May 12, 2014

Democrats are in a tough spot heading into the midterms. They face an unfavorable political climate, have more territory to defend, and President Obama's middling approval ratings could in theory drag them down come November. Yet at least in a few key Senate races in the South, the president's unpopularity isn't quite having that weighting effect, according to an NBC News/Marist poll out Monday.

In Kentucky, Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes trails Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) by a single point, 46 percent to 45 percent. In Georgia, Democrat Michelle Nunn fares well against all five of the top Republicans vying to compete in the general election, leading in two of those matchups, and trailing by at most four percentage points. And in Arkansas, incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor leads his GOP challenger, Tom Cotton, by 11 percentage points among registered voters.

Meanwhile, Obama's approval ratings in those states are, in order: 32 percent, 42 percent, and 34 percent. Hardly strong numbers.

All the usual caveats about the election being months away still apply, and Republicans have a clear advantage overall at this point. But the decent showing by Democratic candidates in spite of Obama's personal unpopularity suggests the president may not be dooming Democrats' odds of controlling the Senate come next year. Jon Terbush

4:11 p.m. ET

A man in a full-body hedgehog jumpsuit and "surgical-style mask" was shot by police outside of a Baltimore TV station after setting a car on fire and claiming to be carrying an explosive, The Baltimore Sun reports.

The man reportedly entered Fox 45 in Baltimore claiming he had information to share with the station, except he was wearing a "hedgehog onesie" and boots, security guard Jourael Apostolides said.

While Apostolides didn't let the man into the lobby, he did take the flash drive from him (it reportedly contained a video of the man "talking about space and the government"). The man also appeared to be wearing something that looked like a bomb, and Apostolides called 911.

The man later left the Fox 45 building, where he was shot by a sniper on the street. Police officials say the man is still alive and that his hand is still in his pocket.

"He still poses a significant public safety threat," police commissioner Kevin Davis told The Baltimore Sun. Jeva Lange

4:09 p.m. ET
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Teen pregnancy rates are now lower than ever before, a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention out Thursday reveals, and it's not for the reason popular culture might lead you to suspect. While analysts do attribute the stark drop in teen birth rates — with, notably, a nearly 50 percent drop among Hispanic and black teens in particular — to better access to more effective contraception, they also contend that teens today are simply having less sex. The Washington Post reports:

...teens — despite their portrayal in popular TV and movies as uninhibited and acting only on hormones — are having less sex.

'There has been a change in social norms that has happened in the past 20 years, and the idea of not having sex or delaying sex is now something that can be okay,' said Bill Albert, chief program officer for the National Campaign To Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. [The Washington Post]

All in all, in the last 23 years teen birth rates have plummeted by 60 percent. In 1991, teen birth rates were 61.9 per 1,000. In 2014, teen pregnancies hit a low of 24.2 births per 1,000. Becca Stanek

3:40 p.m. ET

Ted Cruz is not what one would call a communist. That is why, as a joke, some witty young man reportedly decided to ask the Texas senator to sign Karl Marx and Friedrich Engel's seminal work on the philosophy, The Communist Manifesto.

Get it? Because Cruz hates communists. This is funny.

Ted Cruz, though, apparently did not get it:

Way to ruin a good laugh, Ted. Jeva Lange

3:11 p.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Republican Party has not been this unpopular since 1992, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center released Thursday. According to the numbers, a whole 60 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the GOP — up from 58 percent last October. Only a third of Americans view the party favorably.

Americans have held a more level opinion of the Democratic Party over recent years, with the numbers sticking around 50 percent with an unfavorable view and 45 percent viewing the party in a good light. A quarter of the public has a negative opinion of both parties.

Pew reports that the failing faith in the GOP mostly came from people who identified as Republicans. Eighty-eight percent of those who identified as Democrats, on the other hand, had a favorable image of their party.

Pew surveyed 2,008 people by phone between April 12 and 19. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.5 points. Jeva Lange

2:46 p.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A Florida GOP official somehow decided it was appropriate to use Hillary Clinton's husband's past as a metaphor for how the Democratic frontrunner would fare against likely GOP nominee Donald Trump in general election debates.

"I think when Donald Trump debates Hillary Clinton she's going to go down like Monica Lewinsky," Bob Sutton, chairman of the Broward County GOP Executive Committee, told The Washington Post, referencing former President Bill Clinton's sex scandal with Lewinsky, which infamously involved oral sex.

Here's hoping Trump doesn't catch wind of the comment and get any ideas. Becca Stanek

1:36 p.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The brother of San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook was arrested during searches on Thursday, as was the brother's wife and her sister, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California said in a statement. All three were charged with federal conspiracy, marriage fraud, and giving false statements.

The family was arrested in two different Southern California locations: Farook's brother, Syed Raheel Farook, and his wife Tatiana were arrested in Corona; Tatiana's sister Mariya Chernykh was arrested in Ontario. Chernykh is married to a man who is awaiting trial for conspiring with Farook in 2011 and 2012.

"Today's arrests open a new phase in the process of bringing to justice all individuals who allegedly committed crimes that were uncovered during our exhaustive investigation," U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said.

Farook and his wife were killed in a shootout with police after murdering 14 in attacks last year. Jeva Lange

1:22 p.m. ET
AFP/Getty Images

When the body of "Jane Doe 59" was discovered with 150 stab wounds in the chest in the brush off Mulholland Drive on Nov. 16, 1969, it led to speculation that the unidentified woman had been killed by the Manson family — who just months before had murdered actress Sharon Tate and four others five miles up the road.

Forty-six years later, Jane Doe 59 has been identified as 19-year-old Reet Jurvetson. She was IDed after her sister, Anne Jurvetson, recognized Reet in a photo that had been discovered online by a mutual friend. A DNA test confirmed their relationship.

Reet Jurvetson grew up in Montreal and had dreamed of traveling to California; she vanished shortly after saving up enough money to fly there in 1969. "As months and then years passed, we imagined that she was making a new life for herself," Anne Jurvetson said, adding that it was "devastating" to learn her sister had been murdered.

Despite the nearness of Jurvetson's body to the Mansons' crime scene, officials are hesitant to draw conclusions but say they won't "rule out" the possibility Jurvetson is another Manson victim. One theory that has circulated since at least the 1970s is that Jane Doe 59 was present during the killing of a Manson follower and she was subsequently killed as to not be able to discuss it. An interview with 81-year-old Charles Manson revealed no new information or clues.

"It's a convenient thing, since [the Mansons] were obviously so capable of any disgusting violent act, to link them with murders that haven't been solved," Manson biographer Jeff Guinn said.

However, experts have long believed the cult was behind more killings than were confirmed. Jeva Lange

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