2016 Watch
May 19, 2014
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Appearing on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show today, Jim Webb hinted to guest host Susan Page that he might run for president: "I care a lot about where the country is, and we'll be sorting that out," he said.

In a world where perennial candidates flirt with running as a public relations strategy to stay relevant, we sometimes roll our eyes at such things. But Webb seems different. "If you look at how I ran for the Senate," he said, "I announced nine months to the day before the election — with no money and no campaign staff. It takes me a while to decide things. And I'm not going to say one way or the other."

Aside from being a former Democratic U.S. senator from Virginia, Webb was a highly decorated combat Marine in Vietnam, and later served as Secretary of the Navy.

So could it work? For a nation hungry for real leadership, Webb's image as a competent, no-nonsense leader might resonate. Tthe fact that Webb stepped away from the U.S. Senate on his own terms implies he's not just some politician. And his history of being a Democrat who can work with — and stylistically appeal to — Republicans would potentially be a plus in a general election.

In this regard, Webb would, in a sense, be able to run for Obama's third term while also (symbolically, at least) getting to run against Obama. And aside from Webb's leadership strengths, in a primary election this military tactician could potentially outflank Hillary Clinton from both the left and the right. He could tap into the anti-corporate, populist message that has elevated Elizabeth Warren, while simultaneously appealing to the "good ol' boy" red-state Democrats in places like Iowa.

Who knows if this will happen, but in a world where everyone gets to pretend they're running for president, this is perhaps the most interesting name floated in a long time.

8:47 a.m. ET
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In an interview with ABC News' Pierre Thomas, Attorney General Eric Holder said the U.S. is "working on" a plan to either kill or capture the ISIS member known as "Jihadi John." Yesterday, The Washington Post published an interview in which several sources claim to have identified "Jihadi John" as Mohammed Emwazi, a young man from London.

"Jihadi John" appears in several of ISIS' videos, in which the terrorist group beheads hostages. Holder declined to confirm that Emwazi was "Jihadi John," though, saying the confirmation would "cut back the operation possibilities" the U.S. is considering. He did say, however, that "Jihadi John" will "be brought to justice in some fashion."

"The vow that I can make to the American people, along with our allies, is that we will hold accountable all the people who have been responsible for these heinous, barbaric acts," Holder said. "That is something that we are focused on each and every day."

POTUS listens
8:20 a.m. ET

Friday's weekly StoryCorp interview featured Noah McQueen, 18, and a special interviewer, President Obama. McQueen — part of the president's year-old My Brother's Keeper initiative, a program for young men of color — started out talking about his unstable childhood and run-ins with the law.

"Did you know your dad?" Obama asked. When McQueen said yes "but, you know, he's down the street," and he didn't have a relationship with him, the president brought up his own absent father: "Well, that's one of the things we have in common. As I get older, I start reflecting on how that affected me. How do you think that affected you?" You can listen to the whole interview below, and it's worth it to hear McQueen talk about his pivotal trip to a Christian retreat:

Obama isn't the first sitting president to do a StoryCorps interview, the organization notes: George W. Bush and Laura Bush sat down with Bush's sister, Dorothy Bush Koch, after the 2008 election.

7:54 a.m. ET


Paleontologists from the American Museum of Natural History and the National University of San Marcos in Lima, Peru, found remains from an astonishing seven ancient crocodile species during a dig in northeastern Peru, near Iquitos. Three of the species are newly identified, and the crocodiles are estimated to have lived 13 million years ago.

In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the scientists explain that the find marks the largest number of crocodile species to cohabit one area in all of Earth's history. The crocodile fossils offer unprecedented insight about the region's ecosystem before the Amazon river was formed, about 10.5 million years ago.

The researchers note that the crocodiles lived at the peak of ancient wetlands' size, and the various crocodile species could have survived thanks to a variety of available food sources. For example, the Gnatusuchus pebasensis species had rounded teeth and a snout to gather clams from swamp bottoms, while other species had longer snouts to catch swimming fish.

The scientists believe the Amazon river system caused a downturn in mollusk populations, which caused crocodile species like Gnatusuchus to go extinct. Other species with "broader palates," meanwhile, were able to survive, the researchers noted.

Greek debt crisis
7:07 a.m. ET
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On Friday, Germany's lower house of parliament voted, 542 to 32, to approve a four-month extension of Greece's financial bailout. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble had reluctantly urged his colleagues to approve the extension, arguing that failing to do so would cause Germany and Europe "great damage." But "the discussions before and after the elections in Greece didn't make this decision any easier," he added, "and neither have the discussions of the past few days and hours, to put it mildly." Under the terms of the agreement, Greece has to reform its labor laws and judiciary to fight corruption and tax evasion.

6:42 a.m. ET

In 1950, Earl Lloyd became the first African-American to play in the NBA, making his debut with the Washington Capitols before going on to play with the Syracuse Nationals and Detroit Pistons. He won a championship with the Nationals, then became one of the NBA's first black coaches. Lloyd died on Thursday at age 86.

Lloyd said that his first pro appearance on the court — in Rochester, New York, on Oct. 31, 1950 — was pretty low-key, Kenneth Shouler writes at ESPN. "I stepped onto the court and the world kept spinning," Lloyd said. "No one said a word — not the fans, players, anybody. Nothing was ever said about me being the first black. They acted as if I was a player, period." That same season, Charles Cooper and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton also made their NBA debuts.

Even if he was nonchalant about integrating the NBA, other players hold him up as a pioneer. Below, you can watch Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkely talk about what Lloyd meant to them, during a break in Thursday night's Oklahoma City-Phoenix game. —Peter Weber

mysteries of space
5:55 a.m. ET

The Dawn spacecraft is approaching the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are confounded by a photo Dawn sent back from 29,000 miles away.

NASA's Hubble telescope had photographed a light spot on the dwarf planet in 2004, but "Ceres' bright spot can now be seen to have a companion of lesser brightness, but apparently in the same basin," principle investigator Chris Russell said in a statement. He speculated that the spots have a "volcanolike origin," but said higher-resolution photos are needed to make any firm conclusion.

For now, "this is truly unexpected and still a mystery to us," adds Andreas Natheues at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research. Dawn is expected to enter orbit around Ceres on March 16 and spend 16 months orbiting what scientists has previously called an "embryonic planet," stunted by the massive gravity of Jupiter. Hopefully Dawn's sojourn around Ceres will solve the mystery of the twin "bright spots."

This is terrible
5:06 a.m. ET

On Thursday night, assailants attacked Avijit Roy, a U.S. blogger and writer, and his wife, Rafida Ahmed Banna, with meat cleavers on a crowded sidewalk in Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital. Roy died in the hospital, and Banna was seriously injured. Roy, born in Bangladesh but a U.S. citizen, started the website Mukto-mona, or "Free Mind" in Bengali, and his friends and family say he had received threats for his writings about science and against religious extremism.

"He was a free thinker," friend and fellow blogger Baki Billah told Independent TV. "He was a Hindu but he was not only a strong voice against Islamic fanatics but also equally against other religious fanatics." Islamic extremists have been blamed for previous, unsolved attacks against writers in majority-Muslim Bangladesh. Roy was back in his birth country for a few weeks for the launch of his latest book at a local book fair.

The Daily Showdown
4:23 a.m. ET

"According to a recent study," said Daily Show correspondent Hasan Minhaj on Thursday night's show, "the insanely rich people are leaving behind the lowly, average, regular rich people." Usually when The Daily Show sends correspondents out to cover a story, they find someone willing to act as a foil. This time, everyone — Brookings fellow Richard Reeves, "patriotic millionaire" Morris Pearl, even the yacht vendor — looks at Minhaj as if he's unhinged when he tries to troll up concern about the growing wealth inequality gap in the top 1 percent. That leaves Minhaj as his own patsy, and he ends up with ketchup on his face to make it work. Watch below. —Peter Weber

Watch this
3:34 a.m. ET

Actor and singer Andrew Rannell (Girls, The Book of Mormon) is going to be on the series finale of Glee. But that's all he could say about it on Wednesday night's Tonight Show. And it's a relatively unimportant fact, except that it was the excuse Jimmy Fallon needed to break out the microphones and coax Rannell into singing a duet with him. They're really good, and Spandau Ballet's "True" was such a popular choice that you can catch Ice-T singing along with a big grin on his face. —Peter Weber

3:03 a.m. ET
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Islamic State is advancing toward Damascus, the Syrian capital, and seizing Assyrian Christian towns near the Turkish border, abducting at least 220 Christians and destroying irreplaceable works of art. But it is also facing setbacks, including an offensive by Kurdish fighters, new U.S.-led airstrikes, and — according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights — a cash flow problem.

"They need money," Observatory head Rami Abdulrahman tells Reuters. "Ever since the airstrikes hit their oil facilities and the Turkish border has been harder to cross, they have increased taxes and looked for ways to make money." Things have gotten so tight, he added, that ISIS has started selling scrap metal from bombed factories and other industrial wreckage in eastern Syria.

ISIS has also reportedly run low on foreign hostages to offer for ransom. The group "gets a material amount of its funding from ransom payments," outgoing U.S. Treasury sanctions czar David Cohen told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month. "And it would be to all of our mutual benefit to cut off that source of funding."

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