January 29, 2016

Russia and the U.S. continue to eye each other warily in the Middle East, where a Russian fighter plane's near collision with an American reconnaissance plane is the latest incident to stir up trouble. According to the Pentagon, a Russian plane flying in an "unsafe" manner came within 15 feet of hitting an American aircraft over the Black Sea last week.

From The Hill:

"On January 25, 2016, a U.S. RC-135U flying a routine route in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 in an unsafe and unprofessional manner," said Army Lt. Col. Michelle L. Baldanza, a Defense spokeswoman.

"Aircraft intercepts are not unusual, but are normally routine events. In this case the intercept was not routine, and the Russian pilot acted in an unprofessional manner that put both the American flight crew and himself at risk," she added. "We have addressed our concerns on this matter appropriately." [...] The official did not know if the Russian aircraft was armed at the time and said the incident occurred more than 40 miles from the Russian coast. [The Hill]

There were two similar incidents in 2014, one when a Russian Su-27 came within 100 feet of the U.S. Air Force RC-135U, and another when a Russian aircraft turned to "show its belly" to U.S. crew to show it was armed with missiles. Jeva Lange

3:36 p.m. ET
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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn't just slam the two provisions in the Texas abortion clinic law that the court ruled against Monday — she went ahead and took down the very premise of the law, too. In a separate concurrence to Justice Stephen Breyer's majority decision that Texas' provisions placed an "undue burden" on a woman's constitutional right to an abortion, Ginsburg suggested that the law's very claim that it was created in the interest of protecting women's health was a whole lotta baloney.

"The Texas law called H.B.2 inevitably will reduce the number of clinics and doctors allowed to provide abortion services. Texas argues that H.B.2's restrictions are constitutional because they protect the health of women who experience complications from abortions. In truth, 'complications from an abortion are both rare and rarely dangerous,'" Ginsburg wrote, citing a brief by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Furthermore, Ginsburg pointed out that medical procedures, "including childbirth, are far more dangerous to patients, yet are not subject to ambulatory surgical-center or hospital admitting-privileges requirements." The provisions the Supreme Court struck down required that abortion facilities meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

With that evidence in mind, Ginsburg concluded: "... [I]t is beyond rational belief that H.B.2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions." Becca Stanek

2:54 p.m. ET
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Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) first day on the campaign trail with Hillary Clinton fueled some feisty attacks. Donald Trump, for one, was quick to fire back at Warren's digs towards him with some accusations of his own. "She said she's 5 percent Native American. She was unable to prove it. She used the fact that she was Native American to advance her career," Trump said. "Elizabeth Warren is a total fraud. I know it." Trump also noted that Warren is "a racist," explaining "she made up her heritage, which I think is racist."

Trump wasn't the only Republican to latch onto Warren's Native American heritage. Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), who lost his Senate seat to Warren in 2012, was similarly skeptical, and said Warren ought to take a DNA test and release her records from Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, where she taught.

However, Brown seemed to have already made up his mind about what such tests would reveal. "Secretary Clinton is considering making someone the vice president who has very serious character flaws when it comes to honesty and credibility in dealing with her heritage," Brown said. "And what did that do? That took away somebody who truly was a Native American and gave that opportunity to somebody who's not, and that's just not right. It's a reverse form of racism, quite frankly."

Only four months to go, folks. Becca Stanek

2:24 p.m. ET
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Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) may have ended his presidential run months ago, but he's still paying off the costs of the campaign — thanks, in part, to his music choice for one of his rallies. CNN reported Monday that the failed presidential candidate was slapped with a $25,000 payment by the band Survivor for playing its "Eye of the Tiger" without permission at a rally Huckabee held last year for Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Huckabee initially tried to defend his use of the song by saying the event was religious in nature, CNN reports:

In court, Huckabee argued that the anti-gay rights rally was a "religious assembly ... signifying joy and praise at the release of Mrs. Davis" from jail. A religious event would classify the act of playing the song as "noncommercial" and allow him to cite "fair use" — letting him play part of the song without paying for it. [CNN]

However, Huckabee ended up agreeing to a confidential settlement out of court with the company Rude Music, which is owned by one of the song's cowriters.

The former governor's federal election records filed June 20 indicate that he paid half of the $25,000 in May, listed as an "itemized disbursement." The remaining half was listed as "debts and obligations."

Huckabee has yet to say whether the "thrill of the fight" was worth that chunk of change. Becca Stanek

11:58 a.m. ET
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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) ruthlessly attacked Donald Trump in her first joint appearance with Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail Monday in Ohio. "Great for who?" Warren asked of the presumptive GOP nominee's slogan, "Make America Great Again," before joking that she could attack Trump "all day."

Warren was as flattering to Clinton as she was damaging to Trump. "She's been on the receiving end of one right-wing attack after another for 25 years," Warren said of the presumptive Democratic nominee. "But she has never backed down. She doesn't whine. She doesn't run to Twitter to call her opponents fat pigs or dummies. No, she just remembers who really needs someone on their side. And she gets up and keeps right on fighting for the people who need her most."

Clinton was equally pleased with Warren, praising her for "how she gets under Donald Trump's thin skin."

Their joint appearance came amid rumors that Warren is being considered as Clinton's running mate. Becca Stanek

11:56 a.m. ET
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British Prime Minister David Cameron announced Monday that it would be up to the country's next prime minister to negotiate Britain's post-Brexit relationship with the European Union. In the first meeting of Parliament since Britain voted Thursday to exit the EU and Cameron announced his resignation, Cameron said the British government would first assess plans for its future relationship with the EU before beginning the exit process.

He advised that Britain "not turn our back on Europe or the rest of the world," and that the country "hold fast to a vision that wants to be respected abroad, tolerant at home, engaged in the world, and working with our international partners to advance security and prosperity of the nation for generations to come."

Despite his opposition to the referendum, Cameron said the vote must be upheld and implemented "in the best way possible." Becca Stanek

10:36 a.m. ET
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In a win for pro-choice advocates, the Supreme Court on Monday struck down two parts of a Texas law restricting abortion clinics. The provisions in question were a requirement that abortion facilities meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and a second mandate that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The justices ruled 5-3 that the Texas law violates the Constitution by placing an "undue burden" on women's right to abortion.

Women's groups said that the restrictions would have caused "more than three-quarters of the state's clinics to shut down," NBC News reports. The number of clinics in the state has already dropped from 42 to 19 since the law was passed in 2013, and would have likely dropped to just 10 if law had been upheld.

The state of Texas argued that the law was enacted to "ensure patient safety and raise standards of care." Becca Stanek

9:48 a.m. ET

In a heated segment on CNN on Sunday, former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) slammed both President Obama and Hillary Clinton for constantly "calling names." "With President Obama and Hillary Clinton, every time you disagree with them, it doesn't matter which subject it is, you're a bigot or you're a racist," Brewer said, responding to Obama's remarks Friday that we "don't have time for charlatans," "bigotry," and "flim-flam."

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) was quick to point out that, actually, Obama wasn't saying that about all Republicans. "But he does say rightly that Donald Trump is a bigot, Donald Trump is a racist, Donald Trump is, in fact, making fascist appeals," the one-time Democratic presidential candidate said. "That's why many self-respecting Republicans are not supporting Donald Trump."

Brewer responded by saying she wasn't all that concerned when Trump said things she "wasn't comfortable with" because Trump, unlike Obama, is "new to the political arena." "But dang it," Brewer said, "I get fed up that we hear over and over and over and over again from the president of the United States that every time somebody wants to support the Constitution and the rule of law that we are out there because we are racist and bigots."

Watch the debate play out, below. Becca Stanek

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