The White House on Wednesday announced a new round of sanctions against several large banking, energy, and defense companies in Russia in response to Moscow's "attempts to destabilize eastern Ukraine and its ongoing occupation of Crimea."
The punished companies include Rosneft, a state-run oil company; Gazprombank, Russia's third-largest bank; and Vnesheconombank, a state-owned development bank. In addition, the Treasury Department announced sanctions on a number of arms manufacturers — including Kalashnikov Concern, the largest weapons producer in Russia and maker of the eponymous, infamous rifle.
The sanctions came in conjunction with lighter sanctions from European nations. Jon Terbush
Minnesota Sen. Al Franken released a letter from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Monday which sees the surveillance agency objecting to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) on the grounds that it would give the government too much surveillance authority.
"The authorization to share cyber threat indicators and defensive measures with 'any other entity or the Federal Government,' 'notwithstanding any other provision of law,'" the DHS letter noted, "could sweep away important privacy protections." Some of the agency's other objections are more self-serving in nature, like its complaint that CISA would "increase the complexity and difficulty of a new information sharing program."
For civil liberties advocates, the problems with CISA are numerous, because the bill "allows vast amounts of personal data to be shared with the government, even that which is not necessary to identify or respond to a cybersecurity threat." More than 60 nonprofits and businesses have formed a pro-privacy coalition to oppose the passage of CISA. Bonnie Kristian
We now know much more about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's sex life than we ever wanted. The scene unfolded in a New Hampshire restaurant when 2016 presidential hopeful Christie blurted to a startled crowd of listeners, "I'm a Catholic, but I've used birth control, and not just the rhythm method, okay?"
"My church has a teaching against birth control. Does that make me an awful Catholic? Because I believe, and practiced, that function during part of my life? I don't think so," Christie said. "But ya know what? I'm only going to find out when it's my time to be judged." In the foreground, a listener puts his head in his hands in what looks to be embarrassment for the governor while another giggles nervously in the background.
Watch the uncomfortable moment unfold below. Jeva Lange
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.
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
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
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
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