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This just in
August 16, 2014
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Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko agreed in a phone call today that Russia's most recent actions at Ukraine's eastern border are not humanitarian in nature, Reuters reports.

"The two leaders agreed that Russia's sending military columns across the border into Ukraine and its continued provision of advanced weapons to the separatists was inconsistent with any desire to improve the humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine," a White House statement read. "Both leaders reaffirmed their support for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis and called on Russia to enter into good faith negotiations."

Pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine claimed this weekend that they are receiving nearly 150 armored vehicles, along with 1,200 fighters from Russia. Moscow has denied charges from the West that it is aiding the separatists. Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials claim to have destroyed an armored column which crossed the border on Friday, but Russia denied such destruction, calling the report a "fantasy," and the White House has not confirmed whether or not such an operation took place.

The United Nations estimates that 2,086 people have died in fighting between Ukraine and the pro-Russia militants so far, and another 5,000 have been wounded. Sarah Eberspacher

clinton cash
10:41 a.m. ET
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Bill Clinton was paid more than $16 million for his work in an honorary, advisory position with Laureate International Universities, the Daily Caller reports. The university is the world's largest for-profit educational outfit and is under the umbrella of Laureate Education, which also includes a nonprofit wing that received about $2 million in grants from the State Department during Hillary Clinton's tenure there.

While the multiple connections between the Clintons and Laureate were previously established by Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer, his estimate of Bill Clinton's salary in his honorary role was far lower — in the neighborhood of $1 million — than the $16 million he actually earned for lending the school a significant degree of credibility by association.

Several Laureate schools recently came under Department of Education scrutiny for financial reasons, while Hillary Clinton has criticized for-profit schools on the campaign trail. Bonnie Kristian

Meanwhile at the North Pole
9:23 a.m. ET
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Russia might be getting even bigger. On Tuesday, officials submitted a formal claim to the United Nations, asking for permission to seize a 460,000 square mile chunk of Arctic seabed that reaches as far north as the North Pole, The Telegraph reports. The expansion has been on Russia's mind for awhile: The land was sought last October by the Russian Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources, but the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea dictates that continental shelf claims are only allowed up to 200 miles from a nation's coastline, or as far as their land naturally extends underseas. For Russia, that would mean proving that the Lomonosov Ridge and the Mendeleev Ridge are natural extensions of the Russian continental shelf, something they've not done since 2001, when they first submitted their claim to the land.

But what's in the Arctic that Russia could possibly want so bad? Oil and natural gas reserves, of course — an estimated five billion tons worth.

In December 2014, Denmark made a similar grab for land off of the Lomonosov Ridge, which extends off of their territory of Greenland. Norway, Canada, and the United States may also make similar claims. Jeva Lange

book news
8:57 a.m. ET
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An independent bookstore in Traverse City, Michigan, is offering both "refunds and apologies" after representing Go Set a Watchman as a "nice summer novel." Instead, Brilliant Books says, Harper Lee's long-lost manuscript ought to have been sold as an "academic insight."

"It is disappointing and frankly shameful to see our noble industry parade and celebrate this as 'Harper Lee’s New Novel,'" the shop's website says. "This is pure exploitation of both literary fans and a beloved American classic (which we hope has not been irrevocably tainted). We therefore encourage you to view Go Set a Watchman with intellectual curiosity and careful consideration; a rough beginning for a classic, but only that.”

Brilliant Books says Go Set a Watchman is comparable to Stephen Hero, James Joyce's first draft of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, rather than a novel in its own right. "Hero was initially rejected and Joyce reworked it into the classic Portrait. Hero was eventually released as an academic piece for scholars and fans — not as a new Joyce novel. We would have been delighted to see Go Set a Watchman receive a similar fate."

Although Go Set a Watchman has remained a number one bestseller since its release last month, reactions have been mixed, particularly because To Kill a Mockingbird's hero, Atticus Finch, is portrayed as a racist in Go Set a Watchman. Becca Stanek

Frenemies
8:31 a.m. ET
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What do you give to the man who has everything? Nothing at all — at least if Donald Trump is the recipient. The real estate mogul and leader of the 2016 GOP field is bound to lose your gift, then make a point of telling everyone about it.

In The New York Times, Trump points out how generous he's been toward his fellow presidential hopefuls; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, for example, was the recipient of $10,000 of Trump's campaign contributions in 2014, and he thanked Trump with a plaque…that Trump promptly lost.

"It's not hanging on the wall," Mr. Trump said, trying to remember what he did with it. [The New York Times]

Marco Rubio fared no better:

[If] Senator Marco Rubio of Florida attacks him on immigration, Mr. Trump will be happy to point out the warm note Mr. Rubio wrote to him in a copy of his book, which Mr. Trump said was at the bottom of a pile somewhere. [The New York Times]

It all just goes to show, you can't go wrong with gift cards. Jeva Lange

The Daily Showdown
8:22 a.m. ET

Fox News has been no ally of Jon Stewart, but the soon-to-be-retired Daily Show host was at the end of his rope last night when he recalled walking in on his kids watching the network's Howard Kurtz and David Zrawik criticizing him for spreading Obama propaganda.

"Your hypocrisy isn’t a bug in the Fox model, it’s the feature," Stewart challenged, before launching into a segment that showed Fox hosts exclaiming that "even Jon Stewart" had discredited Obama. To top it off, Stewart went as far as to show Fox News' own shady "propaganda," such as when their managing editor and vice president, Bill Sammon, issued a memo to the U.S. troops directing them as to how to refer to ObamaCare.

But, with only three more days left on air, Jon had no patience for playing nice. "Adios, motherf--kers!" he told Fox in an epic sendoff. Watch below. Jeva Lange

Clinton 2016
8:17 a.m. ET
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Hillary Clinton's approval rating plummeted in a new NBC/The Wall Street Journal poll to its lowest level since 2008. The poll released Monday night showed that 37 percent of registered voters generally approve of Clinton and 48 percent disapprove. Just last month, Clinton's disapproval rating was 8 percentage points lower, with 40 percent disapproval and 44 percent approval. Back in January, Clinton's approval and disapproval numbers were essentially flipped from where they now stand, with her approval as high as 45 percent and her disapproval only at 37 percent.

In comparison to the leader of the Republican field's ratings, Clinton's numbers aren't looking too shabby, though. Donald Trump, at the head of the GOP field by a long shot, garnered an approval rating of 27 percent and a disapproval rating of 56 percent. The survey's margin of error across the 1,000 interviews conducted is plus or minus 3.10 percent. Becca Stanek

dang
2:04 a.m. ET
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Walk into any college bookstore and you'll likely get sticker shock, considering college textbook prices have gone up an astonishing 1,041 percent since 1977.

NBC News looked at data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and found that from January 1977 to June 2015, textbook prices have risen more than three times the rate of inflation. Experts say textbooks are being sold the same way pharmaceuticals are — like sales reps visit doctors, publishers are making trips to campus to woo professors. "They've been able to keep raising prices because students are 'captive consumers,'" Nicole Allen, spokeswoman for the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, said. "They have to buy whatever books they're assigned."

Publishers and college bookstore managers who spoke with NBC News say this isn't true, and argue that the study didn't look at used or rented books and didn't take into account "the law of small numbers," meaning an increase of $100 to $200 appears as a 100 percent increase, while a tuition increase from $10,000 to $11,000 is only 10 percent. Mark Perry, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan (where one specialized chemistry textbook is on sale for $400), has been studying the rising costs of textbooks for several years, and said that one thing is certain: "College textbook prices are increasing way more than parents' ability to pay for them." Catherine Garcia

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