March 11, 2014
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Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington is a wealthy man, one who could conceivably pay a $200 fine in more than mere pocket change. But after being ejected from a spring training game in 2011 — and then incurring a fine for not leaving the bench — Washington reportedly paid his debt with a big box loaded with 20,000 pennies.

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Washington responded by filling a box with $200 in pennies and mailing it to Bob Watson, MLB vice president in charge of discipline. Cost to mail it to New York: About $45.

Watson called after receiving the box.

Watson: "And you just had $200 in pennies hanging around? Washington: "Yes. Bob, I didn't have my checkbook. I wasn't trying to be funny. Now go to the bank and put that in the [change] machine and get your $200." [Star-Telegram]

As Randy Moss once sagely observed, rich people don't write checks: they pay with straight cash, homey. Jon Terbush

4:16 p.m. ET
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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is adamant that war with North Korea is becoming more likely every day. "If nothing changes, [President] Trump's gonna have to use the military option, because time is running out," Graham told The Atlantic on Thursday. He additionally said he thinks there is a 30 percent chance that the U.S. launches a preemptive strike on North Korea — and that the odds would spike to 70 percent if North Korea conducts another missile test.

To his credit, Graham — who has become a frequent golfing partner of the president's — is sober about the consequences of war on the Korean peninsula. Graham told The Atlantic that conflict with North Korea would be an "all-out war" that would necessitate regime change and the removal of nuclear weapons. "There is no surgical strike option," he said. "I am literally willing to put hundreds of thousands of people at risk, knowing that millions and millions of people will be at risk if we don't [stop North Korea]."

Still, Graham believes that there is hope for a peaceful solution to the nuclear crisis, if China removes Kim Jong Un from power or cuts off North Korea's economy and access to oil. The senator also supported negotiating with North Korea "without a whole lot of preconditions," which was suggested by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, though the White House shot down the idea Wednesday.

"I'm not taking anything off the table to avoid a war," Graham said. "When they write the history of the times, I don't want them to say, 'Hey, Lindsey Graham wouldn't even talk to that guy.'" Read more on Graham's North Korea concerns at The Atlantic. Kelly O'Meara Morales

3:28 p.m. ET

Buying chips from a vending machine is so 2017. In 2018, buying a car with the push of a button is where it's at.

Alibaba, a massive online retailer often referred to as the "Amazon of China," unveiled a video concept of its "Auto Vending Machine" on Wednesday. It's an attempt to simplify car buying, letting users browse, test drive and buy a car in a matter of minutes.

Oh, and it's also shaped like a cat.

The car-buying process starts with Alibaba's Taobao app. When customers spot a car they like on the street, they scan it on the app, customize the vehicle's color, and pick it up at their nearest vending machine for a test drive, per TechCrunch. After test driving for three days, shoppers can either buy the car or test something else.

This video breaks down the process:

Alibaba will open its first two test-drive centers in China next month, and aims to install more across the country in 2018. Who knows what wallet-altering decisions you’ll be able to make on a whim next? Kathryn Krawczyk

2:50 p.m. ET

A group of 3,000 golden retrievers from across the U.S. are taking "good dog" to a whole new level. Their checkups could help scientists beat canine cancer.

These golden retrievers are enrolled in the Morris Animal Foundation's Golden Retriever Lifetime study, the U.S.'s largest veterinary study ever. It researches what increases the risk of dogs developing cancer and other health problems, and ultimately aims to help dogs live longer, healthier lives.

More than half of golden retrievers end up with cancer, the foundation reports, so that's why they're the specified subjects in this study.

These good dogs need a little human help to make a difference, though. Dog owners keep track of what their pups eat, when they sleep, if they spend time on a lawn with pesticides, and more. They also have to take their dogs for annual checkups, collecting and shipping off hair and body fluid specimen to be studied.

No big health discoveries have come out of the study since it started in 2012, The Washington Post notes. But the research has uncovered that about a quarter of the retrievers frequently eat grass, 39 percent swim weekly — and 100 percent of them are adorable. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:16 p.m. ET
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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) may not be long for Washington. HuffPost and Politico both reported that many Capitol Hill insiders believe Ryan intends to retire at the end of his term, ideally after he passes some of his personal legislative priorities — like, say, a tax overhaul bill and entitlement reform.

While Ryan told Politico's Jake Sherman on Thursday that he doesn't have any plans to leave Congress, he did admit that "passage of tax reform would be a high note" to leave on. Meanwhile, HuffPost reported that the House's conservative wing is worried that Ryan would make compromises with congressional Democrats that they would find intolerable in order to secure his legislative "white whale."

Additionally, conservative members of the House have already considered filing a motion to vacate the speakership, Politico reports, which could happen "as soon as next month." Should that fate befall Ryan, it would be similar to the plight of his predecessor, former Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), who retired from Congress rather than have his speakership usurped in a coup d'etat by conservative members of the House.

Ryan has long claimed that the speakership was "not a job I ever wanted in the first place." Still, not everyone is happy about rumors of Ryan putting down his gavel. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) told Politico: "I just think that any talk of him leaving, I hope that's not true. It would be a major setback for our cause."

Read the full stories at Politico and HuffPost. Kelly O'Meara Morales

1:45 p.m. ET

American fighter jets on Thursday intercepted Russian planes in disputed Syrian airspace, MSNBC reported, the latest escalation of tensions between American and Russian forces in the region. MSNBC's Hans Nichols reported that the U.S. planes fired warning flares at two Russian fighter jets as they approached airspace the U.S Air Force claims to control.

American and Russian warplanes have had several tense encounters in Syria this year. Nichols speculated that this latest action shows that the U.S. "is no longer willing to abide" the Russian incursions into its claimed airspace, which have been "testing American resolve." Russian officials claim they are simply trying to launch airstrikes on the Islamic State.

While Nichols claims the incident occurred Thursday, Fox News reported the encounter happened Wednesday. Additionally, the details of Nichols' report are very similar to an incident reported by RT on Dec. 9 in which Russian officials claimed that the U.S. intercepted and shot warning flares at Russian fighter jets who were trying to bomb an ISIS base.

In June, Russia warned the U.S. that it would treat American aircraft as "targets" after American jets shot down a Syrian warplane. Last week, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial withdrawal of Russian troops in Syria, but the U.S. — which has about 2,000 troops of its own in the country — has remained skeptical that the Russian troop withdrawal will be significant. Kelly O'Meara Morales

11:00 a.m. ET
Facebook/Congressman Blake Farenthold

Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold (Texas) will retire in 2019 at the end of his congressional term, local ABC affiliate Newscenter 25 reported Thursday. NBC News confirmed the report, citing two unnamed GOP officials familiar with Farenthold's thinking.

Farenthold has recently come under fire for using vulgar insults to address staffers with whom he was angry, and a New York Times investigation depicted the lawmaker's office as a "hostile work environment, rife with sexual innuendo." Farenthold's improper conduct was first revealed by Politico's report earlier this month that Farenthold had used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Farenthold has denied the allegations. He had initially planned to run for re-election next year, but instead will reportedly retire in January 2019, when his current term ends. Kimberly Alters

10:45 a.m. ET
Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images

President Trump is so consistently irritated by Russia talk that officials avoid discussing the country during the president's daily intelligence briefings, The Washington Post reported Thursday — despite the fact that all U.S. intelligence agencies agree that the Kremlin launched a concerted disruption operation during the 2016 election.

"If you talk about Russia, meddling, interference — that takes the [briefing] off the rails," a former intelligence official told the Post. In the event that officials do have to deliver Trump potentially upsetting information about Russia, they carefully structure their briefings in order to "soften the impact" of the information, the Post reported.

The issue, the Post explained, is that Trump feels that he cannot accept that Russia meddled in the 2016 election without invalidating his electoral victory:

Holding impromptu interventions in Trump's 26th-floor corner office at Trump Tower, advisers [...] sought to convince Trump that he could affirm the validity of the intelligence without diminishing his electoral win, according to three officials involved in the sessions. More important, they said that doing so was the only way to put the matter behind him politically and free him to pursue his goal of closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

[...] But as aides persisted, Trump became agitated. He railed that the intelligence couldn't be trusted and scoffed at the suggestion that his candidacy had been propelled by forces other than his own strategy, message, and charisma. [The Washington Post]

Trump's reluctance to hear damning information about Russia has forced officials to get creative when they try to make him take a stand against Putin. In one case, the Post reports, officials tried to convince Trump not to return Russian compounds seized by former President Barack Obama by presenting the issue through the familiar lens of real estate and briefly getting him to consider selling the properties for profit.

Read more about Trump's Russia reticence at The Washington Post. Kelly O'Meara Morales

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