Trump.

For that reason, Paul announced that he would vote to confirm Pompeo after all. With Paul's support, plus the backing of three moderate Senate Democrats, Pompeo seems poised for confirmation by the full Senate later this week.

5:28 p.m. ET
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President Trump said one thing, but his flight records said another.

Trump reportedly told former FBI Director James Comey twice that he never stayed the night in Moscow, Russia, when visiting in 2013 for a Miss Universe pageant. But flight records reviewed by Bloomberg, combined with social media posts, appear to indicate that Trump indeed spent a full weekend with business associates and pageant developers in the Russian capital.

The findings contradict Trump's main alibi denying the veracity of a dossier that alleges salacious details about his interactions with prostitutes in Moscow. Even though Trump told Comey on two separate occasions that the dossier "couldn't be true" because of how little time he spent in Moscow on that trip, Bloomberg reports that Trump flew to Russia in a private jet owned by his business partner, rather than on his own jet, making his timeline a bit muddier.

Trump fired Comey last year, and aspects of his explanation regarding the trip to Moscow are detailed in Comey's recently released memoir, A Higher Loyalty. The dossier, compiled by a British ex-spy, remains unverified, though Comey has said some aspects of it were "corroborated by other intelligence."

Social media posts, such as a Facebook photo posted by a Russian restaurant, show that Trump was in Moscow the night before the pageant began. He partied with the pageant's host on a Friday night before spending Saturday touring Moscow and attending the pageant. Trump's own tweets show that he spent more than a full day in the city before flying back to New York early Sunday morning. Read more at Bloomberg. Summer Meza

5:00 p.m. ET
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Nine people were killed and 16 injured Monday afternoon when a man drove a van down a Toronto sidewalk, authorities said. The driver of the vehicle is in custody, though authorities have yet to identify a motive.

The incident occurred down a busy stretch of Yonge Street in Toronto's North York neighborhood. Toronto Deputy Police Chief Peter Yuen told reporters that authorities would be on the scene for "days," and that the investigation would be "complex."

An eyewitness told BBC News that she saw a white car plow through pedestrians. "So many people [were] shouting, 'Stop the car,' but he didn't," the woman said. "He just [kept] moving." Kimberly Alters

This is a breaking news story that will be updated as more details become available.

2:31 p.m. ET
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Something stinks in the far reaches of our solar system.

A study published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday suggests that the clouds that form the upper atmosphere of Uranus are largely composed of hydrogen sulfide gas — the same compound found in rotting eggs that produces their signature odor.

Scientists have speculated about whether Uranus' clouds contained hydrogen sulfide or ammonia, which is found in Jupiter's and Saturn's atmospheres, Space reported. But until now, there has been no concrete proof; Jupiter and Saturn, meanwhile, are much closer to Earth, and thus much easier to observe. The "lucky break" that allowed researchers to finally observe the miniscule gas particles in Uranus' atmosphere was the Gemini telescope in Hawaii, said Leigh Fletcher, one of the co-authors of the study.

Based on what they've discovered about Uranus, scientists now theorize that Neptune's atmosphere may contain hydrogen sulfide as well — which may make humans reluctant visitors to the far-off planets. But Patrick Irwin, the study's lead author, says the rotten egg smell would be the least of anyone's concerns: "Suffocation and exposure in the atmosphere" would be a much bigger problem to worry about, he quipped.

Read more about the study at Space. Shivani Ishwar

2:18 p.m. ET
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Nashville police have confirmed that the 29-year-old man suspected of opening fire in a local Waffle House over the weekend has been taken into custody. Travis Reinking, of Illinois, opened fire early Sunday morning in the restaurant, killing four people and injuring four others. He fled the scene nude after being disarmed by another Waffle House patron, James Shaw Jr., and had been the subject of an intense manhunt.

Reinking was arrested last July by the Secret Service on charges that he was in a restricted area outside the White House, and had four of his guns seized, including the AR-15 rifle police said he used in Sunday's shooting. Jeva Lange

2:05 p.m. ET
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Under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Department of Education has dramatically scaled back its efforts to probe potential civil rights violations in schools, a ProPublica investigation has found. Whereas the Obama administration made investigating racial disparities a central priority, under President Trump the Department of Education has moved away from that goal, shuttering at least 65 Obama-era probes without mandating any reforms.

The investigation, published by ProPublica and Mother Jones on Monday, explains how under former President Barack Obama, the Department of Education sought to identify "disparate impact," defined by ProPublica as a theory that "holds that differential treatment by race amounts to discrimination whether or not there is overt or intentional bias." With that guiding tenet, the department investigated school districts across the country in search of institutionalized discrimination.

But under DeVos, those efforts have been severely curbed, ProPublica found:

... [T]he pullback is already happening. In a June 2017 internal memo leaked to ProPublica, one of DeVos' top officials ordered investigators to limit proactive civil rights probes rather than expanding them to identify systemic patterns, as the Obama administration had often done in school discipline cases.

Since then, the Education Department has closed at least 65 school discipline investigations opened under Obama [...] In at least 50 cases, the department attributed the shutdowns to "moot" allegations or insufficient evidence or details. [ProPublica]

In one of the investigations, of a small school district in Bryan, Texas, federal investigators found at least 10 instances where black students had been punished more severely for the same infraction as their white peers, and district data showed black students were nearly four times as likely to be suspended as white students, ProPublica reported. But in 2017, the probe was effectively shuttered due to "insufficient evidence," with the school escaping any mandated reforms.

Read more at ProPublica. Kimberly Alters

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