March 29, 2014

And another No. 1 seed bites the dust.

Finishing up the NCAA tournament's Sweet Sixteen play on Friday night, No. 4 Michigan State battled to a 61-59 win over top-seeded Virginia. In fact, just one game on Friday night featured a victory by the higher seed (that would be No. 2-seeded Michigan over No. 11 Tennessee, 73-71).

Both remaining No. 1 seeds, Arizona and Florida, are set to play tonight for a Final Four berth, and's Jon Terbush found that, historically at least, those two teams' chances are pretty good:

Whether or not Cinderella team Dayton (a No. 11 seed, facing Florida) or gritty No. 2 Wisconsin (facing Arizona) can pull off an upset remains to be seen. Get thee to a couch, bar, or laptop, though, because March Madness is upon us, and there are plenty more dunks to be watched before a champion is crowned. --Sarah Eberspacher

8:42 a.m. ET
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Just days after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) vowed that the Republicans in the Senate would refuse "any Supreme Court nominee" proposed by Hillary Clinton, Sen. Ted Cruz (R.-Tex.) has suggested that there is "historical precedent" for doing do.

When asked how he feels about holding a vote on Clinton's nominees, Cruz told The Washington Post that "You know, I think there will be plenty of time for debate on that issue. There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices. I would note, just recently, that Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have."

Republicans are generally split on the issue — McCain ended up walking his own comments back after he made them. "As a matter of constitutional law, the Senate is fully within its powers to let the Supreme Court die out, literally," Cato Institute legal scholar Ilya Shapiro wrote for The Federalist. "I'm not sure such a position is politically tenable — barring some extraordinary circumstance like overwhelming public opinion against the legitimacy of the sitting president — but it's definitely constitutional."

Cruz added that, "I think for those of us who care passionately about the Constitution and Bill of Rights, who care about free speech and religious liberty and the Second Amendment, the best way to protect those rights is to win on Election Day so that we see strong conservatives nominated to the court, and maintain a Republican majority in the Senate to confirm those strong conservatives. And that's what I'm fighting to do."

With eight current Supreme Court Justices, down from nine after the death of Antonin Scalia last winter, ties defer to the ruling made by the lower courts and will continue to do so until a ninth judge is confirmed. Jeva Lange

8:12 a.m. ET
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In case you are somehow still undecided about who to vote for with just a week and a half left before the election — and Wu-Tang Clan is your single-issue voting topic — then the "most hated man in America" is trying to sweeten the deal in favor of Donald Trump. Pharma bro-cum-artist Martin Shkreli vowed late Wednesday night to release his entire collection of "unreleased music" for free if Trump takes the White House, bragging that it includes "unheard" Nirvana and Beatles music.

Oh, and yes — it also includes Wu-Tang Clan's Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, of which there is only one copy in the entire world.

One Twitter user implored Shkreli to just release Shaolin if Hillary Clinton wins. "Or break it," Shkreli wrote back.

For whatever it's worth, RZA of Wu-Tang Clan has endorsed Clinton, Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic likes Gary Johnson, and despite not even being able to vote in the election, Sir Paul McCartney says Clinton "is with me." Jeva Lange

7:45 a.m. ET

With 13 days until the election, Donald Trump's campaign is sinking like a ship, Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday night's Late Show, "and Trump's surrogates are doing just what passengers on the Titanic did: remaining calm on the ship and talking about how great it is." He looked at Rudy Giuliani's antics, then turned to Newt Gingrich's infamous confrontation with Megyn Kelly over Trump's alleged sexual predation, in which Gingrich said Kelly is "fascinated with sex and you don't care about public policy."

"Okay, first off, everybody is more fascinated with sex than public policy," Colbert said. "But the thing is, Megyn Kelly File isn't talking about fun-time bedroom whoopee-making, she's talking about assault. Oh, wait, unless Newt doesn't know the difference... maybe no one gave him the talk." The after-school special music started, Colbert turned to the close-up camera, and he began:

Newt, sweetheart, you're growing up so fast — in fact, you're 73. Your body's changing; you've probably noticed some strange new hair growing on your earlobes — it's perfectly natural. You're old enough to finally learn about the birds and the bees and the consent. You see, when a man has special feelings for a woman, and he wants to give her a special hug, he asks her a special questions: 'U up?' But grabbing a lady because you're a TV star is not sex, it's assault. And fun fact: Assault is a matter of public policy 'cause it's illegal, even if you use Tic-Tacs. [Late Show]

The last half of the monologue is dedicated to Trump's pugilistic response to Vice President Joe Biden's threat to "take him behind the gym," leading Colbert to hype a real fight between the two — "it's Biden vs. Trump, the Veep vs. the Creep" — and showing a pretty realistic commercial for "the Rumble in the Trumple, the Thrilla in Orange with a Swirl of Vanilla." You can watch below. Peter Weber

7:41 a.m. ET
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Donald Trump is losing in the polls, and his staff and aides all know it. But this is no ordinary election, and Trump is hardly running an ordinary campaign. In response to the ugly numbers, Trump — who has spent the last month complaining that the election will be "rigged" — is reportedly working his own strategy to make sure some people don't vote at all:

To compensate for [his poll numbers], Trump's campaign has devised another strategy, which, not surprisingly, is negative. Instead of expanding the electorate, Bannon and his team are trying to shrink it. "We have three major voter suppression operations under way," says a senior official. They're aimed at three groups Clinton needs to win overwhelmingly: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans. Trump's invocation at the debate of Clinton's WikiLeaks e-mails and support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership was designed to turn off Sanders supporters. The parade of women who say they were sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton and harassed or threatened by Hillary is meant to undermine her appeal to young women. And her 1996 suggestion that some African American males are "super predators" is the basis of a below-the-radar effort to discourage infrequent black voters from showing up at the polls — particularly in Florida. [Bloomberg Businessweek]

This is not typically how campaigns behave: "Campaigns spend millions on data science to understand their own potential supporters — to whom they're likely already credible messengers — but here Trump is speaking to his opponent's," Bloomberg Businessweek writes. "Furthermore, there's no scientific basis for thinking this ploy will convince these voters to stay home. It could just as easily end up motivating them."

In 11 short days, it will become clear if it worked. Read the entire analysis at Bloomberg Businessweek. Jeva Lange

6:50 a.m. ET
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Megyn Kelly is a rapidly rising star at Fox News, her contract expires next year, and she has hired a new agent and publicity team to help her negotiate a hefty raise. Kelly is set to earn $15 million this year, The Wall Street Journal reports, and is seeking more than $20 million a year for her next contract, about the same as fellow Fox News star Bill O'Reilly makes (though O'Reilly's contract is up for renewal next year, too). Fox News CEO Rupert Murdoch tells The Journal, which he owns, that he is monitoring Kelly's contract talks "every minute of the day" and hopes to sign a new contract "very soon," but if Fox News and Kelly can't reach agreement, "we have a deep bench of talent, many of whom would give their right arm for her spot."

CNN and ABC are reportedly very interested in poaching Kelly, with ABC reportedly considering her for Good Morning America or an evening news magazine. Kelly, a lawyer by training, has gained notoriety through tough on-air exchanges with Donald Trump and, on Tuesday, Trump advocate Newt Gingrich. There has been speculation that with former Fox News chief executive Roger Ailes' ouster, the conservative cable news network might take a more centrist turn, and Kelly would be a key part of that strategy. Murdoch shot that idea down, telling The Journal "we're going to want Bill [O'Reilly] to stay with us," and "we're not changing direction... that would be business suicide." Peter Weber

6:02 a.m. ET
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On Wednesday, WikiLeaks released a 2011 memo written by longtime Bill Clinton aide Douglas Band and hacked from the emails of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman and at the time a top adviser to the Clinton Foundation. In the 12-page memo, Band defended "the unorthodox nature" of his multiple roles raising money for the Clinton Foundation, procuring paid speaking engagements for Bill Clinton, and getting clients for his own nascent consulting firm, Teneo — a network of activity Band called "Bill Clinton Inc."

Band wrote the memo to a law firm Chelsea Clinton had hired to audit the foundation, part of her push to clean up and professionalize the family charity after she took a more leading role. In other emails released by WikiLeaks, Chelsea had complained to Podesta that Band and his Teneo staff were using Bill Clinton's name without permission to benefit Teneo, and appeared to be "hustling business" at Clinton Foundation events. Band, in the Podesta emails, calls Chelsea "a spoiled brat kid who has nothing else to do but create issues to justify what she's doing because she, as she has said, hasn't found her way and has a lack of focus in her life"; "has gone to daddy to change a decision or interject herself"; and through a complimentary email had given him "a kiss on the cheek while she is sticking the knife in the back, and front."

In the memo, Band listed how much each of Teneo's 20 clients had donated to the Clinton Foundation ($8 million) or paid Bill Clinton in speaking fees ($3 million), and in an email said that Bill Clinton "is personally paid" by some Clinton Foundation donors and "gets many expensive gifts from them." The fallout with Chelsea led to Band's departure from the Clinton orbit starting in 2012. Hillary Clinton is not mentioned in the memo, though other emails show her aides trying to figure out how to inoculate Hillary from any foundation activity that could harm her political future. Peter Weber

4:06 a.m. ET

America has a $19 trillion national debt, but "finally, someone's taking action to reduce the debt," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show, and he didn't mean that in a good way. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "cost an estimated $4.8 trillion," comprising a good bit of that debt, he said, kicking off his "Werd" segment on the Pentagon's move to claw back millions in re-enlistment bonuses wrongly paid to California National Guard troops who then served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After literally "losing" $9 billion in cash in one day in Iraq, the Pentagon is now demanding $100 million from these troops, and to add insult to injury, they're tacking on a 1 percent processing fee, Colbert said. "Congratulations, military, you've somehow made me feel good about my credit card company." Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday that the collections would be suspended, but he added that the Pentagon will "respect our important obligation to the taxpayer," and Colbert wasn't impressed. "Oh good, because what really upset taxpayers about Iraq was the part where we paid our soldiers what we promised," he said. "No WMDs? That's an honest mistake. A private doesn't fill out his paperwork? We will chase you to the gates of hell!"

Carter can't actually do much about this, Colbert said, because only Congress can change the relevant law. But Congress has known about this for two years and done nothing. "Come on, Congress, two years?" he said, winding up. "It should be easy to forget the troops' debt, because we have apparently forgotten the debt we owe them." Watch the Werd below. Peter Weber

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