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March 1, 2014

With the Russian Parliament approving Vladimir Putin's request to deploy troops in Ukraine, foreign policy wonk Ian Bremmer has weighed in with a graphic illustrating Russia's perspective on the Ukraine, and just why Russia is willing to entangle itself in the country, in spite of the warnings of President Obama and other Western leaders not to do so:

The territory that makes up the Ukraine today has been part of various Russian empires for much of the past 400 years. Some regions — including the troubled Crimea — have Russian majorities even today due to mass migration that occurred during the Soviet years. And Kiev — the Ukrainian capital today — was the first capital of Russia itself.

The breakup of the Soviet Union has been a long and messy process, and is in some ways still ongoing today in the Ukraine. If the Russian-majority regions including Crimea wish to leave and rejoin Russia, it would seem to be rather impossible and futile to prevent that process.

On the other hand, if Russia tries to annex the whole of the Ukraine, then that is much more likely to draw Western retaliation, a rather edgy and tense prospect given the massive numbers of Russian and Western nuclear weapons. 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

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

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

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
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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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