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August 5, 2014
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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg welcomes the Supreme Court's recent embrace of gay rights, telling a law school last week that in the past few years, the high court has used lofty language about the bedrock values of "liberty and equality" and "equal dignity" when it comes to same-sex marriage, relationship, and family issues. But, The New York Times notes, Ginsburg is less enthusiastic about the Supreme Court's recent history with gender issues, including equal pay, abortion and contraception, and medical and family leave.

The high court, and especially its current all-male five-justice conservative majority, has never fully embraced "the ability of women to decide for themselves what their destiny will be," Ginsburg told an audience at Duke University School of Law. The conservative wing has especially "ventured into a minefield" with its Hobby Lobby decision, she said, positing, "What of the employer whose religious faith teaches that it's sinful to employ a single woman without her father's consent or a married woman without her husband's consent?"

There are several legal scholars who have come to similar conclusions about the split between the court's divergent paths on gay rights and women's rights, says Adam Liptak at The New York Times, before hazarding an explanation:

Many forces are contributing to this divide, but the most powerful is the role of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the court's swing vote. Legal scholars say his jurisprudence is marked by both libertarian and paternalistic impulses, ones that have bolstered gay rights and dealt setbacks to women's groups....

Justice Kennedy is the product of a placid middle-class existence in which most women stayed within traditional roles. Some of his judicial writing, Justice Ginsburg once wrote in dissent, reflected "ancient notions about women's place in the family." But Justice Kennedy, 78, has long had gay friends, and his legal philosophy is characterized by an expansive commitment to individual liberty. [The New York Times]

For more about Ginsburg's thoughts, and Kennedy's, read the entire analysis at The New York Times. Peter Weber

10:13 a.m. ET

Fox News host Tucker Carlson began his interview Tuesday night with an unusual demand: "Tell me what your real name is." While the man Carlson was talking to claimed to be Dom Tullipso, director of operations for a business called Demand Protest, Carlson said a "law enforcement-level background check" revealed that name "does not exist" — and Carlson wasn't convinced Tullipso's business did either. "So, this is a sham," Carlson said of the business, which claims to organize "paid protest." "Your company isn't real, your website is fake, the claims you have made are lies, this is a hoax."

The man never exactly admitted that the whole business is, in fact, a hoax, but he does give a pretty good display of what Carlson dubs "performance art." At one point, Tullipso (if that's really his name) claims his support for "national treasures such as Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Peyton Manning." Yes, football-playing, Super Bowl-winning Peyton Manning.

Watch the utterly indescribable interview below. Becca Stanek

9:47 a.m. ET
Thos Robinson/Getty Images for Women's Campaign Fund

Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) recently returned from a "fact finding" trip to Syria, and her spokeswoman will not definitively confirm if Gabbard did or did not meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Foreign Policy reports.

Gabbard is an outspoken dissenter from President Barack Obama on the matter of Syria, opposing U.S. efforts for a regime change by stating that the region will become more unstable and dangerous if Assad is removed from power. Gabbard "felt it was important to meet with a number of individuals and groups including religious leaders, humanitarian workers, refugees, and government and community leaders," said her spokeswoman, Emily Latimer. When asked directly if Gabbard met Assad, Latimer declined to comment "citing security and logistical concerns."

Foreign Policy notes that Gabbard's trip is "exceedingly rare" for a representative. Gabbard is a veteran of the Iraq War and has found receptive audiences in the incoming administration, including earning a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss Syria and the fight against al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Jeva Lange

9:34 a.m. ET
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Tweeting isn't something President-elect Donald Trump likes to do, it's simply something he has to do — or so he says. "Look, I don't like tweeting. I have other things I could be doing," Trump said during an interview on Fox & Friends that aired Wednesday morning. "But I get very dishonest media, very dishonest press. And it's my only way that I can counteract."

And counteract he has. Trump has racked up more than 34,000 tweets since he joined Twitter in March 2009, and he's taken up calling out news outlets, people he dislikes, and businesses considering offshoring jobs. Just this morning, for example, Trump slammed the Today show for being "biased" and having "little credibility."

But Trump claimed this would all come to an end if the media just treated him better. "Now if the press were honest — which it's not — I would absolutely not use Twitter," he said. "I wouldn't have to."

For now though, he indicated, he has no choice but to continue tweeting to his more than 20 million followers, collecting thousands and thousands of "likes" along the way. Becca Stanek

9:19 a.m. ET

Ignorance can surely, at times, be bliss. Donald Trump appears "unusually subdued" these days, Axios co-founders Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei noted during their interview with the president-elect, and it might just be that the weight of the office is suddenly coming clear.

"A top adviser told us the sober tone reflects a bumpy few days inside Trump Tower — and the realization that he's days away from truly running the nation," Allen and VandeHei write. Trump admitted as much himself:

Trump seemed, dare we say, humbled by recent intelligence briefings on global threats. Dick Cheney's friends used to tell us he was a decidedly darker, changed man once he started reading the daily intel reports after 9/11. Trump seemed moved by what he's now seeing.

"I've had a lot of briefings that are very … I don't want to say 'scary,' because I'll solve the problems," he said. "But … we have some big enemies out there in this country and we have some very big enemies — very big and, in some cases, strong enemies."

He offered a reminder many critics hope he never forgets: "You also realize that you've got to get it right because a mistake would be very, very costly in so many different ways." [Axios]

But lest you begin to miss the "old Trump," don't worry, he's not that much more subdued: As of Wednesday morning, he was still his usual self, taking furious shots at the media on Twitter. Jeva Lange

8:58 a.m. ET

Over half the population of the world still does not use the internet, a report by the United Nations' International Telecommunication Union has found. Fifty-three percent of the global population is "offline," with four-fifths of that population living in Asia-Pacific and Africa:

"The reasons for being offline or for limited internet use are manifold: Many do not have access because they live in remote or difficult to reach areas and do not have access to digital or other basic infrastructure such as electricity or transport," the authors found. "Some do not see the benefits of being connected, often because of limited awareness, cultural impediments, or limited relevant digital content. Still others are illiterate, and many are too poor to afford even the most basic of internet packages and devices. Existing inequalities in terms of income and education, particularly prominent among women, and other factors exacerbate the problem."

The ITU aims to have 60 percent of the world "online" by 2020. Read the full report here. Jeva Lange

8:39 a.m. ET

President-elect Donald Trump is now just hours away from being in a position to make America great again. But when pressed on how "greatness" can be "measured and sensed" by The Washington Post, Trump responded with a new vision for America: more military parades.

"Being a great president has to do with a lot of things, but one of them is being a great cheerleader for the country," Trump said. "And we're going to show the people as we build up our military, we're going to display our military.

"That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we're going to be showing our military," he added. [The Washington Post]

Critics reeled at the announcement. "Not reassuring to see an incoming leader [with] authoritarian tendencies talking about military parades in major cities," tweeted Dartmouth political science professor Brendan Nyhan.

Trump admitted the parades would not be enough. "Being a cheerleader or a salesman for the country is very important, but you still have to produce the results," he said. Jeva Lange

8:11 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Obama will hold his final news conference on Wednesday, two days before he leaves office, the White House said. Obama is wrapping up his eight-year presidency with his approval rating at 60 percent, according to a new CNN/ORC poll. That is his highest mark since 2009, putting him near the top in the list of outgoing presidents. He's outranked only by Bill Clinton, who had a 66 percent approval rating in January 2001, and Ronald Reagan, who left office in January 1989 with a 64 percent rating. Harold Maass

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