January 5, 2016

On Monday, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement criticizing the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, by more than a dozen armed militants:

While the disagreement occurring in Oregon about the use of federal lands is not a Church matter, Church leaders strongly condemn the armed seizure of the facility and are deeply troubled by the reports that those who have seized the facility suggest that they are doing so based on scriptural principles. This armed occupation can in no way be justified on a scriptural basis. [LDS]

The apparent leader of the Malheur occupation, Ammon Bundy, said in a video posted Friday that God had told him to take a stand for now-jailed ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond and against the federal government's public lands policies. After praying, "I began to understand how the Lord felt about Harney County and about this country, and I clearly understood that the Lord was not pleased with what was happening to the Hammonds," Bundy said. The Bundy clan — including father Cliven Bundy — is Mormon, and has a long history of land conflicts with the federal government, dating back to at least great-great-grandfather Abraham Bundy, according to OPB.

And Mormonism also has a long, sometimes bloody history of standoffs with the government, mostly resolved since the mid-20th century but still alive in the rural West, among families like the Bundys. "The Oregon standoff isn't a 'Mormon movement,' but it does ultimately represent the mixing of Mormon themes, common Western land use issues, and the rhetoric of far-right patriot groups," explains BuzzFeed's Jim Dalrymple. You can read more about Mormonism and the Oregon standoff at BuzzFeed, OBP, and The Oregonian, but a few points seem worth highlighting.

First, the Mormon Church considers the U.S. Constitution divinely inspired — a point Cliven Bundy has used to equate the Constitution with scripture — so when the Bundy militia talks about defending their understanding of the Constitution, they are very consciously mixing church and state. Second, Captain Moroni is a figure from the Book of Mormon famous for standing up for liberty against a corrupt king in about 100 B.C., and he has also become an icon for some anti-government extremists in the modern West. Which explains why this guy is in Oregon:

Mormon scripture, BuzzFeed's Dalrymple notes, explicitly pledges fealty to "being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law." Peter Weber

4:51 p.m. ET

With all of the controversy that surrounded delegates and superdelegates during the primary race, you would think that actually being a delegate is a pretty serious job. Ryan Kounovsky, a 25-year-old from Eugene, Oregon, strapped on a GoPro camera for The Wall Street Journal and proved otherwise.

From up on Kounovsky's head, we see delegates indulging in breakfast sausages before boarding a bus to the convention center — which, with all of the screaming, sign-waving, and button-wearing, looks more like a Justin Bieber concert than a political gathering. Kounovsky is a delegate for Hillary Clinton, and was one of the few Oregon delegates who remained after Tuesday's roll call vote, when Clinton was officially declared the Democratic Party's nominee.

The Oregonian reported that supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton's rival in the primary race, tied black gags over their mouths before leaving the convention to stage a silent sit-in at the nearby media tent; in the video, we can hear Kounovsky lament that the "Oregon delegation left, that sucks." Check out the rest of the video from The Wall Street Journal, which includes Kounovsky getting "lei'd" and taking a shot over a donkey ice sculpture at a "delegates after dark" party, below. —Caroline Cakebread

4:16 p.m. ET
Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images

Some have worried that Donald Trump is in cahoots with Vladimir Putin, although sources close to the Kremlin allege Russia could be after something even bigger — like using Trump to destabilize the United States:

Konstantin Sivkov, who had served as a strategist for the Russian General Staff between 1995 and 2007, was keen to tell me all about the theory, which the chief of the General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, had set out in 2013 as a strategic vision for wars of the future. "Hybrid warfare," Sivkov began, "relies on the use of the enemy's own internal resources against him." Against an adversary with "a wobbly political base" and a "fractured moral core," Russia could use disinformation, cyber attacks, and other means of covert political influence to make the enemy "devour itself from within," Sivkov said. [Time]

Up until recently, Russia had pretty much considered the United States impenetrable to such hybrid warfare attacks. The strategy had worked better for them in places like Ukraine and, to a lesser degree, Estonia. But all that was before Donald Trump came along:

For the first time, the nominee of a major party has questioned the U.S. commitment to defend NATO allies from a Russian attack. He has promoted the use of torture and called for a ban on Muslims coming into the country. Most recently, during a press conference on July 27, he suggested that he would even "look into" recognizing Russia's annexation of Crimea and lifting the sanctions subsequently imposed on Russia.

Taken together, these shifts appear to have created the nascent conditions — the wobbly political base, the fractured moral core — that would make the U.S. a fitting target for Russia's new approach to conflict. [Time]

But why go through all the trouble and risk to commit hybrid warfare? Why doesn't Putin just help Trump out, if Trump's proposals are so Russia-friendly?

Well apparently, even Moscow doesn't trust Trump to keep his promises. Read more about the possible Russian threat of "hybrid warfare" and what that could mean for this election, at Time. Jeva Lange

3:47 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

After the third straight night of the Democratic convention squashing the TV ratings of last week's Republican convention, former reality TV star Donald Trump is starting to sweat. Trump declared last week that no one would watch the Democrats' shindig, but seeing as that statement looks a little foolish now, his campaign has launched a wave of emails asking supporters not to tune into Clinton's nomination acceptance speech Thursday night, CNN Money reports.

"Unless you want to be lied to, belittled, and attacked for your beliefs, don't watch Hillary's DNC speech tonight. Instead, help Donald Trump hold her accountable, call out her lies, and fight back against her nasty attacks," the email said. While the message was packaged as a fundraising email, its content certainly makes a reader wonder what Trump's priorities here really are.

Nielsen, which records the number of traditional TV viewers for a given broadcast, reports that 26 million viewers watched the first day of the Democratic convention Monday, versus 23 million for night one of the Republican convention last week. On Tuesday, 24 million tuned in again to watch the Democrats, versus 19 million for the Republicans' second day. The third night of festivities pulled in 24 million viewers for the Democrats, edging out the GOP's third night, which pulled 23.4 million. Jeva Lange

2:58 p.m. ET

Back in 2010, President Obama said to a crowd in Cleveland, Ohio: "That is not the America I know." And while Obama may have said it first, Donald Trump Jr. is convinced he's the one that actually came up with the line after it appeared in both men's speeches at their respective party conventions this month. On Thursday, the day after Obama delivered his speech to the Democratic National Convention, Donald Jr. leveled an accusation of plagiarism against Obama for using the phrase, which he'd used last week in his address to the Republican National Convention.

In fact, Donald Jr. suggested everyone should be just as angry about this incidence of plagiarism as they were last week about Melania Trump's lifting of several lines, nearly verbatim, from Michelle Obama's 2008 convention speech:

But in the instance of the president's shared phrase with Donald Jr., not only was the context radically different, but also it was Obama who'd uttered that phrase first. Aside from that 2010 mention in Cleveland, NBC News reported Obama used the line in Michigan in 2012 and, most recently, at the memorial service for Dallas police officers earlier this month.

And before Obama even said those fateful words, President George W. Bush did. Way back in 2001, in the days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Bush used the phrase while discussing prejudice against Muslims. "That's not the America I know," Bush lamented — nearly 15 years before Donald Jr., apparently, came up with his signature saying.

Update 4:30 p.m.: Donald Trump Jr. now claims he was joking about being plagiarized by President Obama. Becca Stanek

2:20 p.m. ET

Finland is turning 100 this year and to celebrate the occasion, Norway has confirmed it is considering giving its southern neighbor a mountain as a birthday present. "There are a few formal difficulties and I have not yet made my final decision, but we are looking into it," Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told the national broadcaster, The Guardian reports.

Although Solberg wouldn't have to move any literal mountains, she would probably have to move a couple bureaucratic ones since it would require slightly tweaking Norway's borders:

At [4,344 feet] above sea level, the highest point in Finland currently lies on a bleak mountain spur known as Hálditšohkka, part of a far larger fell known as Halti, more than 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle.

Halti's summit, at [4,478 feet] high, is [a little over half a mile] away in Norway. But moving the border barely [131 feet] further up the mountainside would put Hálditšohkka's [4,367] summit in Finland — and make the country’s highest point [23 feet] higher. [The Guardian]

Some, though, say the proposal is "a joke" and would actually violate Article 1 of the Norwegian constitution, which asserts that the nation is a "free, independent, indivisible and inalienable realm." Norway doesn't need to hoard its mountains, though; the hilly nation's highest peak, Galdhøpiggen, is a dizzying 8,100 feet. Jeva Lange

1:35 p.m. ET
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Here is a good reason to leave your house tonight — and no, it's not Pokémon Go. Thursday night is the first major night of the Delta Aquarids meteor shower; the annual event peaks Thursday and Friday, with stargazers able to see up to 20 meteors an hour.

Although the Perseids meteor shower is the better known celestial summer event, with more than 150 meteors per hour flickering through the sky (so keep your eyes peeled August 11, 12, and 13), the Delta Aquarids is still nothing to sneeze at. The meteors are thought to come from a comet discovered in 1986, 96P Machholz, USA Today reports, and are most likely to be spotted in the late evening, or around 2 or 3 a.m. For the best chance at seeing some shooting stars, look to the south.

It doesn't much matter where you live, either, as NASA reassured stargazers that most of the world can see the Delta Aquarids. "With clear, dark skies away from city lights, you can see meteors any time after full dark, with peak viewing times in the two hours before dawn (your local time)," NASA said. Luckily, with the moon a waning crescent this evening, it will be dark enough to spot the meteors as they burn up at 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

And hey, if the outdoors isn't your thing, you can watch from your couch by clicking here. Jeva Lange

12:39 p.m. ET

The North Carolina GOP was not happy about Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine blatantly wearing a Honduras flag pin on his jacket at the Democratic National Convention, "but no American flag." "Shameful," the group's account tweeted, only to be corrected: It wasn't the flag of Honduras Kaine was wearing, but a Blue Star Service pin honoring his son, a deployed Marine.

WNYT reporter Ben Amey caught the embarrassing mistake:

The North Carolina GOP may have been confused because decades ago Kaine served as a missionary in Honduras. But compare the images side-by-side, and, well…

(Flag of Honduras)

(Blue Star Service Banner)

The North Carolina GOP deleted its tweet and thanked Amey for setting them straight. Jeva Lange

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