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March 28, 2014

Watch out, because your margaritas and guac are about to get more expensive.

Regional violence, drought, and disease in Mexico have caused the price of limes to double within the last year, creating a shortage in America. The price for a case of limes, which usually ranges from $4 to $25, recently shot up to around $100, so mojito lovers and salsa eaters here might soon feel the pinch as restaurants pass off the price.

Not only is bad weather damaging the fruit, but the lime's climbing price is making the crop a target for thieves, with dangerous drug cartels even selling limes on the black market.

As a result, some restaurants are using lemons as an alternative, while others are even adding a lime surcharge. Experts say the price of limes will continue to be high until a new harvest begins in May. Jordan Valinsky

11:37 a.m. ET
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

President-elect Donald Trump's treasury secretary nominee, Steve Mnuchin, defended his controversial record Thursday by slamming the press for "maligning" him and painting him as a villain.

"In the press it has been said that I ran a 'foreclosure machine,'" Mnuchin said. "This is not an accurate description of my role at OneWest Bank. On the contrary, I was committed to loan modification intended to stop foreclosures. I ran a loan modification machine."

Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs partner, faces fierce scrutiny from Democrats with questions focusing on his time at OneWest Bank, which is accused of employing merciless foreclosure tactics during the housing crisis. Mnuchin has also encountered trouble with his financial paperwork, admitting in a revised questionnaire that he is the director of an investment fund based in the Cayman Islands and that he forgot to disclose over $900,000 worth of artwork held by his children.

Watch his full opening statement at CBS News, here. Jeva Lange

11:27 a.m. ET
YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) had nothing but warm words for his "friend" former Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) when he introduced Perry on Thursday at Perry's Senate confirmation hearing for his nomination to be energy secretary. Manchin, who has a record of vouching for Republicans, defended Perry against criticism he lacks the experience for the job, arguing that he is actually "uniquely qualified to hold this position." Manchin pointed to Perry's leadership taking in storm evacuees during Hurricane Katrina, and noted that nobody "gave us a manual before we became governor." "We had to learn while were were there," said Manchin, who served as governor of West Virginia in the early 2000s.

Manchin, a proponent for the coal industry, also praised Perry's "all of the above" approach to energy policy. "I think he is going to do a great job not only for the Energy Department, but for all of us in America," Manchin said. If confirmed, Perry will be charged mainly with maintaining America's aging nuclear arsenal.

Watch the Democratic senator's introduction over at C-SPAN. Becca Stanek

11:07 a.m. ET

Steven Mnuchin's Senate confirmation hearing for treasury secretary began Thursday with an eruption, when Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) mockingly offered Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) a Valium pill.

"Sen. Wyden, I've got a Valium pill here you might want to take before the second round. Just a suggestion," Roberts said, offering up the medication that is typically used to treat anxiety.

"Just another suggestion, we've got a lot of colleagues waiting, if you could be brief it would be helpful," Wyden shot back.

"Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman. I hope that comment about Valium doesn't set the tone for 2017," Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) broke in as Roberts began to speak again. "I like Sen. Roberts, but I can't quite believe he would say that to a distinguished senator from Oregon."

"I said that to the president of the United States!" Roberts shouted back, setting off a flurry of argument in the room. When Roberts got the floor again he apologized for incurring Brown's "wrath."

"We have many colleagues waiting — " Wyden again interrupted.

"Fine Ron!" Roberts said. "I'm done." Jeva Lange

10:59 a.m. ET

Former Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas), President-elect Donald Trump's pick for energy secretary, started his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday by backtracking his past recommendation to abolish the department he is now poised to lead. "My statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking," Perry said. "In fact, after being briefed on so many of the functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination."

Perry also indicated he's changed his mind on climate change. "I believe the climate is changing. I believe some of it is naturally occurring but some of it is caused by man-made activity," Perry said. In a 2011 presidential debate, Perry argued that the science on whether humans contributed to climate change is "not settled," and later, in 2012, claimed scientists "have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects." He now says he will protect climate scientists "from anyone who would attack them." Becca Stanek

10:28 a.m. ET
Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune/Time Inc

The youngest woman ever elected to Congress is now the first woman to take charge of the Republican Party's House candidate recruitment efforts. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), just 32, has taken the role of head of candidate recruitment at the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), and she is strategizing to end the GOP's woman deficit.

Her own role is part of the project. "I think the more women we have in leadership positions, the more women will see examples, [the more women] can see themselves in those roles," Stefanik said to The Hill. "So I think being in the leadership role of chairing recruitment is a step in the right direction." At present, women make up less than 10 percent of House Republicans, while House Democrats are nearly a third female.

Democrats have a less dramatic underrepresentation problem in significant part because they've spent years building organizations like the deep-pocketed EMILY's List to recruit female candidates. Now, Republicans are working to catch up. "The fact that [Stefanik is] a woman who is a conservative who is going to be in charge of [the NRCC] recruitment effort? That's important, because we need to boost those numbers," said Missy Shorey of Maggie's List, a conservative counterpart to EMILY's List. "When they see Elise, they see: She did it, now I can do it." Bonnie Kristian

10:15 a.m. ET
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Wednesday began hearing oral arguments for Lee v. Tam, an intellectual property case challenging a 71-year-old federal ban on "disparaging" trademarks. Immediately at issue is a Portland dance-rock band called The Slants, but how the case is decided is expected to have broader implications — including for the Washington Redskins.

The Slants' band members are Asian-American, and they wanted to trademark the name as a way to reclaim the slur. "I thought that was interesting," band member Simon Tam told The New York Times, because "we can talk about our slant on life on what it's like to be people of color." Tam grew up listening to bands that similarly took stigmatizing labels "and flip these assumptions on their heads." So when his trademark application got rejected, he assumed it was a paperwork error — until he noticed the rejection reason given was that the name is "disparaging to persons of Asian ethnicity." "Well, do they know we're of Asian descent?" Tam wondered.

Tam's case has now made it to the Supreme Court, where initial arguments see the justices skeptical of the government's claim to have a legitimate interest in preventing consumer "distraction" by disparaging trademarks, as well as the argument that trademarks, unlike copyrights, "generally have not historically served as vehicles for expression" of viewpoints which are protected as free speech.

As for the Redskins, their trademark was canceled in 2014 on grounds that it too is disparaging, in that case of Native Americans. The team has filed suit to regain the trademark, but if The Slants win their case, depending on the details of the decision, the Redskins might get their trademark back, too. Bonnie Kristian

9:59 a.m. ET
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

President-elect Donald Trump boasted that his election was an even bigger populist movement than that of President Andrew Jackson during a dinner in honor of Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Wednesday night, The New York Times reports.

The comparison might raise some eyebrows: "Today, Andrew Jackson is no longer very popular, and many of his values are no longer ours," The Smithsonian has noted. "Jackson's populism was … a Trojan horse for pro-slavery, pro-states-rights interests. He was a wealthy slaveholder himself, with no qualms about African-American bondage and deep hostility to abolitionism. He ignored the early movement for women's rights, and his infamous policy of Indian removal partly stemmed from demands by his 'base' for plentiful free land."

Nevertheless:

"There hasn't been anything like this since Andrew Jackson," Mr. Trump quoted his admirers saying. "Andrew Jackson? What year was Andrew Jackson? That was a long time ago."

Mr. Trump then gave the year — 1828 — and went on to suggest that his own nationalist movement had usurped Mr. Jackson's.

He said that even "the haters" who disliked him called his movement "unprecedented." [The New York Times]

Trump then thanked African-American voters for their low turnout on Election Day, which he credited as being "because they liked me, or they liked me enough that they just said, 'No reason.'" Jeva Lange

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