Seeking to allay concerns that Moscow was stoking the violence in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said Russia had withdrawn its troops from the border between the two nations. And in an unexpected development, he called on pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine to punt on a sovereignty referendum scheduled for May 11.
"We were told constantly about concerns over our troops near the Ukrainian border," Putin said, adding that they have been pulled back to "places of regular exercises, at training grounds."
Still, NATO said it had yet to see proof that Russian troops did indeed move away from the border. Until they see such proof, American and Ukrainian officials will likely remain dubious of whether Putin is genuinely trying to de-escalate the situation. Jon Terbush
And the hits just keep on coming.
Just days after 21-year league veteran Kevin Garnett announced his retirement from the NBA — joining fellow icons Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan in hanging 'em up after the 2015-2016 season — Garnett's erstwhile teammate Paul Pierce announced Monday via The Players' Tribune that the 2016-2017 season would be his last.
It's time. https://t.co/8f1mtGapAO
— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) September 26, 2016
"I'm at peace with retiring, but I've got one more ride left," Pierce wrote. “With the [Los Angeles] Clippers, in the city where I grew up, I feel like I have that opportunity … to win a championship."
Pierce played his first 15 seasons with the Boston Celtics, joining forces with sharp-shooter Ray Allen and the emotional, defense-anchoring Garnett to win a championship in 2008. He then spent one season each with the Brooklyn Nets and the Washington Wizards before joining the Clippers in the summer of 2015. He is a 10-time All-Star team selection and was also the 2008 NBA Finals MVP. Below, a look at some of his best career plays. Kimberly Alters
Turns out, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was probably making money off of Donald Trump when he panned the GOP nominee at the Republican National Convention in July and urged Americans to "vote your conscience." Politico reported Sunday that Cruz sold Trump his donor email list just six weeks after dropping out of the Republican presidential primary — an entire month before Cruz's convention speech and nearly five months before Cruz announced he'd decided to vote for Trump after "searching my own conscience."
It's hard to tell exactly how much money Cruz has made from selling his list to Trump's campaign, but Politico estimated he's pocketed "at least tens of thousands of dollars, and more likely hundreds of thousands, that can be used to bankroll the Texan's own political future":
Since he exited the presidential race in May, Cruz's campaign committee has reported a total of roughly $290,000 in list rental income, Federal Election Commission records show. Trump's campaign directly rented Cruz's list five times in June and since early July his joint fundraising committee with the Republican National Committee — which gives 80 percent of its proceeds to Trump — has rented Cruz's list more than 25 times.
The buying and selling of email addresses is standard fare in modern politics — but less typical among bitter rivals. After Cruz failed to back Trump at the convention, he told the Texas delegation he would not "go like a servile puppy dog" and simply endorse after Trump had "slandered" his family. [Politico]
Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier defended Cruz's decision as a move to "help the Republican Party at large."
On the eve of the first presidential debate, The New York Times editorial board delivered this news: Donald Trump "should not be president." In a series of questions and answers published Sunday, the editorial board tore down each and every argument in favor of Trump, who they described as "a man who dwells in bigotry, bluster, and false promises." The op-ed came a day after the editorial board endorsed Hillary Clinton.
The Times pointed out that though Trump may claim to be a "financial wizard who can bring executive magic to government," he has never brought that magic to his companies, which have faced bankruptcy, failure, and complaints of fraud. And as for that "straight talker who tells it like it is?" The Times brought up the fact that he actually isn't very forthcoming on a lot of topics, and he's made "117 distinct policy shifts on 20 major issues, including three contradictory views on abortion in one eight-hour stretch."
Trump's camp was quick to respond to the editorial board's endorsement of Clinton. "The news that the ultra-liberal, elitist, out-of-touch New York Times editorial board endorsed an ultra-liberal, elitist, out-of-touch candidate in Hillary Clinton has to be some of the least surprising news ever," said Trump's senior communications adviser Jason Miller, arguing that the editorial board is the "embodiment of the rigged system Donald Trump is running against."
Head over to The New York Times to read the rest of the editorial, including the editorial board's responses to Trump's claims he can "fix government" and be a "change agent for the nation and the world." Becca Stanek
Donald Trump has erased Hillary Clinton's lead in Bloomberg's national poll of the presidential race, beating her 43 percent to 41 percent among likely voters in a four-way race including Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson (8 percent) and Green Party nominee Jill Stein (4 percent). In a two-way race, Trump and Clinton are tied at 46 percent. Ann Selzer, who conducted the poll, cited Clinton's softening lead among women and young voters for her decline in the polls. Clinton holds the same 13-point lead over Trump among women, but her 29-point margin among millennial voters in August is down to just 10 points, 50 percent to 40 percent.
The poll was released on the same day Clinton and Trump face off in their first debate, and Bloomberg's respondents have higher expectations for Clinton, with 49 percent expecting her to do better in the debate versus 39 percent for Trump. CNN/ORC also released polls of Colorado and Pennsylvania on Monday, with Trump ahead by 1 percentage point in a four-way race in Colorado, 42 percent to 41 percent with Johnson grabbing 13 percent; in Pennsylvania, Clinton was up 1 point, 45 percent to 44 percent among likely voters. The Bloomberg poll was conducted Sept. 21-24 among 1,002 likely voters and has a margin of error of ±3.1 percentage points. RealClearPolitics, which includes the Bloomberg/Selzer poll, has Clinton ahead of Trump by 2.3 points in a two-person race and 1.5 points in a four-person race. Peter Weber
In 2015, 3.5 millions Americans climbed out of poverty as the U.S. poverty rate fell by 1.2 percent, the sharpest annual decline since 1999, The New York Times reports, citing new U.S. Census data. No state reported an increase in poverty — typically defined as making less than $24,300 a year for a family of four — and 23 states saw a notable improvement in 2015. Preliminary evidence indicates that the positive trend has continued in 2016, though not as robustly. The black and Hispanic communities still have the highest poverty rates — 24.1 percent and 21.4 percent respectively, versus 13.4 percent overall and 9.1 percent for whites — but they also experienced the sharpest drops in poverty in 2015, the Times reports.
The big drivers of the decrease in poverty were the 2.9 million net new jobs, increased hours for part-time workers, and rising wages due to higher minimums in some large cities and states and increasing competition for labor, plus some effective local and federal back-to-work programs. "It all came together at the same time," business economist Diane Swonk tells the Times. "Lots of employment and wages gains, particularly in the lowest-paying end of the jobs spectrum, combined with minimum-wage increases that started to hit some very large population areas." At the same time, some 43 million Americans, including 14 million children, are still classified as poor. You can read more about the good and the bad at The New York Times. Peter Weber
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are meeting in their first of three presidential debates on Monday night at New York's Hofstra University, and with the race neck and neck, the stakes are very high. The 90-minute debate, moderated by NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, takes place amid a heated debate over whether the moderator should call out gross factual inaccuracies from either candidate — the Clinton camp says yes, the Trump side says no. Clinton has been studying Trump's temperament as well as the issues, and Trump's campaign says the Republican nominee has been largely eschewing normal debate preparations.
The debate begins at 9 p.m. Eastern time, and will be broadcast on PBS, ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox, plus C-SPAN, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. Facebook and Twitter, as well as several other websites, will also livestream the debate. And if you want to prepare by boning up on every debate since 1960, PBS Newshour has an interactive site at the ready. An estimated 100 million people are expected to tune in to the debate. You can get a sense of Holt's task Monday night in the CNNMoney preview below. Peter Weber
Everyone, it seems, has advice for what Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump should do in their first presidential debate on Monday. But one intrepid expert at the University of Michigan has already compiled a new book on debating Trump, just 18 months into Trump's political career. In 11 Republican primary debates, Trump stood on stage for almost 24 hours total and spoke for a combined 3 hours, 20 minutes, and 7 seconds, and that record "gives insights into how he could deal with Clinton, and she can deal with him," Aaron Kall, director of debate at the University of Michigan and editor of the new book Debating the Donald, told USA Today.
One-on-one presidential debates are different than the multi-candidate primary debates Trump has participated in so far, but Kall and other debate experts say that Trump will likely carry some of his tactics to his first Clinton debate at Hofstra University in New York. Some examples include deploying devastating one-liners especially if Clinton attacks him, using his unpredictably to his advantage, talking directly to the TV audience, subtly belittling Clinton through interruption and calling the former senator and secretary of state "Hillary," and claiming he won the debate no matter what happens.
You can find examples of each of those tactics at USA Today, and reporter Rick Hampson sums up the collective wisdom for Clinton: "Don't hit unless you're ready to be hit; steer the debate toward detailed (and possibly boring) policy discussions; control the clock if you don't want Trump to; and watch out if he tells you how good you look." You can watch CNN's brief retrospective on what not to do more generally below. Peter Weber