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Drones
May 21, 2014
Wikimedia Commons

The Justice Department has agreed to publicly release controversial memos providing legal justification for the 2011 fatal drone strike against U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, an al Qaeda leader living in Yemen. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli made the decision to release the memo, and Attorney General Eric Holder agreed, according to The Washington Post.

But the decision wasn't entirely voluntary: A federal appellate court had ordered the Obama administration to release a redacted version of the Awlaki memo in April, and the Justice Department is declining to appeal that decision. The memo should be released in a few weeks, pending the 2nd Circuit appellate court's ruling on which parts of the memo should be redacted (the court made its own redactions, and the Obama administration wants a bit more blacked out).

There's also politics involved: On Wednesday, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the confirmation of Harvard law professor David J. Barron to the Boston-based U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, and a group of libertarian-leaning Democrats and Republicans were threatening to block his vote unless the Obama administration released the memo. Barron, as a DOJ lawyer, wrote one of the memos in question. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says he will still vote against Barron, but the Democratic critics seem more amenable. Peter Weber

TPP
12:00 p.m. ET

Nguyen Phu Trong will become the first leader of Vietnam's Communist Party to ever visit the United States when he meets with President Obama at the White House next week. They will reportedly discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that would foster closer relations between the U.S., Vietnam, and 10 other Pacific Rim nations, as well as security concerns with China. The meeting is seen as a sign of growing ties between the two countries, and will mark the 20th anniversary of the opening of diplomatic relations following the Vietnam War. Read more at AFP. Nico Lauricella

General Lee
11:31 a.m. ET
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

You can't erase history, but maybe you can paint it over? Golf champ Bubba Watson announced on Thursday that he'll swap the Confederate flag atop his General Lee, the iconic car from the TV show Dukes of Hazzard, for an American one. In 2012, he purchased the car used in the first episode of the TV show.

Watson's tweet comes on the heels of TV Land's announcement that it would stop airing Dukes of Hazzard reruns because of the prominence of the flag in the show. After the murders at Emmanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina — allegedly by Dylann Roof, who has a history of white supremacy — the Confederate flag has been increasingly shunned. Nico Lauricella

Awkward
10:49 a.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Per the calculations of economist Mark Perry at the American Enterprise Institute, the Obama White House maintains a 15.8 percent wage gap, with women earning 84.2 cents for every dollar male staffers take home. Perry used the White House's self-reported salary data to tabulate this gap, which marks a slight decrease compared to last year's 17.9 percent. Still, it translates to an average of $12,350 less for female employees each year.

Perry argues that the disparity can be explained either by alleging the president participates in the wage discrimination he has so often decried — or by admitting that other factors, like "age, years of continuous work experience, education, differences in positions, hours worked, marital status, number of children, workplace environment and safety, industry differences, etc." may tend to give women lower average salaries than men.

A number of recent surveys have found that many women value flexible schedules and work-life balance more than high salaries, and women are also more likely to take significant time off work or even turn down promotions for child-rearing activities. Women gravitate toward low-paying college majors as well, while men dominate the more remunerative hard sciences. Bonnie Kristian

survey says
10:24 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

A new Rasmussen Reports poll finds that fully one third of likely voters say states should be able to ignore federal court decisions. A bare majority — 52 percent — disagrees, with 15 percent undecided. As recently as February, fewer than a quarter of likely voters said states should be able to disregard federal courts.

Not surprisingly — given conservative uproar over the recent Supreme Court decisions in favor of same-sex marriage and the president's health care program — Republicans were significantly more likely than average to endorse state overrides, offering 50 percent support. However, defiance of Washington rose among Democrats and independents as well in recent months. Bonnie Kristian

jeb!
10:22 a.m. ET

For some reason, 2016 GOP candidate Jeb Bush wants you to know he likes Katy Perry better than Miley Cyrus, mustard better than ketchup, and Bud Light better than just plain old Bud.

That's from his "4th of July favorites list" posted to his YouTube channel. In it, you can watch a bewildered Bush respond decisively to all manner of pointless questions lobbed at him by staffers.

Oh, and just in case you thought that Bush was able to shake his patrician family legacy by moving to low-key Florida, he says he prefers boat shoes to flip-flops. Jeb! Nico Lauricella

dear leader
9:16 a.m. ET
Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images

A North Korean biological weapons scientist has reportedly defected to Finland, taking with him 15 gigabytes of data detailing experiments on human.

The 47 year old — identified only by his surname Lee — fled a research facility near North Korea's border with China in June, The Independent reports. Citing a humans rights group, South Korean newspaper Yonhap says he plans to present his data to the EU in July. There is reason for caution, however: Neither his defection nor his planned presentation have been confirmed by European authorities.

Greg Scarlatoiun, director of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, reportedly told a Finnish newspaper that the story is at least plausible.

“We have been told similar stories in the past that human experiments are carried out in prison camps,” he said, adding that the experiments in question likely involved chemical weapons testing on humans. Nico Lauricella

Terror in Tunisia
7:51 a.m. ET
Brendan Smialowksi/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. officials said Thursday that Tunisia's most wanted jihadist — Seifallah Ben Hassine, also known as Abu Ayadh — was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Libya last month. The strike targeted another al Qaeda leader. Ben Hassine's death, if confirmed, would mark a major success for Tunisia, which has been battling insurgents in its western border region. Last Friday militants massacred 38 people, most of them British, in an attack on a beach resort. Ben Hassine was suspected of masterminding several terrorist attacks and assassinations. Harold Maass

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