March 2, 2016

The White House is reportedly in the process of vetting federal appellate Judge Jane Kelly as a potential nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy created by the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a source told The New York Times. The Times reports the FBI has been conducting background interviews on Kelly, 51, who was a career public defender before becoming an appeals court judge three years ago.

Kelly won "quick and unanimous" confirmation from the Senate and, notably, was praised heartily in a 2013 Senate floor speech by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who is now leading the Republican campaign against President Obama picking a nominee. Grassley urged his Senate colleagues to confirm Kelly as a federal appellate judge, quoting from a letter that described her as a “forthright woman of high integrity and honest character” and an individual of “exceptionally keen intellect," The New York Times reports.

Both the White House and Kelly have declined to comment on the rumors. Becca Stanek

8:23 a.m. ET

Donald Trump used campaign money to buy thousands of copies of his own book, a move that experts are saying is suspicious and possibly illegal. A spokesperson for Trump explained to The Daily Beast that the books, bought from Barnes & Noble, were "as part of gifting at the convention, which we have to do." Gift bags at the Republican convention indeed held copies of Trump's November 2015 release, Crippled America.

But that is where things start to get a little fishy. First of all, it is illegal to convert campaign funds into personal funds in any way, so Trump would be required to forgo any royalties he made off the purchase of the thousands of books. "What any author that I know would most likely do is go to the publisher and say, 'I want a bunch of these in the goody bag.' [The author would] come to the publisher and say he needed books for a charity or an event, and we would donate 500 all the time. And we'll sell more to you at a 40 percent discount," Ben Bruton, a publishing PR veteran, told The Daily Beast.

The fact that the purchases were made through Barnes & Noble adds another layer of intrigue. Book sales from Amazon or the book's publisher aren't looked at when composing bestseller lists; only purchases at brick-and-mortar locations like Barnes & Noble are.

Trump's book failed to make the charts the week of the purchase. Still, The New York Times is aware of attempts to bulk-purchase books and has measures in place to count against it on their bestseller lists. "You can't just buy your way onto the bestsellers list," Bruton said, although he added, "I do believe that [Trump's purchase] was definitely an attempt to both make money and to get onto the bestseller list." Read the full scoop over at The Daily Beast. Jeva Lange

8:12 a.m. ET

The National Park Service turns 100 years old on Thursday, and one of its goals for its second century is to attract more tourists of color to the 131,000 square miles of parks, monuments, and other public landmarks it manages. This isn't just a matter of diversity for diversity's sake or "this land is your land" idealism, say Felicia Fonseca and Beatriz Costa-Lima at The Associated Press. The U.S. is expected to be majority minority by 2050, and the National Park Service sees broadening its tourist base as an existential challenge.

"If public lands aren't telling their story, and they don't see themselves reflected in these beautiful places, they may not support them," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell tells AP. "They may not recognize that these are their assets and protect them for future generations." Studies commissioned by the National Park Service suggest that about 75 percent of park visitors are white, and there are several reasons minorities don't visit in proportionate number.

For black communities, there's not a strong tradition of visiting national parks, due in part to historic exclusion, says Myron F. Floyd, a scholar at North Carolina State University. Jose Gonzales, the founder of Latino Outdoors, says many Latinos don't know the national parks exist or have no transportation to get to them. Many Asian Americans, meanwhile, face language barriers at national parks or don't like to travel outside their ethnic enclaves, according to Mark Masaoka at the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council. You can see what the National Park Service plans to do about it, and be reminded of how beautiful some of the national treasures are, in the video below. Peter Weber

8:01 a.m. ET
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Truman Capote fans will soon have the chance to bring a piece of the writer home with them — literally. On September 24, Capote's ashes will go up for auction in Los Angeles, for a starting price of $2,000. The ashes are expected to sell for upwards of $6,000.

The author of In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's died 32 years ago, but the keeper of his ashes, Joanne Carson, the wife of former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, died last year. The ashes are part of her estate. Joanne was a close friend of Capote's, and the writer often lived and worked at her and her husband's home in Los Angeles until he died there in 1984.

While it might seem kind of macabre to auction off a dead man's ashes, some suspect this would've been right up Capote's alley. "In this case it's absolutely fine because it really embodies what Truman Capote was and what he loved to do," Darren Julien, president of Julien's Auctions, told The Guardian. "Truman told Joanne that he didn't want his ashes to sit on a shelf. So this is a different way of honoring his request. It is just furthering the adventures of Truman Capote." Becca Stanek

7:32 a.m. ET

The world's biggest pearl might have been discovered nearly a decade ago, but no one knew about it until now. That's because the Filipino fisherman who found the treasure hid it under his bed for 10 years as a good luck charm and didn't tell anyone about it, The Independent reports. His relatives eventually brought it to authorities.

(Aileen Cynthia Maggay-Amurao/Facebook)

The pearl measures an incredible 12 inches by 26.4 inches in size. It weighs a mind-blowing 75 pounds; the next largest pearl in the world weighs just 14 pounds.

While the pearl is confirmed to have come from a giant clam, if verified as authentic by international gemologists, it will be worth over an estimated $100 million. Jeva Lange

7:18 a.m. ET

The Washington Post's Aaron Blake says that Donald Trump appears to be "considering his biggest flip-flop yet," pivoting on his signature issue, immigration, while Slate's Jim Newell argues that Trump's "flip-flop" — in recent remarks on Fox News, Trump says he is "softening" his immigration positions, and would mostly follow President Obama's policies, "perhaps with a lot more energy," except he will eject the "bad" immigrants "so fast your head will spin" — is nothing more than a shuffling of adjectives and adverbs with nothing underneath. But what seems clear is that Trump's pledge to deport all 11 million illegal immigrants is, at least for now, off the table.

Given that building "the wall" — still in Trump's speeches — and cracking down on illegal immigrants are so central to Trump's campaign, won't his supporters be dismayed at this Clintonian triangulation? NBC's Katy Tur asked Trump voters outside a rally if they would still support Trump if he abandoned his deportation push, didn't build the wall, or even came up with some sort of amnesty. Their answers: Yup. Watch below. Peter Weber

5:54 a.m. ET
Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

Early Wednesday, Turkish-backed Syrian rebels and Turkish tanks and minesweepers crossed into Syria in a campaign to push the Islamic State out of the border town Jarablus, one of ISIS's last strongholds on the Turkey-Syria border, Turkey's Anadolu news agency reports. The offensive, backed by U.S. warplanes and advised by U.S. special operations forces, is aimed at shutting off ISIS's supply route to its de facto capital, Raqqa. Turkey has been shelling ISIS positions around Jarablus for two days to prepare for the push, and its forces crossed into Syria hours before U.S. Vice President Joe Biden lands in Ankara to meet with Turkish leaders to smooth over tensions that arose during Turkey's recent failed coup.

This is Turkey's first major offensive against ISIS, and The Wall Street Journal suggests three reasons why the country is getting involved now: Ankara wants to demonstrate that its military is still strong after the post-coup purge of officers; retaliation for the suspected ISIS suicide bombing of a wedding on Saturday; and to prevent Kurdish fighters, who have been successfully pushing ISIS back for months now, from claiming the town for themselves, thus gaining more territory along the Turkish border. Turkey reluctantly allowed Kurdish fighters to take part in the offensive, The Journal reports, with the expectation they will leave the town after ISIS is outside.

Turkish officials were quoted by Anadolu as saying the Jarablus operation "is aimed at clearing the Turkish borders of terrorist groups, helping to enhance border security and supporting the territorial integrity of Syria." Peter Weber

5:06 a.m. ET

Former New York City mayor and gleeful Donald Trump advocate Rudy Giuliani is pushing conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton's health, recently telling the Fox News audience to google Hillary Clinton and health for themselves, Stephen Colbert noted on Tuesday's Late Show. "Giuliani says just diagnose Hillary on the internet, because if it's on the internet, you know it's true," he said. "For instance, I put my symptoms into WebMD and found out — I have started menopause."

"I'm not surprised he was able to diagnose Hillary Clinton so accurately without, you know, examining her," Colbert said. "After all, Giuliani and Donald Trump are experts on female anatomy." He wasn't going where you think — yet — but rather bringing up an old video Trump and Giuliani made together. "Obviously, that's shocking, and you're going to want to verify that video," he said. "So just go online and put down 'Donald Trump Rudy Giuliani Drag Queen Motorboat'" — and if you don't get the motorboat part, Colbert acted it out — a few times.

"But here's the thing — I just want to say this to the Trump people out there," Colbert said. "I don't know why they keep saying things like 'frail' or 'weak' or 'low energy' — you're just tiptoeing around the medical condition that you're really upset about, one that she has that no other president in history has ever faced: Hillary Clinton has chronic no-penis."

The rest of Colbert's monologue dipped into slightly uncomfortable sex-internet stuff, but he also hit at the #HillaryHealth conspiracies in his cold open, and this really is good clean family fun. Peter Weber

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