An unknown object encountered by Navy fighter pilots near San Diego in 2004. Photo: U.S. Department of Defense via New York Times

The Pentagon has fessed up, and it seems that observers who accused it of hiding information about possible alien visitors were right. A New York Times report revealed that Harry Reid initiated a program to investigate the UFO phenomenon that lasted five years and cost taxpayers $22 million.

But it's hardly an unalloyed victory. The good news for those who believe the government has covered up an extraterrestrial presence is that they can retire their tinfoil hats. The bad news is that the study didn't produce unambiguous evidence that E.T. is sailing the skies in high-tech, interstellar Frisbees.

Yes, the Pentagon produced some interesting cases — mostly videos from military aircraft. But there were interesting cases before, and none ever convinced the scientists. This jury could have come in with a solid verdict, but didn't.

Why it matters: Many people have argued that the federal government is keeping secret something tremendously important: the presence of visitors from far-distant worlds. But just because the government does a study doesn't prove much of anything. Remember: The CIA also spent millions of tax dollars examining the ESP phenomenon.

Shostak is the senior astronomer at the SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) Institute.

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IG report: Saudi arms sales were legal but didn't weigh civilian casualties

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Photo: Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acted legally when he bypassed Congress to approve $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, but failed to "fully assess risks and implement mitigation measures to reduce civilian casualties" that resulted from the deal, according to a report by the State Department inspector general.

Why it matters: The 2019 sale drew bipartisan ire among lawmakers, who worried it could lead to a pattern of the administration using "emergency declarations" to circumvent Congress to approve weapons deals. The report comes two months after former Inspector General Steve Linick testified that he was pressured by a top Pompeo aide to drop the investigation.

1 hour ago - Health

Florida reports another daily record for coronavirus deaths

Nurse practitioner Barbara Corral and a research assistant conduct a COVID-19 vaccination study on August 7 in Hollywood, Florida. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida's health department on Tuesday reported 276 new coronavirus deaths, surpassing the state's record from July 31.

The big picture: The state also recorded over 5,800 new cases — on the low side for a state that is one of the domestic epicenters for the virus.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 p.m. ET: 20,130,206 — Total deaths: 737,394 — Total recoveries: 12,382,856Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 p.m. ET: 5,100,636 — Total deaths: 163,681 — Total recoveries: 1,670,755 — Total tests: 62,513,174Map.
  3. States: Florida reports another daily record for deaths State testing plans fall short of demand.
  4. Axios-Ipsos poll: 1 in 2 has a personal connection to COVID-19.
  5. Business: Moderna reveals it may not hold patent rights for vaccine.
  6. World: New Zealand reports first local cases for 102 days — Why you should be skeptical of Russia's vaccine claims.