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March 17, 2014

Over at The New York Times, Timothy Egan notices a strange similarity between Paul Ryan's rhetoric on poverty, and that of the English authorities during the 19th century potato famine in Ireland:

A great debate raged in London: Would it be wrong to feed the starving Irish with free food, thereby setting up a "culture of dependency"? Certainly England's man in charge of easing the famine, Sir Charles Trevelyan, thought so. "Dependence on charity," he declared, "is not to be made an agreeable mode of life."

And there I ran into Paul Ryan. His great-great-grandfather had fled to America. But the Republican congressman was very much in evidence, wagging his finger at the famished. His oft-stated "culture of dependency" is a safety net that becomes a lazy-day hammock. But it was also England's excuse for lethal negligence.

There is no comparison, of course, between the de facto genocide that resulted from British policy, and conservative criticism of modern American poverty programs.

But you can't help noticing the deep historic irony that finds a Tea Party favorite and descendant of famine Irish using the same language that English Tories used to justify indifference to an epic tragedy. [The New York Times]

I don't think anyone really thinks dependence on charity or a culture of dependency ought to be a long-term condition. Self-reliance is an indisputable virtue. But for the truly helpless, there can be no pathway back to self-reliance if one starves to death. Famine is not honorable or virtuous. Nor is it civilized to live in a country where the poor starve to death.

Paul Ryan would do better to set out an agenda of job creation than lecture the poor on the virtues of self-improvement. There are lots and lots of people who want jobs, who want to work and want the dignity of self-reliance — so many that there are 2.9 job seekers for every job opening. People can't lift themselves out of poverty and off welfare if the economy isn't creating an abundance of jobs. Job creation comes first. John Aziz

6:41 p.m. ET
Getty Images/Alex Wong

Following the unexpected death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday, Republicans and Democrats immediately began fighting over who should select his replacement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement that "this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president," while Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said President Obama "can and should send the Senate a nominee right away."

Were Obama to nominate Scalia's replacement, it would dramatically refashion the ideological make-up of the court, with the reliably conservative Scalia almost certainly being replaced by a liberal like Obama's other two nominees, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Ben Frumin

6:12 p.m. ET
Getty Images/Kayana Szymczak

In the wake of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's unexpected death on Saturday, several prominent conservatives argued on Twitter that the next president — and not President Obama — should select Scalia's replacement. Were a Democratic president to nominate Scalia's replacement, it would dramatically refashion the ideological make-up of the court, with the reliably conservative Scalia almost certainly being replaced by a liberal like Obama's other two appointments, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

Here's GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz:

And influential National Review writer Charles C.W. Cooke:

Expect to see a lot more of this. Ben Frumin

6:12 p.m. ET

After word spread of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's unexpected death Saturday, presidential candidates mourned the longest-serving justice in statements and on Twitter.

Scalia reportedly died of natural causes Saturday at a luxury ranch in West Texas. He was 79. News of his death comes just hours before the remaining six Republican presidential candidates meet in South Carolina for their ninth debate. Lauren Hansen

5:49 p.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Image

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the death of Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday, mourning his colleague as "an extraordinary jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues." Roberts called Scalia's passing "a great loss to the court," which may see its ideological make-up dramatically refashioned as the Democratic president seeks to replace the late conservative justice.

Here's Roberts' full statement. Ben Frumin

5:48 p.m. ET
Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead Saturday at a luxury resort in West Texas, according to federal officials.

Several state and federal agencies are conducting an investigation, but officials say it appears the 79-year-old died of natural causes. Scalia had arrived at the Cibolo Creek Ranch on Friday for a private party. When he didn't show up for breakfast, an employee of the ranch went to his room and reportedly found his body.

Scalia, the longest-serving justice on the Supreme Court, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and established a strong conservative voting record over his tenure. His death has the potential to dramatically reshape the ideological make-up of the court.

In a statement, Chief Justice John Roberts said he was saddened to hear of his colleague's death. "He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues. His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott echoed those sentiments in his statement, calling Scalia, "a man of God, a patriot, and an unwavering defender of the written Constitution and the Rule of Law." Lauren Hansen

2:16 p.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The State Department marked 81 of more than 500 Hillary Clinton emails released Saturday as confidential, The Hill reports. Another three were upgraded to "secret" status, and none were marked "top secret," the highest designation.

None of the emails released Saturday had been marked confidential when they were originally sent.

The State Department still has more than 3,000 emails to release from Clinton's private server, which she used as secretary of state. Julie Kliegman

1:24 p.m. ET

In case the Rubik's Cube isn't already challenging enough to solve, one puzzle maker just made it physically demanding, too. Tony Fisher constructed a monstrous cube, spanning just over 5 feet in either direction and weighing in at about 224 pounds.

Fisher believes his creation could be the biggest functional Rubik's Cube in the world, and he hopes to get it recognized as such by Guinness World Records.

On his YouTube page, he notes that the cube broke shortly after he shot the surreal video below, but he's working on getting it fixed. Julie Kliegman

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