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Homeland Security investigating after massive cyber attacks take down sites across the internet

Federal officials are monitoring reports of at least two cyber attacks that took down pages and services across the internet on Friday. One of the attacks is ongoing as of 2 p.m. EDT.

>> Read more trending stories

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the Department of Homeland Security, which monitors cyber threats against the United States, is monitoring the situation.

"At this point, I don't have any information to share about who might be responsible for this malicious activity," Earnest said.

>> Related: Twitter, Spotify among major websites down Friday morning

The outages appear to have stemmed from dedicated denial of service (DDOS) attacks levied against Dyn Inc., one of the world's foremost providers of internet services. The company runs domain name servers, known commonly as DNS, which provide infrastructure for internet services.

"They (DNS) work as a phone book or map to the internet, making sure that when someone writes an address into their computer or phone, it can be directed to the right place and show the right information," The Independent reported.

>> Related: Russian hackers release information about 25 more Olympic athletes

Dyn confirmed that it started monitoring and fighting an attack on its infrastructure around 7 a.m. The company announced that services has been restored by 9:20 a.m.

However, a second attack was reported just before 12 p.m., again targeting Dyn's infrastructure.

"Our engineers continue to investigate and mitigate several attacks aimed against the Dyn Managed DNS infrastructure," the company said in an update posted just before 2 p.m.

>> Related: FBI investigating Democratic National Committee hack

It was not immediately clear whether the attacks were related.

Dyn is based in New Hampshire; However, it provides services for multiple U.S.-based sites, and the attack on its servers caused issues loading the American sites in parts of Europe, Japan and other places, according to outage maps from Down Detector.

>> Related: WikiLeaks emails: FBI investigates, Podesta claims he was targeted by Russian hackers

A DDOS attack occurs when a website gets an influx of requests meant to overload the site and make it inaccessible.

What happens if Trump or Clinton refuse to concede?

When asked if he would accept the results of the election by debate moderator Chris Wallace on Wednesday, Donald Trump refused to indicate that he would, saying, “I will look at it at the time."

By Thursday, Trump took another shot at the answer, but had not completely walked it back.

In a campaign appearance in Ohio, Trump said he would accept the results of the election only “if I win,” adding that he is “reserving the right to mount a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result.”

While it pleases many of his supporters to hear him say that he would contest an election that does not name him the winner, could Trump reasonably mount a legal challenge to an election he loses?

>> Got a question about the news? See our explainers here  

It’s complicated.

Elections are state-by-state affair

That means that each state runs its own elections,and each state has its own set of laws that regulate the counting of the ballots in those elections.

Included in those laws is one that says that the votes counted on election day are preliminary results. The results are not official until they are certified.

The vote count can change in that time. Often, absentee ballots are counted after election day, as are provisional ballots, or ballots used to record a vote when there is a question as to whether the voter is eligible to vote. This could happen because the voter’s name does not appear on the list of names at a certain polling place, or, if in states where voter ID is required, the person does not have identification with them.

What about close elections?

Some states allow candidates to request recounts, and in other states,recounts are automatically triggered if the ballot count is close – usually if the difference in the count is less than one-half of one percent of the total vote.

As far as close elections go, it doesn’t get much closer than the 2000 presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush. The two candidates were separated by a little more than 500 votes in Florida, which had 25 votes in the electoral college.

A recount of ballots was triggered in several counties because of the closeness of the vote totals, lawsuits were triggered by the counting, and, in the end, the counting was stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that there was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause when different standards of counting ballots were used in different counties.

By the time the Supreme Court took the case, there could be no way to standardize the counting of ballots put into place within the time limit – Dec. 12 – that year. According to the Constitution, “The electors of President and Vice President of each State shall meet and give their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December …”

The Constitution goes on to say,"any controversy or contest concerning the appointment of all or any of the electors of such State, by judicial or other methods or procedures, and such determination shall have been made at least six days before the time fixed for the meeting of the electors, such determination made pursuant to such law so existing on said day, and made at least six days prior to said time of meeting of the electors, shall be conclusive, and shall govern in the counting of the electoral votes as provided in the Constitution, and as hereinafter regulated, so far as the ascertainment of the electors appointed by such State is concerned."

In other words, any problems with electing the “electors” must be addressed and corrected by six days prior to the meeting of the electors “on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.”

In the 2000 election, Al Gore won the popular vote, but lost the vote in the Electoral College. George W. Bush then became president.

Does the Supreme Court often intervene?

The United States Supreme Court can intervene as it did in Gore v Bush, but that is extremely rare. Most any legal issue is dealt with at the state level.

Must a losing candidate concede?

As for conceding a race, there is no requirement that a person who loses the presidential election concede the race. It is simply tradition that the losing candidate concede the race. Likewise, it doesn’t really matter if the person “agrees” with the results or not.

The only thing a concession does, really, is to serve to legitimize the election for the loser’s supporters

 What happens after Nov. 8?

Whether the loser of the 2016 race concedes or not, the result of state elections will be certified under the laws of each state. The electors who are chosen on Nov. 8 (remember, we vote for electors, not candidates) will cast their ballots in December, and that count will be read and certified in a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2017.

‘Scrotum frogs’ found dead in South America

More than 10,000 Titicaca water frogs have been found dead in South America, most likely victims of pollution.

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One of the largest aquatic frogs in the world, the endangered species goes by a unique nickname. It has “amazingly baggy skin, which gives it the common name scrotum frog,” says National Geographic explorer Jonathan Kolby, a PhD student who studies frogs in Latin America

The deaths occurred along a 30-mile stretch of the Coata River, according to members of the Committee Against the Pollution of the Coata River. The river is a tributary of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. The lake straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia in the Andes Mountains. 

Authorities said raw sewage was found near the lake. 

Although the frogs were found dead on the Peruvian side of the lake, similar events also have occurred on the Bolivian side

The IUCN Red List declares this species as “critically endangered” and it’s believed the highly fragmented populations are all in decline. 

When Jacques Cousteau studied the Titicaca frogs in the 1970s it was common. He found individuals that stretched out to 20 inches long and weighed 2.2 pounds, National Geographic reported.

American wins Wildlife Photographer of the Year award

A photograph of an orangutan climbing a wild fig tree in the Indonesian rain forest was awarded the top prize in the London History Museum’s 52nd Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

>> Read more trending stories

American biologist Tim Laman, who has been photographing apes in the wild for years, beat almost 50,000 entries from 95 countries to claim first place title with his photograph “Entwined Lives.” The photograph will be on display with 99 other shots at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit, which opened Oct. 21.

Laman, who is also a National Geographic contributor, told an audience in London on Wednesday that he'd wanted to get a picture like Entwined Lives for many years.

Laman caught the male orangutan’s scramble to reach figs at the top of a 100-foot thick tree in Borneo’s Gunung Palung National Park. According to the London History Museum, Laman spent three days climbing up and down the tree by a rope, placing several GoPro cameras in position to capture the orangutan. He then controlled the cameras remotely to get a wide-angle shot of the jungle and a shot of the orangutan’s face from above.

Take things slow, celebrate International Sloth Day

If the world is moving too fast, Thursday is the day to sit back and take it slow. 

While sloth may be one of the seven deadly sins, Thursday celebrates the animal that has won the hearts of many, the (s)lowly sloth.

>> Read more trending stories

October 20th is known as International Sloth Day.

Here are five fast facts about the sloth, according to the World Wildlife Federation

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news  

1. They move only about 40 yards a day and have a very low metabolic rate. 

2. They spend 15 to 20 hours per day sleeping. 

3. Despite living in the tree canopy of Central and South America, their long arms make them great swimmers.

4. There are two types of sloths: Two-toed and three-toed. The types are broken down into six species.

5. The pygmy sloth is critically endangered and the maned sloth is vulnerable.

<iframe src="//;border=false&amp;template=slideshow" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe> <script src="//;border=false&amp;template=slideshow"></script> [View the story "Celebrate International Sloth Day." on Storify]

Can Halloween mask sales predict the winner of the presidential election?

Many would argue that the 2016 presidential election is scary enough, with claims of elections being rigged and the specter of phantom emails ready to pop out at any moment.

The election is three weeks away, and while polls change and pundits argue over what will happen next, a Halloween costume chain said it knows who will be the next president of the United States.

Spirit Halloween has been selling costumes and Halloween accessories for 33 years, and the chain lays claim to an interesting fact. By tracking the sales of the presidential nominee masks, Spirit Halloween has accurately predicted the winner in presidential election years since 1996. 

The company, according to a press release, uses the “Presidential Mask Index” to track the progress of the sales of candidate’s masks in its 1,200 stores and uses that information to make its prediction.

“With such a historic and eventful year in politics, we are eager to track the progress of our candidate mask sales as a fun comparison to more traditional polls,” said Steven Silverstein, Spirit Halloween’s president and CEO.

The store sells several versions of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Halloween masks from the “Tax Evasion Trump,” to the “Cackling Clinton.”

The store’s survey of mask sales does have a few flaws – as scientific polls go. Only about 4 percent of adults who will dress up for Halloween will wear a political-inspired costume. People are more likely to run into a witch or a pirate, as they are a Trump or a Clinton, according to the National Retail Federation

But within those boundaries, Spirit Halloween has had remarkable success in picking the next commander-in-chief.

Masks of President Barack Obama outsold those of his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin in 2012. In 2008, Obama’s image outsold masks of Sen. John McCain, (R-Arizona), the Republican nominee for president, by the same margin.

The George W. Bush mask outsold John Kerry’s mask in 2004 and Al Gore’s mask in 2000. Bill Clinton’s mask was the clear winner over Sen. Bob Dole, (R-Kansas), in 1996.

According to a press release from Spirit Halloween, the company has partnered with the Harris Poll to survey more than 2,000 adults, asking why they would dress up as either candidate this Halloween. What they found out:

• Fifty-five percent of those who said they would dress up as a candidate chose Donald Trump. Forty-five percent chose Clinton. 

• The top reason Americans chose Donald Trump is to be funny (39 percent), whereas the top reason Americans choose Hillary Clinton is because they like her (31 percent).

• About 1 out of 4 Republicans (23 percent) and Democrats (27 percent) indicated that they would dress up as the opposite party's candidate because it would be scary.

• Thirty-two percent would dress as Donald Trump to mock him; 16 percent would dress as Clinton to mock her.

7 things to know now: Presidential debate; Baldwin brothers disagree; spacecraft is missing

Here's a roundup of news trending across the nation and world today.

What to know now:

 1. Presidential debate: Donald Trump refused to say in Wednesday’s final 2016 presidential debate whether he would accept the Nov. 8 General Election results should he lose, but instead said he’d keep the world “in suspense.” Trump has been saying on the campaign trail recently that the election is rigged against him and that the results cannot be trusted, angering both Democrats and Republicans. Hillary Clinton said Trump’s statement was horrifying. In other news from the debate, the evening took a nasty turn soon after it started with Clinton calling Trump a “puppet” of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and Trump calling Clinton a “nasty woman.” 

2. Rose cleared of charges: New York Knicks point guard Derrick Rose was cleared Wednesday of charges he participated in the gang rape of his former girlfriend. The woman, in a civil lawsuit, accused the NBA star and two of his friends of raping her while she was unconscious from alcohol and drugs. "I am thankful that the jury understood and agreed with me," Rose said in a statement. "This experience and my sensitivity to it was deep. I am ready to put this behind me and focus on my family and career."

3. Another missile test: Military leaders in South Korea say that, once again, North Korea appears to have conducted a missile test that ended with the device exploding shortly after launch. The medium-range Musudan ballistic missile is believed to have a range of nearly 2,500 miles. South Korean and American officials again stated their opposition to the North's missile testing.

4. What happened to the lander: A spacecraft set to touch down on Mars Wednesday went quiet moments before it was to land on the Red Planet, leaving scientists scrambling to find out what happened. The European Space Agency lost contact with its Schiaparelli lander just before a 10:48 a.m. ET landing time. “It’s clear that these are not good signs, but we will need more information.” said Paolo Ferri, the ESA’s head of mission operations.

5. Together again: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both scheduled to attend the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York on Thursday. It’s tradition at the white-tie fundraiser hosted by the Archdiocese of New York for presidential candidates to take jabs at their opponents and themselves, but considering that Clinton and Trump called each other names at Wednesday’s debate, the evening could take an interesting turn. At least they will be separated by a chair -- with a Cardinal in it.

And one more

While actor Alec Baldwin has received good reviews for his portrayal of Donald Trump in sketches on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” he does have at least two detractors – Trump, himself, and Baldwin’s brother, Stephen. Stephen Baldwin admits Alec’s imitation of Trump is pretty good, but disagrees that the presidential election should be made fun of. “He’s got the voice down very well. I think it’s getting a little too nasty right now. I don’t want to be a party pooper here, but I don’t think it’s very funny,” he continued.

In case you missed it

This cat takes a stab at saving its human from the waters of the bathtub, then, well, whatever.


This chimpanzee smokes a pack of cigarettes every day

Azalea, the smoking chimpanzee, is a star at Central Zoo in Pyongyang, North Korea.

The 19-year-old female chimp smokes about a pack of cigarettes a day, according to the zoo. They say she doesn’t inhale, however.

According to the Associated Press, visitors roared with laughter while watching her smoke. If given a lighter, she is able to light her own cigarette. She can also light up off an already lit cigarette.

>> Read more trending stories

Thousands of people visit the zoo each day. It is home to two chimps.

The Central Zoo also features performances by other animals trained to do tricks, including a monkey who can slam dunk, dogs who appear to do addition and subtraction, and does that land on a woman skating on a stage.

– Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. 

>> Click here or scroll down to see more photos

<iframe src="//;border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe> <script src="//;border=false"></script> [View the story "This chimpanzee smokes a pack of cigarettes every day" on Storify]

Photos: Obamas host final state dinner

7 things to know now: Debate night; WikiLeaks without the net; new Macs on the way; Social Security

Here's a roundup of news trending across the nation and world today.

What to know now: 

1. Debate night: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will meet tonight in Las Vegas for the third and final presidential debate before the Nov. 8 General Election. Chris Wallace of Fox news is the moderator for the debate set for 9 p.m. (ET) at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Barack Obama’s half-brother, Malik Obama, and Pat Smith, mother of Sean Smith who was killed in the raid in Benghazi, will be Trump’s guests. Clinton invited Mark Cuban and Meg Whitman to attend the debate.

2. Internet cut: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has had his internet access “temporarily” restricted by the government of Ecuador. Ecuador's Foreign Ministry published a statement on Tuesday saying it "exercised its right" to "temporarily restrict access to some of (WikiLeaks') private communications network within its Embassy in the United Kingdom." The move came hours after WikiLeaks published information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s speeches to the financial giant Goldman Sachs. Assange is in the Ecuador embassy building in London and has been since he sought asylum there following charges of sexual assault.

3. Updated Macs: According to reports, Apple plans to unveil an updated Mac line-up next week. The company will show off new versions of the iMac desktop, MacBook Air laptop and a thinner MacBook Pro laptop, among other products, according to Bloomberg.

4. Social Security Cola: Social Security recipients will get a raise next year, but it may be tough to find it in their checks. The typical retiree's monthly check will increase by $3.92 in 2017 – or 0.3 percent. The increase is the smallest cost-of-living adjustment ever put into place for the government program. More than 66 million people get the checks. The average retiree's monthly benefit is $1,305.30.

5. Phone exchange booths: Samsung is manning exchange booths in airports around the world to get passengers carrying its Galaxy Note 7 to swap their phone for another device. The phones have been shown to catch fire without warning. Customers are being helped by Samsung employees at the exchange points to transfer their information to the new phones. 

And one more

Chuck Berry, who turned 90 on Tuesday, said he will release an album next year, his first in 38 years. The album will be called “Chuck,” and is expected to have new, original material from Berry. So far, no news about the date the album will be released.

In case you missed it

More than 5 million people have seen this elephant “rescue” the man who once rescued her.

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