May 1, 2014
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has some competition; Syrian government officials announced Thursday that 23 others have registered as potential candidates for the June 3 presidential election.

Opposition leaders say that the war-ravaged country's election is a "sham," the Los Angeles Times reports, only being held to extend Assad's rule. It will be the first presidential election held since reforms in 2012 that require multi-party balloting. In order to get on the ticket, a candidate must now have the backing of at least 35 members of parliament. The Times says that the other potential candidates are members of "tolerated" opposition parties, while some are relative unknowns. Assad's current term expires in July. Catherine Garcia

1:37 p.m. ET

Alan Grayson was the Democratic representative for Florida's 8th congressional district from 2009 to 2011, a period during which he happened to have another job as well — as a hedge fund manager. While Grayson's role running a hedge fund as a sitting member of the House has already led to an investigation by the House Committee on Ethics, emails obtained by The New York Times show the extent to which Grayson's jobs were intertwined "and how he promoted his international travels, some with congressional delegations, to solicit business."

Grayson's hedge fund, which until recently had operations in the Cayman Islands, is questionable as well. Grayson has reportedly boasted about traveling to "every country" in the world while creating investment strategies that took advantage of companies suffering because of economic or political turbulence.

[A] hedge fund marketing document cited a quote attributed to an early member of the Rothschild banking family in advising that "the time to buy is when there's blood in the streets."

Mr. Grayson defended his approach. "What creates the opportunity is when people overreact to something bad happening," he said.

At least some of Mr. Grayson's global travel has been paid for by the United States government, congressional records show. Mr. Grayson has traveled in official congressional delegations to Finland, Iraq, Kuwait, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, according to a tally of those records by LegiStorm, a website that assembles data on Congress. He has also traveled to Israel on an official trip paid for by a private group, according to LegiStorm. [The New York Times]

According to House rules, lawmakers are not allowed to hold outside jobs that make more than $27,495, although Grayson has said he didn't report any earned income from the fund despite some investors that would have been paying management fees. Read the full report in The New York Times. Jeva Lange

11:27 a.m. ET
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John Kasich is keeping his expectations low for the upcoming Feb. 20 primary in South Carolina. After pulling off a comfortable second-place finish in the GOP's New Hampshire presidential primary Tuesday, the Ohio governor admitted in a Thursday interview with CNN's New Day that he doesn't expect South Carolina's election to go quite as well. "We're going to compete here," Kasich said of South Carolina's primary. "We don't expect to win here."

Kasich's defense of his campaign — and his concession about South Carolina — follows Republican opponent Jeb Bush's jab that Kasich "has nothing in South Carolina." "But on the other hand, if you look at the person who says that, they spent like well over $100 million — something like that — and they got like nothing," Kasich said, reminding Bush that, for spending more money than any other candidate, his results so far have fallen short.

Bush finished two spots behind Kasich in New Hampshire and two spots ahead of him in Iowa, where Bush came in sixth and Kasich came in eighth. Becca Stanek

11:01 a.m. ET
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One day after civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton sat down for a meeting with Sen. Bernie Sanders, he remains unconvinced that the Democratic presidential candidate is adequately addressing the issue of race in income equality.

"One of the things that I was saying to Senator Sanders is saying that you've got to deal with income inequality and wages is fine, but what about the race element of that?" Sharpton said Thursday on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "He did not address that directly," Sharpton added.

As it stands right now, Sharpton says, all he is hearing from Sanders is "rhetoric" and him "talking about his ideology," but he has yet to hear "a list or enumeration of the kind of things we can do to redress or overturn these things." That, he says, is what he pushed Sanders to do in their sit-down over breakfast in Harlem Wednesday. "Are you going to talk about affirmative action?" Sharpton said. "Are you going to talk about racial disparities in terms of promotions and access to capital?"

Sharpton says that addressing these issues is going to be key as Sanders moves forward in the race. "As we leave the New Hampshire/Iowa states, which are basically white electorate, they're going to have to deal now with issues across the board," Sharpton said of both Democratic presidential candidates.

Sharpton is set to meet with Sanders' Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, next Tuesday. Becca Stanek

10:53 a.m. ET

A survey of 141,189 incoming college freshmen found that the class of 2019 is politically engaged, committed to volunteering, and historically ready to protest.

The 2015 poll participants reported "substantially greater likelihoods of participating in student protests and demonstrations while in college" compared to previous years, clocking the highest level of protest plans since the first such survey in 1967.

(Higher Education Research Institute)

But not all freshmen are equally ready to take to the streets. Sorting the answers by race, the pollsters found that black and Latino students are significantly more likely to anticipate protesting on campus than their Native American, Asian, and white counterparts. Bonnie Kristian

10:49 a.m. ET

Albert Einstein's 100-year-old theory of general relativity has been confirmed by the detection of gravitational waves, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics reported Thursday. The researchers observed a warp of space-time generated through the collision of two black holes, which marked the first time scientists have detected gravitational waves.

The finding could change the way we understand astronomy and the universe. "There is a novel in it — there is no doubt," said the Institute's Professor Karsten Danzmann, likening the find to the discovery of the Higgs particle or the determination of the structure of DNA.

Professor Stephen Hawking, an expert on black holes, reinforced the seriousness of the finding. "Apart from testing [Einstein's theory of] general relativity, we could hope to see black holes through the history of the universe. We may even see relics of the very early universe during the Big Bang at some of the most extreme energies possible," Hawking told BBC News.

"The information carried on the gravitational wave is exactly the same as when the system sent it out; and that is unusual in astronomy. We can't see light from whole regions of our own galaxy because of the dust that is in the way, and we can't see the early part of the Big Bang because the Universe was opaque to light earlier than a certain time," Professor Bernard Schutz of Cardiff University explained. "With gravitational waves, we do expect eventually to see the Big Bang itself." Jeva Lange

10:31 a.m. ET
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As the jury president of this year's Berlin International Film Festival, it was up to Meryl Streep to answer the press' questions about diversity and the festival's all-white jury panel. However, Streep dismissed the criticism on Thursday by telling reporters, "We're all Africans, really."

The other members of the jury are German actor Lars Eidinger, British film critic Nick James, French photographer Brigitte Lacombe, British actor Clive Owen, Italian actress Alba Rohrwacher, and Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska, The Associated Press reports. Together, Streep and the jury will award Europe's first major film prize of the year, the Golden Bear, as well as several Silver Bear awards.

"There is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture, and after all we're all from Africa originally," Streep said. "Berliners, we're all Africans really."

Streep also defended herself against an Egyptian reporter who questioned if she understood films from North Africa or the Arab world by saying, "I've played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures."

Additionally, Streep insisted she was committed to the inclusion of "all genders, races, ethnicities, religions."

"This jury is evidence that at least women are included and in fact dominate this jury, and that's an unusual situation in bodies of people who make decisions," Streep said. "So I think the Berlinale is ahead of its game." Jeva Lange

10:20 a.m. ET
Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images

Being the first black president has had political advantages as well as disadvantages, President Obama said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times released Thursday.

"I have no doubt there are people who voted against me because of race... or didn't approve of my agenda because of race," he said. "I also suspect there are a bunch of people who are excited or voted for me because of the notion of the first African-American president... Those things cut both ways."

Returning to the issue at another point in the conversation, Obama conceded that "there are pockets of the country where some dog whistles blow and there's underlying racial fears that may be exploited." But at the same time, he said, "You've got a whole generation of kids growing up where the first president they've known is an African-American. Even if they're hearing their parents say he's terrible, it kind of seeps in that it's not a crazy thing. So that sometime later, if there's a Hispanic, or a woman or another African-American, that won't seem as exceptional. These things change over time." Bonnie Kristian

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