NPR Politics presents the Lunchbox List: our favorite campaign news and stories curated from NPR and around the Web in digestible bites (100 words or less!). Look for it every weekday afternoon from now until the conventions.

Convention Countdown

The Republican National Convention is in 4 days in Cleveland.

The Democratic National Convention is in 11 days in Philadelphia.

NASA has released the first picture of Jupiter taken since the Juno spacecraft went into orbit around the planet on July 4.

The picture was taken on July 10. Juno was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter at the time. The color image shows some of the atmospheric features of the planet, including the giant red spot. You can also see three of Jupiter's moons in the picture: Io, Europa and Ganymede.

The Senate is set to approve a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

My husband and I once took great pleasure in preparing meals from scratch. We made pizza dough and sauce. We baked bread. We churned ice cream.

Then we became parents.

Now there are some weeks when pre-chopped veggies and a rotisserie chicken are the only things between us and five nights of Chipotle.

Parents are busy. For some of us, figuring out how to get dinner on the table is a daily struggle. So I reached out to food experts, parents and nutritionists for help. Here is some of their (and my) best advice for making weeknight meals happen.

"O Canada," the national anthem of our neighbors up north, comes in two official versions — English and French. They share a melody, but differ in meaning.

Let the record show: neither version of those lyrics contains the phrase "all lives matter."

But at the 2016 All-Star Game, the song got an unexpected edit.

At Petco Park in San Diego, one member of the Canadian singing group The Tenors — by himself, according to the other members of the group — revised the anthem.

School's out, and a lot of parents are getting through the long summer days with extra helpings of digital devices.

How should we feel about that?

Police in Baton Rouge say they have arrested three people who stole guns with the goal of killing police officers. They are still looking for a fourth suspect in the alleged plot, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

"Police say the thefts were at a Baton Rouge pawn shop early Saturday morning," Greg says. "One person was arrested at the scene. Since then, two others have been arrested and six of the eight stolen handguns have been recovered. Police are still looking for one other man."

A 13-year-old boy is among those arrested, Greg says.

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After an international tribunal invalidated Beijing's claims to the South China Sea, Chinese authorities have declared in no uncertain terms that they will be ignoring the ruling.

The Philippines brought the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, objecting to China's claims to maritime rights in the disputed waters. The tribunal agreed that China had no legal authority to claim the waters and was infringing on the sovereign rights of the Philippines.

Donald Trump is firing back at Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after she disparaged him in several media interviews. He tweeted late Tuesday that she "has embarrassed all" with her "very dumb political statements" about the candidate. Trump ended his tweet with "Her mind is shot - resign!":


Mars And The Phenomenal Curiosity

Aug 15, 2012
Originally published on August 17, 2012 3:05 pm

Only those who were in deep hibernation or unconscious would have missed two recent amazing events: the London Olympics and the sensational feat in which NASA engineers and scientists managed to land a car-sized rover onto the Martian surface. Adam wrote about the mission last week.

Now that the dust has settled (in many ways, including around the rover), I'd like to revisit the mission and its promise of discovery.

After years of preparation and 8 ½ months of travel, Curiosity was deposited near Gale Crater, in an area that looks like the Arizona desert. (But it's not, so no deniers, please! Let's celebrate humanity's achievements for what they are.) That the rover landed safely and on target, after using an amazing-looking parachute and a "sky-crane" device to soften the touchdown, was nothing short of wonderful.

Remember, it was all done remotely, commanded by onboard computers following a 500,000 lines-long code. And I thought my 3,000 line-long codes were plenty long. Then there was the "seven minutes of terror," the time it took Curiosity to land. Since communications from the rover take about 14 minutes to reach the base on Earth, the landing had to be done automatically: A very sophisticated robot landed on Mars by itself.

Its main objective? To find life, present or past, on the Martian surface or below. The rover is an ultra-sophisticated moving chemical laboratory. Some of the first pictures can be seen here. You can get more up to date pictures by following the rover on Twitter, @MarsCuriosity, which had just under 1 million followers as of this writing.

Mars around Gale Crater is dry, cold, prohibitive. NASA images show small pebbles scattered around the surface. When Curiosity starts moving in about 10 days, it will collect samples from the soil and underneath, searching for traces of organic matter or any signature of metabolic processes typical of some kind of life, either present or from the past. One of its neat devices is the ChemCam, which uses a laser to vaporize bits of soil up to 23 feet away. The vapor can then be analyzed with a spectrograph to determine the composition of the zapped minerals.

The Mars of today, with a very sparse atmosphere mostly composed of carbon dioxide, is very different then it was billions of years ago. Studies of the Martian geology and the recorded movements of water across its surface — there are plenty of dried up canyons crisscrossing the landscape — suggest it's highly probable that while Earth was still a living hell of lava and volcanic eruptions, Mars was wetter and far friendlier to life.

The expectations are high that Curiosity will find a trace of life, even if long extinct. However, if results turn out negative, we will still learn a lot. After all, the question we are asking is whether life on Earth is the exception or the rule. If life is not found on Mars, it will be harder to justify that life is abundant in the universe.

Of course, life may be there or may have been there and completely escape our methods of detection. If finding life on Earth is easy, it may be much harder in other places. Not because life can be way too weird for us to even identify it. That can happen, of course, but it's a real long shot. Carbon-based life has a much richer biochemistry than any other possibility, including silicon, an often-mentioned alternative. Also, water is essential; ammonia as a solvent is far from being as efficient as water.

Even if there isn't a universally-agreed definition of life, and some argue quite forcibly that it's a mistake to try to define it, the one NASA adopts is very general: "Life is a self-sustained chemical system capable of undergoing Darwinian evolution." Life is defined through its metabolism and ability to reproduce itself. It isn't perfect, but it's what is called an operational definition.

Time will tell if Curiosity's experiments will give us a hint of what the story is with Mars and life. Short of detection, there's always room for more search: Science works better at finding out what exists than at ruling out what doesn't. (As long as it satisfies the laws of physics, chemistry and biology, of course. But even so, the possibilities are amazing.) Meanwhile, the least we can do is realize how lucky we are to be living in an age when we can actually go to the Red Planet and see for ourselves — or through a worthy emissary — whether we are the only living creatures in our solar system.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit