May 9, 2014
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In further proof that there's not a single incident on Earth that cannot somehow be tied to the Clintons, members of the conservative media-sphere are leaping on a Daily Beast story that claims that the State Department under Hillary Clinton "fought hard" against designating Nigeria's Boko Haram a terrorist organization, which may have prevented the U.S. from constraining a group that went on to abduct more than 200 schoolgirls.

As Josh Rogin reports, there were many lawmakers and Obama administration officials who wanted the State Department to get tough on Boko Haram, a group that is obviously a nasty piece of work. However, there appear to be perfectly sound reasons not to label Boko Haram a terrorist group, some of which are outlined here and here. And, of course, it is a pure exercise in counterfactual thinking to suggest such a label would have prevented a mass kidnapping that has sparked global outrage. Who can say with anything approaching certainty?

Nevertheless, unflattering narratives can and will be drawn from this story as we approach the 2016 election season. Fox News has already connected the dots, with a headline that reads: "Hillary fought to keep Boko Haram off terror list." Andrew C. McCarthy at National Review writes that the latest reporting is evidence that Clinton "believes that appeasing terrorists...promotes peace and stability." Expect to see much more of the same in the coming weeks and months. Ryu Spaeth

12:38 p.m. ET

Twitter announced Thursday that it will be discontinuing the mobile app for Vine, its short-form video-sharing service that has existed since 2013. The announcement follows reports earlier Thursday that Twitter would be reducing its global workforce by 9 percent, even as the troubled company's third-quarter earnings exceeded analysts' expectations.

"Nothing is happening to the apps, website, or your Vines today," the company said in a statement posted to Medium. "We value you, your Vines, and are going to do this the right way. You'll be able to access and download your Vines. We'll be keeping the website online because we think it's important to still be able to watch all the incredible Vines that have been made. You will be notified before we make any changes to the app or website." Vine has over 200 million monthly users and 1.5 billion "loops." Jeva Lange

11:57 a.m. ET

In further evidence Donald Trump is a self-proclaimed expert on every topic under the sun, the GOP nominee offered Wednesday to give Defense Secretary Ash Carter some advice on how to best defend the nation. During an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, the host reminded Trump that Carter had said Trump doesn't "know a damn thing about military strategy." Trump's response? "I'll teach him a couple of things."

Trump then launched into an explanation of how the military offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State should've been handled. "I've been hearing about Mosul now for three months. 'We're going to attack, we're going to attack,'" Trump said. "Why do they have to talk about it?"

Instead, the businessman advised, the military should have prioritized secrecy. "Don't talk about it," Trump said. "Element of surprise. General George Patton."

Listen to the rest of Trump's advice to Carter, a former physicist and Harvard professor who has been working on national security issues since the '90s, below. Becca Stanek

11:08 a.m. ET
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Though first lady Michelle Obama has already stumped for Hillary Clinton many a time, the two women will appear on the same stage for the first time this campaign Thursday at a rally Thursday in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Clinton campaign has already hailed Obama as its "not-so-secret weapon," and the speeches the first lady has made so far have been some of the most memorable of this election, dating back to her address at the summer's Democratic National Convention.

"She has exceeded our expectations in terms of how many events she has been able to do, willing to do. Her team keeps surprising us with additional availability and we can't, from our vantage point, we can't get her out there enough. She's been an absolute rock star," Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said earlier this week.

On Thursday, Obama will "get the drum beating on early voting," a Clinton spokesperson said. President Obama lost North Carolina in 2012; Clinton is an average of 5.4 points ahead in the four-way matchup, with just 12 days to go until Election Day. Donald Trump's campaign has also been active this week in the state, which, aside from the 2008 election, has historically voted Republican. Becca Stanek

11:05 a.m. ET

Archaeologists and restorers working in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem have pulled back the marble cover on what is traditionally considered to be the tomb of Jesus Christ, National Geographic reports. By removing the covering, which is believed to have been placed on the tomb around 1555 A.D. or earlier, scientists have exposed the "burial bed," where Christ is believed to have been laid after being crucified in A.D. 30 or 33.

"The marble covering of the tomb has been pulled back, and we were surprised by the amount of fill material beneath it," Fredrik Hiebert, the archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, said. "It will be a long scientific analysis, but we will finally be able to see the original rock surface on which, according to tradition, the body of Christ was laid."

Researchers plan to study the surface in order to better understand the original shape of the tomb. "The techniques we're using to document this unique monument will enable the world to study our findings as if they themselves were in the tomb of Christ," Chief Scientific Supervisor Professor Antonia Moropoulou said.

Watch the big reveal below, and read more about the restoration and research at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at National Geographic. Jeva Lange

10:44 a.m. ET

If the wildlife population keeps dropping off at the rate it has over the last 40 years, the world could be down to just one-third the wildlife it once had by the year 2020. A new Living Planet assessment by the conservation group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released Thursday revealed that there was already a "58 percent overall decline in the numbers of fish, mammals, birds, and reptiles worldwide" between 1970 and 2012, which amounts to a 2 percent loss in wildlife populations every single year.

WWF said the data points to an impending sixth extinction that will be almost entirely humans' fault. "We are entering a new era in Earth's history: the Anthropocene. An era in which humans rather than natural forces are the primary drivers of planetary change," Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, wrote in the report. WWF conservation scientist Martin Taylor explained to CNN that the new era is upon us "because we're using so much of the planet and we're destroying so much of (these animals') habitat."

However, BBC noted that WWF's Living Planet reports "have drawn some criticisms." Though the document delves into trends in 14,152 populations of 3,706 species of vertebrates, some argue the data isn't representative of the entire world's wildlife populations. Duke University conservation ecology professor Stuart Pimm said that the data WWF used from from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is "massively skewed toward Western Europe," and that there is "almost nothing from South America, from tropical Africa." Becca Stanek

10:18 a.m. ET
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As the Koch brothers' advocacy network has watched Donald Trump's nosedive primarily from the sidelines, some donors and staffers are now wondering where they went wrong.

Disagreements over an alternative to Trump prevented a conservative counter-movement in the primaries from ever getting off the ground, and the Koch network has since shifted its attention — and money — to research and think tanks. "[T]here are mounting questions about whether [the Kochs'] vaunted political and advocacy operation may have peaked," Politico writes. "The answer could resonate well beyond Nov. 8, since the Koch network would otherwise be expected to play a major role in the post-Trump rebuilding of the conservative movement. "

Plus there is the fact that some Koch insiders feel like they're partially responsible for the whole Trump mess in the first place:

By helping to empower the anti-establishment tea party protests in 2009 and 2010, these people say, the Koch network inadvertently laid the groundwork for a movement that turned towards a strain of anti-immigrant protectionism that is anathema to the Koch's ideology, and that proved fertile ground for Trump's nationalist brand of populism.

"We are partly responsible," said one former network staffer. "We invested a lot in training and arming a grassroots army that was not controllable, and some of these people have used it in ways that are not consistent with our principles, with our goal of advancing a free society, and instead they have furthered the alt-right." [Politico]

"What we feel really badly about is that we were not able to educate many in the tea party more about how the process works and how free markets work," a donor added. "Seeing this movement that we were part of creating going off in a direction that's anti-free-market, anti-trade, and anti-immigrant — many of us are really saddened by that. Unfortunately, there is little in the short term we can do about that." All that's left to do, then, is look ahead — read more about how the Koch network plans to do that, at Politico. Jeva Lange

10:10 a.m. ET
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Young black women overwhelmingly voted for President Obama in 2012, but young black men did not. In fact, nearly one in five black men under 30 — some 19 percent — cast their ballots for Republican Mitt Romney, a major shift toward the GOP as compared to previous cycles. Just four years earlier, only 6 percent of the same demographic voted Republican, meaning GOP appeal to young black men more than tripled during Obama's first term.

But if that was the beginning of a significant political realignment, it may have been the end as well. Though young black voters aren't enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton, there's no way they're voting for Donald Trump. Just 2 percent of black voters under 30 say they will back Trump on Election Day.

"The Republican Party had an opportunity to cement my support for the long term," Kellen Curry, one of the young black men who voted for Romney, told Vice News. Instead, they nominated Trump. "Now Republicans have to start all over again in 2020. Now they've broken whatever juice they had in the beginning and now they've got to re-sell the product," Curry said. "Party leaders often say the party did not have a problem with race, but the problem was talking about race. What Trump has brought to the surface is that yes, the party does not only have a problem with talking about race, but also with race itself." Bonnie Kristian

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