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May 6, 2014
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Due to recent (and ongoing) events, the arrival of The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union, by Professor of Ukrainian History Serhii Plokhy, feels about as timely as any history book ever could.

In fact, it's hard to read Plokhy and not gain insight into modern times. For example, he recalls that even around the time of the Soviet Union's collapse, while Russians were basically split over the question of Lithuanian independence, "only 22 percent of Russians favored Ukrainian independence, while almost 60 percent were opposed."

And for those interested in debates over what might be described as pedantic semantics, there's an interesting history on the linguistic debate that took place prior to President George H.W. Bush's visit, over whether or not to refer to Ukraine as The Ukraine:

Jack Matlock [the American ambassador in Moscow], who was shown the text of the speech that Bush was scheduled to deliver later that day in the Ukrainian parliament, protested to one of the speechwriters against the use of the definite article with 'Ukraine.' "Make sure the president leaves out the article. He should just say 'Ukraine.' Ukrainian Americans think the article makes it sound like a geographic area rather than a country." The speechwriter protested, "But we say 'the United States,' don't we?" But Matlock eventually prevailed. His argument was not linguistic but political: If the president says 'the Ukraine,' the White House will be getting thousands of letters and telegrams in protest next week." [The Last Empire]

Interestingly, the speech still managed to cause problems back home, becoming derisively known as the "Chicken Kiev speech." But it had nothing to do with the definite article.

With Russia and Ukraine back in the news, it feels like everything old is new again. Two decades later, Americans are still struggling with the definite article. Matt K. Lewis

1:14 p.m. ET
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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) maintained Friday that he'll support the Republican presidential nominee, even if that somebody happens to be Donald Trump, The Palm Beach Post reports.

In fact, Rubio might be more impressed with the billionaire business mogul than usual, saying his "performance has improved significantly" recently.

It's also worth noting that Rubio doesn't agree with former House Speaker John Boehner that Ted Cruz is Lucifer. Julie Kliegman

12:39 p.m. ET

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump was none too thrilled Saturday with the protesters who blocked his way into California's Republican convention the day before:

Leave it to Trump to make an off-color joke about the incident once he made it inside the hotel Friday.

'We went under a fence and through a fence," Trump said. "Oh boy, it felt like I was crossing the border, actually." Julie Kliegman

11:51 a.m. ET

Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook is perhaps best used for admiring photos of Mark Zuckerberg's dog. Beast, a Puli Hungarian Sheepdog, is quite good at camouflaging himself, as you can see in photos the social network's founder posted Friday:

This rug has eyes.

That's an awfully big mop. Julie Kliegman

11:29 a.m. ET

Jimmy Fallon has been singing bits and pieces of Styx's "Too Much Time on My Hands" on The Tonight Show for days. On Friday, he and actor Paul Rudd took the obsession to its natural conclusion, creating a shot-by-shot remake of the '80s music video. The end result is sufficiently goofy. Take a look below. Julie Kliegman

11:05 a.m. ET

Hundreds of activists stormed Iraq's parliament building Saturday in support of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who had accused Iraqi politicians of corruption, CBS News reports.

The demonstrators climbed over blast walls in Baghdad's Green Zone, which houses most of the country's ministries and foreign embassies, after parliament couldn't reach quorum to hold a session. The protesters broke furniture, chanted, and waved Iraqi flags.

For months, protesters have been demanding Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi take more steps to fight corruption. The capital announced a state of emergency amid the protests Saturday. Julie Kliegman

10:28 a.m. ET
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San Francisco Police Chief Gregory Suhr released nine pages of racist and homophobic text messages sent between officers Friday and ordered all officers to undergo anti-bias training, The New York Times reports.

"We have nothing to hide," Suhr said of his 2,000-member force. "These are the actions of a few."

The messages, which disparaged blacks, Latinos, South Asians, and LGBT people, were found as part of an investigation into a rape charge against one of the officers.

The department is under federal investigation for the 2015 fatal shooting of Mario Woods, a black man. Julie Kliegman

9:33 a.m. ET
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The head of an evangelical legal organization has pledged to carry a gun into Target's bathrooms to defend against transgender women. Liberty Counsel President Anita Staver is calling for a boycott of the retail chain after it announced that it will allow patrons to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity, The Huffington Post reports. Staver tweeted the following:

Staver later claimed she always brings guns into public restrooms. The Week Staff

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