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March 24, 2014

In an alternate universe where pure chaos reigns, the NCAA tournament is down to only the lowest possible seeds, and the University of Albany is on its way to the national title. Ah, the madness. But the real tournament this year has also been roiled by its share of stunning upsets. Duke went home after one game, formerly-undefeated Wichita State got bounced in the second round, and the scrappy Dayton Flyers booted two powerhouse programs en route to the Sweet 16.

So how does this upset-heavy year stack up against years past? The following chart compares the sum of all Sweet 16 seeds in a given year since the tournament field ballooned to 64 teams in 1985. Higher numbers mean more chaos, while lower numbers — approaching the lowest possible sum of 40 — mean a fat payday for that jerk in your bracket pool who went all chalk.

By that metric, this has been the eighth-maddest tournament in the past three decades, with the remaining seeds adding up to a robust 79. 1986 was the wildest year ever (Sweet 16 seed sum: 89) with a No. 11, 12, and 14 seed crashing the party, and only seven of the expected seeds (Nos. 1-4) advancing past the Round of 32. On the other side of the spectrum, 2009 was the least-exciting year, with every single No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 seed making the Sweet 16 — the only time that's ever happened. Jon Terbush

11:13 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has had a tough go of it in eight months as America's top diplomat, Jason Zengerle wrote for The New York Times Magazine. As the boss at Exxon Mobil, Tillerson was the "ultimate decision-maker," as he told reporters in July — a post quite different from the one he occupies now, serving President Trump as his foreign policy leader.

Or, as Tillerson puts it, "accommodating" the president, whose whims change often — and often on Twitter. "I take what the president tweets out as his form of communicating, and I build it into my strategy and my tactics," Tillerson told Zengerle. "I wake up the next morning, and the president's got a tweet out there. ... Okay, that's a new condition. How do I want to use that?" Tillerson added: "Our strategies and the tactics we're using to advance the policies have to be resilient enough to accommodate unknowns, okay? So if you want to put [Trump's tweets] in an unknown category, you can. ... But it doesn't mean our strategies are not resilient enough to accommodate it."

The tense relationship between Tillerson and Trump has undercut the secretary of state in external affairs — such as his efforts to mitigate this summer's Gulf states crisis — and in internal proceedings, like how one of Tillerson's preferred candidates for deputy secretary of state was axed by Trump for his opposition to the president during the campaign. The frustration also occasionally leaks out in meetings, Zengerle reports:

According to a former administration official, in private conversations with aides and friends, Tillerson refers to Trump, in his Texas deadpan, as the dealmaker in chief. And in meetings with Trump, according to people who have attended them, he increasingly rolls his eyes at the president's remarks. [The New York Times Magazine]

Read the full report on Tillerson's struggles at State at The New York Times Magazine. Kimberly Alters

10:57 a.m. ET

A Massachusetts pet supply owner claims he was "duped" by the White House into appearing in the background of a photo of President Trump signing an executive order on health care. "I want to say strongly and clearly: I do not support this executive order," wrote Dave's Soda & Pet City owner Dave Ratner. "I had absolutely no clue he was adding all the onerous changes. I was duped, I am an idiot. I did not vote for Trump and I am not a Trump supporter."

Ratner said he was invited to the White House because of his involvement with the National Retail Federation, but that White House officials had not fully revealed what Trump would be signing:

We have long supported an effort that would give small businesses more flexibility in purchasing health insurance and we were told that a ceremony would announce that Associations could now provide members with group insurance rates (making health insurance more affordable for our employees).

It was obviously an error in judgment to believe the White House that this was the only change they would be announcing. Many of the other changes in the Executive Order are likely to make it harder for local residents to get affordable healthcare — the exact opposite of what I was hoping for when I went to Washington. [Dave Ratner, via MassLive]

Read the full letter at MassLive and check out the photo — with Ratner second from the left — below. Jeva Lange

Embed from Getty Images

10:56 a.m. ET
Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Portugal began three days of national mourning Tuesday for the victims of the wildfires that have spread across the Iberian Peninsula. At least 37 have died in Portugal, as well as four across the border in Spain.

Monday night rain and cooler temperatures helped to bring fires under control, but officials are blaming more than just the weather for igniting the blazes. Iberian officials said investigators are looking into suspected arson to explain the strength of the fires.

"We are ready to extinguish fires, but we are not ready for arsonists," said Spanish Environment and Agriculture Minister Isabel Garcia Tejerina.

Frustration is mounting as the last of the wildfires are extinguished, as many question why the Portuguese government was unprepared for such an event. Portugal has had a rough year; another set of wildfires killed more than 60 people just months ago.

CBS reported that Portugal reduces its firefighting force by half in October, when peak wildfire season comes to an end. Now government officials are hearing sharp criticism from opposition parties, who say the country should have been prepared for the late-season heat wave and high winds that spread fires over the nation's landmass.

Spain's Alberto Nunez Feijoo, the regional president of Galicia, echoed the sentiment, referring to the fires as "terrorist acts" in a tweet Monday. "A day like yesterday is not the result of chance," he wrote. Summer Meza

10:29 a.m. ET
DMITRY KOSTYUKOV/AFP/Getty Images

The FBI had already uncovered evidence of bribery and kickbacks in the United States that benefited the Russian nuclear industry prior to a controversial 2010 uranium deal between the Obama administration and Moscow, The Hill reported Tuesday, citing FBI and court documents.

The 2010 Uranium One deal involved the Hillary Clinton-headed State Department and Committee on Foreign Investment's approval of the partial sale of a Toronto-based uranium mining company to Russia's atomic energy corporation, Rosatom. It is unclear if the FBI or Justice Department told members of the committee about their findings before the members unanimously approved the partial sale.

Lawmakers, at least, were kept in the dark. Former House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said: "Not providing information on a corruption scheme before the Russian uranium deal was approved by U.S. regulators and engage appropriate congressional committees has served to undermine U.S. national security interests by the very people charged with protecting them." Rogers added, "The Russian efforts to manipulate our American political enterprise is breathtaking."

Documents indicate that the FBI was already aware that the head of Rosatom's U.S. arm, Vadim Mikerin, was involved in extortion. Additionally, Russian nuclear officials reportedly "routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton's charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow," The Hill writes based on "eyewitness" accounts and documents.

The implications are long-lasting. As The Hill adds:

The connections to the current Russia case are many. The Mikerin probe began in 2009 when Robert Mueller, now the special counsel in charge of the Trump case, was still FBI director. And it ended in late 2015 under the direction of then-FBI Director James Comey, who Trump fired earlier this year. [The Hill]

Read the full report at The Hill. Jeva Lange

10:25 a.m. ET
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

When President Trump issued the third version of his travel ban in late September, the Supreme Court canceled oral arguments for two challenges to the policy's second iteration. But this week the ban is back in court as a federal judge in Maryland has held hearings to determine whether the new ban codifies religious discrimination against Muslims, as well as whether it exceeds Trump's executive authority to regulate immigration.

At the hearing Monday, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang pressed the Justice Department attorney defending the ban about the contents of the classified report that informs the new rule. "How is this different than Korematsu?" Chuang asked, referring to inaccurate information presented by the federal government to the Supreme Court in 1944's Korematsu v. United States, in which SCOTUS approved the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Chuang has yet to issue a ruling. The new ban is scheduled to take effect Wednesday, Oct. 18, which gives him a tight deadline to decide whether to suspend Trump's order. Bonnie Kristian

9:58 a.m. ET
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Congressional Democrats are not supporting efforts to fund President Trump's much-promised wall along the southern border, a White House representative said Tuesday, purely out of petty, political malice.

"Many Democrats, don't forget, many Democrats in 2006 voted for the Secure Fence Act," Marc Short, Trump's director of legislative affairs, argued on Fox News. "But now they don't want to fund it for political reasons," he continued. "They don't want the president to have a win." Short said that because the wall is key to national security, funding "will happen at the end of the year."

Trump's border wall is supposed to be see-through, up to 55 feet high, and possessed of a "big, beautiful door." Its price tag — depending on what features are included and, at this stage, whose estimate you use — would be in the tens of billions of dollars. The 2006 bill Short mentioned is part of the reason much of the border is already fenced. The places without a barrier tend to have mountainous terrain and extreme heat that together make both wall construction and illicit border crossings very difficult. Bonnie Kristian

9:21 a.m. ET

For a competitive sum, you may own an authentic, sweaty, game-worn LeBron James jersey — as well as the internal warmth that comes with a good deed done.

The NBA season tips off Tuesday, and the NBA announced that along with broadcasting partner Turner Sports it will be auctioning off the jerseys worn by players in opening night games to go toward relief efforts from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The funds will be routed through the One America Appeal, a philanthropic effort spearheaded by the five living former U.S. presidents. Tuesday's two inaugural match-ups are between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics, and the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors, which means threads worn by the likes of James, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, James Harden, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant may be up for grabs.

The auction begins Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET, and will run through Thursday, Oct. 26, at 9 p.m. ET. In addition to jerseys, autographed memorabilia and game-worn sneakers will also be available. The NBA will also run a promotional social media campaign Tuesday to raise awareness and engagement for hurricane relief efforts.

The first game of the season, between the Celtics and the Cavaliers, tips off Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET in Ohio. Read the league's full announcement below. Kimberly Alters

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