The White House is considering Israel's request to release Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard to salvage the latest round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israel — and especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — has been increasingly pushing for Pollard's release since the mid-1990s.
Successive administrations since Pollard's 1985 conviction have refused entreaties to release the former Navy intelligence officer who passed on huge amounts of classified documents to a foreign government, even an ally like Israel. The intelligence community has vehemently fought clemency for Pollard. At The Washington Post, Adam Taylor has a helpful synopsis of the Pollard case, what each side wants, and why.
But what would the U.S. get for releasing Pollard to Israel now? It appears, nothing more than a probable extension of peace talks after the April 29 end point. Specifically, it would encourage Netanyahu to release a fourth and final round of Palestinian prisoners from a group he agreed to release last summer. That seems like a poor trade-off.
"Some analysts questioned the wisdom of giving up one of the few leverage points the United States has when it is not clear it would gain more than an extension in the talks, much less a full-blown agreement," note Mark Landler and Michael R. Gordon in The New York Times. Former Mideast peace negotiator Aaron David Miller is blunter still. "If you can't get the deal without releasing Pollard, that's truly a catastrophe," he says.
Pollard is reportedly ill, and he is up for possible parole next year, putting a potential statute of limitations on his utility as a bargaining chip. But while a lasting Mideast peace agreement is an eminently worthy goal, it's also one that primarily helps Israel and the Palestinians; if they don't have enough urgency to continue talks without U.S. sweeteners, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry should probably move on to a more promising enterprise. Obama wouldn't be the first president to try and fail to broker peace in the long-festering conflict. --Peter Weber
If you're single this Valentine's Day, your wallet is probably thanking you. The 54.8 percent of American consumers celebrating the holiday in 2016 are expected to combine for $19.7 billion in spending, according to the National Retail Federation.
Here are some of the popular items people are springing for:
Restaurants and show tickets: $4.5 billion
Jewelry: $4.4 billion
Apparel: $2 billion
Flowers: $1.9 billion
Candy: $1.7 billion
Greeting cards: $1.1 billion
Saturday Night Live always puts its all into Beyoncé humor, and their take on her release of "Formation" was no exception. The single is a celebration of black women and an ode to the Black Lives Matter movement. Some white people (cough, Rudy Giuliani) weren't too pleased with her single and subsequent Super Bowl halftime performance.
Here's SNL's glorious take on what happens when white people realize a popular song isn't made for them. Julie Kliegman
In an online poll released Sunday by CBS News and YouGov, Donald Trump holds a 22-point lead over Ted Cruz in South Carolina, the next Republican primary state. Trump notched 42 percent of the support among likely primary voters to Cruz's 20. Marco Rubio followed with 15 percent.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders, 59 percent to 40 percent.
The poll's margin of error is 5.7 percentage points for the Republican contest and 8.7 percentage points for the Democratic one. The poll was conducted before Saturday night's debate in Greenville. Julie Kliegman
If you saw Deadpool this weekend, you're not alone. Marvel's X-Men spinoff has brought in an estimated $135 million at the box office since its Thursday night release, The Wall Street Journal reports.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) February 14, 2016
This was by no means a guaranteed hit — Fox budgeted the Ryan Reynolds flick at just $58 million, which is less than a third of what most other superhero movies cost.
The previous Presidents Day weekend box office record belonged to Fifty Shades of Grey, at $93 million in 2015. By weekend's end, Deadpool will likely surpass $150 million. Julie Kliegman
"This is a 5-4 court — the next election needs to be a referendum on the court," Cruz said. "People need to decide."
Other Republicans in the Senate have made similar calls, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Meanwhile, Obama said Saturday he'll name a nominee soon, and Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Elizabeth Warren are urging their colleagues to approve him or her before Obama leaves office.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) February 14, 2016
"I don't think the American people want a court that will strip our religious liberties," Cruz said. "I don't think the American people want a court that will mandate unlimited abortions on demand, partial birth abortion with taxpayer funding and no parental notification, and I don't think the American people want a court that will write the Second Amendment out of the Constitution."
Saturday night's Republican presidential debate in South Carolina may have been the rowdiest yet, and not just on the part of the candidates. Here are some of the people and things the crowd deemed worthy of booing:
Facts: When Ted Cruz falsely claimed no Supreme Court justices have been appointed during election years in the last 80 years, moderator John Dickerson pointed out Anthony Kennedy. "I just want to get the facts straight for the audience," Dickerson said.
Donald Trump: In a tiff with Jeb Bush, Trump criticized his brother, former President George W. Bush, saying "How did he keep us safe? The World Trade Center came down."
Donald Trump, again: In another tiff with Bush (surprise, surprise), Trump said he was wrong about the billionaire's close ties to Russia.
Donald Trump, for a change: In the same exchange, Trump responded to the booing by claiming the jeers came from lobbyists supporting Bush.
Viewers were understandably a little perplexed by all of the booing.
— GoogleTrends (@GoogleTrends) February 14, 2016
If you missed out, here's a nice supercut of the most memorable sound from Saturday night. Julie Kliegman
— Fusion (@ThisIsFusion) February 14, 2016
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine topped the Orlando Magic's Aaron Gordon in Saturday's Verizon Slam Dunk Contest. It's the second year in a row LaVine has won the All-Star weekend event, a feat only three other players in history — including Michael Jordan — have managed.
"There was some stuff that's never been done before. I don't want to get into the greats — Mike, they're in a different breath," LaVine said. "If you really look at it as a whole, we were doing dunks that professional dunkers take four or five tries to do, and we were doing it on the first try. It was ridiculous, man."
In the second tiebreaker, LaVine sealed his victory with a between-the-legs dunk from the free-throw line. Watch below. Julie Kliegman