July 18, 2014

Despite growing suspicion that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by rebels using a Russian-made missile, Vladimir Putin's approval rating among Russians is at its highest in years.

A Gallup poll published Friday shows that 83 percent of Russians approve of their president, even amid the conflict in Ukraine. Putin's approval rating was also 83 percent in 2008, and has not been that high ever since. Notably, it's also a 29 percent increase from Putin's 2013 approval rating:


In addition to presidential approval, 78 percent of Russians expressed confidence in their military, 64 percent in their national government, and 39 percent in the honesty of Russian elections.

Aside from their approval of the Russian government, a whopping 65 percent of Russians were satisfied with their freedom in 2014, and 35 percent thought economic conditions were improving.

However, Russians gave both U.S. and EU leadership single-digit approval ratings:


Despite plummeting perceptions of the EU, however, Russians' approval rating of China is an astounding 42 percent. Meghan DeMaria

2:42 a.m. ET

A Cessna 310 aircraft with five people aboard crashed into two houses in Riverside, California, on Monday evening, not long after it took off from Riverside Municipal Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Three of the people died in the crash, including the pilot, and two survivors are in local hospitals, Riverside Fire Chief Michael Moore said at a press conference Monday night. There were no known victims in either house, he added, though fire and rescue workers will comb the wreckage again on Tuesday morning. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash as well.

Moore had originally listed four fatalities, but reduced the death toll in a second news conference. He said the plane had been heading back to San Jose after a cheerleading competition at Disneyland. Traci Zamora who lives in the neighborhood, tells CNN that she "was inside the house and it shook our whole house like an earthquake," adding, "It is all so surreal." You can watch some of Moore's comments and see footage of the wreckage in the Associated Press video below. Peter Weber

2:06 a.m. ET

Last Thursday, Bill O'Reilly had a man on his show whom he introduced as "Swedish defense and national security adviser" Nils Biltd. Biltd argued that Sweden was ignoring its immigration problem, disagreeing with O'Reilly's other guest, Swedish journalist Anne-Sofie Naslund of the Expressen newspaper, who said that Sweden was much safer and more harmonious than President Trump and Fox News made it sound. Sweden's small national security circle was confused by Bildt's presence in the debate, as nobody had ever heard of him.

The newspaper Dagens Nyheter did some digging and reported that the man calling himself Bildt had left Sweden in 1994, changed his name in 2003 from Nils Tolling — apparently to suggest a connection with former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt and his brother, Nils Biltd — and had earned a one-year prison sentence in Virginia in 2014 for a violent offense. (Bildt/Tolling disputed that last part, telling The Washington Post he never went to prison.)

O'Reilly addressed the kerfuffle on Monday's O'Reilly Factor, in his closing "Tip of the Day" segment, saying that "some left-wing people" had objected to Bildt's participation in his Sweden debate and Sweden's government had objected to O'Reilly's description of Bildt's qualifications. "We looked into the situation, and the criticism is valid," O'Reilly said. "It's valid." Bildt "does consulting work on terrorism," he added, and "to be fair, the information we gave you in the segment was accurate, but in hindsight a more relevant guest should have been used on the anti-immigrant side." Watch below. Peter Weber

1:12 a.m. ET

"President Trump will address Congress for the first time on Tuesday to discuss his agenda," Seth Meyers said on Monday's Late Night, "which could be difficult, since his agenda so far has consisted largely of complaints about the media." Trump previewed his big speech on Monday, he noted, "and as is customary for any Trump appearance, it was a little all over the place." In discussing his big infrastructure plan, for example, Trump talked about tiles in New York City's Lincoln Tunnel, and when he brought up replacing ObamaCare, he made a rather stunning admission. "Nobody knew health care could be so complicated?" Meyers said. "The only way that sentence could be more terrifying is if you heard it just as the anesthesia was kicking in."

"Then there's the question of what kind of tone we can expect from Trump's speech tomorrow," Meyers said. "Up to now, when Trump has discussed actual policy, he usually does so in bleak terms, as he did in his inaugural address." When asked about Trump's doom-and-gloom inaugural on Monday morning, former President George W. Bush laughed, then launched into an unexpected defense of a free press.

Meyers noted that Trump often ditches his press pool, as he did for dinner out at a Trump hotel on Saturday night, as recorded by a conservative journalist tipped off beforehand. That was mostly a setup to discuss the most salient details of the dinner. "Okay, he ordered a well-done steak and put ketchup on it, and he thinks SNL is filmed at 8:45," Meyers said. "We've officially elected everybody's grandpa." Then he brought it home: "Tomorrow's a huge opportunity for Trump. He has the chance to sell Americans on his agenda rather than whine about the free press, and he will have the weight of history on his shoulders." Meyers ended with some soaring words from W., circa 2000. Watch below. Peter Weber

12:21 a.m. ET

At a time when seemingly every aspect of American life breaks along fairly predictable partisan lines, there's something refreshingly quixotic about the fractured reaction to this photo of White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway kneeling on a couch in the Oval Office, after snapping a smartphone photo of President Trump and the leaders of black colleges and universities.

"I don't care how Kellyanne Conway sits on a sofa in the Oval office and can't imagine why it would bother people," tweeted New York's Jonathan Chait, a liberal. Amanda Carpenter, a conservative political operative, responded to a #CouchGate post from the The Reagan Battalion by rolling her eyes: "She was getting a picture, [people]. Calm down." Last Week Tonight writer Josh Gondelman quipped that he'd "only be able to get mad at the way Kellyanne Conway sits on a couch if it turns out she's hiding... Trump's tax returns under her."

On the other hand, Conway clearly had her shoes on the Oval Office couch, and some people viewed that as a sign of disrespect for the office, especially since there was no obvious reason she needed to be snapping a photo with her phone, or to snap it from the couch:

Several commentators recalled the conservative outrage when former President Barack Obama was photographed with his feet on his desk in the Oval Office, while others, like Rachel Vorona Cote at Jezebel, bristled at what she called Conway's "alternative decorum" and purported lack of respect for "the country’s most esteemed African American educators" gathered in the room. Bret Stephens, the Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editorial page editor, was similarly unimpressed:

But hey, at least we've all stopped arguing about that white-and-gold dress. Peter Weber

February 27, 2017
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The Senate on Monday evening confirmed Wilbur Ross as commerce secretary on a 72-27 vote. Ross has extensive business relationships around the world, and to comply with an ethics agreement he will divest from the private equity firm he founded in 2000, WL Ross & Co., and drop his position, though not his stake, in shipping company Diamond S. Shipping. Ross, worth about $2.9 billion, also vowed he will not act to benefit any company he has a financial interest in. The Senate has now confirmed 15 of Trump's 22 Cabinet-level picks. Next on the docket is Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) for interior secretary. Peter Weber

February 27, 2017
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Two tourists are planning to take a trip to the moon in 2018. SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced Monday that two private citizens have paid the company a "significant deposit" to be flown around the moon. The space exploration company did not name the travelers or specify how much they'd paid.

The trip is expected to be about a week long, and the mission will likely life off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at the same launch pad used for the Apollo program. The space travelers would not actually land on the moon; they'd just circle it and then head back to Earth.

But first, the hopeful travelers will have to prepare for their out-of-this-world trip. "We expect to conduct health and fitness tests, as well as begin initial training later this year," SpaceX said in a statement. "Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow." Becca Stanek

February 27, 2017
Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images

President Trump wasn't impressed with the 2017 Academy Awards. In an interview Monday with Breitbart News, Trump said the awards show Sunday night was "a little sad," probably because stars spent too much time criticizing him. "It took away from the glamor of the Oscars," Trump said of the night's political commentary. "It didn't feel like a very glamorous evening. I've been to the Oscars. There was something very special missing, and then to end that way was sad."

Trump suggested the mix-up at the end — when La La Land was mistakenly awarded Best Picture, only for the award to be passed off minutes later to the rightful winner Moonlight — actually may have happened because everyone was paying so much attention to him. "I think they were focused so hard on politics that they didn't get the act together at the end," Trump said.

Trump was mentioned many times during the awards show. Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel repeatedly ribbed Trump throughout the evening, even tweeting at the president at one point, and Casey Affleck deemed Trump's policies "abhorrent" during his Best Actor acceptance speech. Other stars slammed the commander-in-chief without even saying his name, rallying support for immigrants in the face of Trump's travel ban and calling for tolerance and acceptance. However, the Best Picture mix-up more likely had something to do with presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway being handed the wrong envelope. Becca Stanek

See More Speed Reads