foreign affairs
August 10, 2014
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Just a day after Western powers warned against such a plan, Moscow "urged support for Russia's initiative to deploy a humanitarian mission," to Ukraine, reports BBC News.

The offer comes in the wake of a requested ceasefire by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, who claim their stronghold on the city of Donetsk is failing and that the militants are "completely encircled."

"We are prepared to stop firing to bar the spread of the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe," newly installed rebel leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko wrote Saturday on the militants' website.

But the rebels stepped back those remarks this morning in response to the Ukrainian government's stance that any negotiations would have to stem from "raising white flags and ... putting down guns," notes Reuters.

While pro-Russian rebels made swift gains across cities in the east through much of the four-month-long conflict, Ukraine's government has recently stepped up its operations to end the fighting. So far, nearly 1,500 people have been killed in the conflict, and officials from both the United States and Britain warned Russia against sending more troops into Ukraine under the pretext of a "humanitarian mission" this week. Sarah Eberspacher

This just in
2:04 p.m. ET

Facebook will be adding some flexibility to how users choose to "like" a post — but it won't be a "dislike" button, as some people have speculated. Instead, Facebook is testing emoji "reactions," where users can pick emotions such as "sad," "haha," "love," and "wow" to express how they feel about a post. "As you can see, it’s not a “dislike” button, though we hope it addresses the spirit of this request more broadly," Facebook's Chief Product Officer Chris Cox wrote in a post introducing the feature.

The experiment is limited to Spain and Ireland for the time being, but after a short test run, it will likely expand worldwide on both mobile and desktop devices.

Jeva Lange

1:30 p.m. ET

It's still a bit of a mystery what happened behind closed doors on Thursday when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) unexpectedly decided to drop out of the race for speaker of the House. Though details are scarce, McCarthy elaborated in a tweet:

McCarthy also held a short news conference, part of which you can watch below. Jeva Lange

Republicans in disarray
1:24 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday shocked the political world by suddenly dropping his bid to replace John Boehner (R-Ohio) as speaker, with the initial speculation focusing on his inability to win the support of hard-core conservatives who for years have made life miserable for the House Republican leadership.

But could there be another reason McCarthy dropped out?

Conservatives, like Erick Erickson at Red State, are buzzing that McCarthy may have dropped out because of rumors that he was having an extramarital affair with Rep. Renee Ellmers (R) of North Carolina:

There's a guy out in America who has emails for a massive number of members of Congress and the email addresses of highly influential conservatives outside Congress.

A few days ago, he emailed out to 91 people, including these members of Congress, an email with a series of links to stories alleging a relationship between Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) of North Carolina. It is worth noting that the two deny a relationship. [Red State]

Both Erickson and Matt Lewis also note that Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina this week mysteriously called on candidates who had committed "misdeeds" to drop out of the race.

"It is again worth noting that both parties deny it," Erickson writes. "But the rumor itself may have led to McCarthy's collapse." Ryu Spaeth

1:08 p.m. ET
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With Republicans reeling after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) abruptly dropped out of the race for House speaker Thursday, it suddenly seems that no one else — McCarthy was the favorite — will be able to secure enough votes for the job. While the House Freedom Caucus has endorsed Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), he does not have the 218 votes needed to be elected speaker.

That leaves few interesting options. As Charlie Dent (R-Penn.) told CNN's Dana Bash, Congress might be forced to "assemble a bipartisan coalition" to elect the next speaker of the House. While Bash seemed skeptical that Democrats would vote for a Republican, Dent suggested Paul Ryan might be the man for the job (too bad Ryan has already said he doesn't want the gig). Part of the problem, Dent added, is that the Republicans have been demanding unreasonable concessions. But as Bash later pointed out on air, "Someone has to be speaker." It very much remains to be seen just who that will be. Jeva Lange

Not it
12:55 p.m. ET
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Shortly after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) abruptly dropped out of the running for House speaker, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (R) was quick to issue a statement clarifying that he was not at all interested in the job:

Kevin McCarthy is best person to lead the House, and so I'm disappointed in this decision. Now it is important that we, as a Conference, take time to deliberate and seek new candidates for the speakership. While I am grateful for the encouragement I've received, I will not be a candidate. I continue to believe I can best serve the country and this conference as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. [Rep. Paul Ryan]

Ryan was set to give the nominating speech for McCarthy today in the closed party election for speaker. The election has been postponed and a new date has yet to be announced. Becca Stanek

This just in
12:39 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) abruptly dropped out of the race for House speaker on Thursday, just as House Republicans were gathering for a vote. McCarthy, who was widely seen as the favorite for the nomination, reportedly said, "I am not the one" as he withdrew his bid.

Though McCarthy may have had enough support to succeed in the vote, the news comes shortly after the influential hardline Freedom Caucus announced it would not support him — an indication that the uncompromisingly conservative voting bloc that threatened to hold a floor vote on John Boehner's speakership would likely be a thorn in McCarthy's side throughout his presumed tenure in the role.

McCarthy plans to remain as House majority leader. The vote for House speaker has been postponed. Becca Stanek

Deals Deals Deals
12:32 p.m. ET

Thanks to one Boston entrepreneur, you can now enjoy New England fall foliage without the looming threat of a miserable winter. Kyle Waring has launched the website, which does exactly what it sounds like it does — mail people leaves. The site promises to "collect, preserve, and ship gorgeous fall foliage" to your doorstep. And it only costs $19.99 — or $6.66 a leaf.

The site will only be shipping the best of the best leaves, too. ShipFoliage promises "Grade A" foliage from New England that is preserved in a way that "enhances the foliage color contrast and also preserves the leaves for years to come."

But ShipFoliage isn't even Waring's first gimmicky business venture — he also ships out boxes of snow. Ship Snow, Yo reportedly sent out "over 700 pounds of historic Boston snow" last year. Becca Stanek

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