March 23, 2016

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) avoided naming any names as he bemoaned how American politics has devolved into a "battle of insults" in a Wednesday address to fellow Republicans. While Ryan did warn against politicians playing into voters' "anxieties" and resorting to insults, he kept his focus toward the future, pushing the GOP to avoid becoming "disheartened" and to rise above the petty drama and focus on policy ideas.

"All of us as leaders can hold ourselves to the highest standards of integrity and decency. Instead of playing to your anxieties, we can appeal to your aspirations," Ryan said. "Instead of playing the identity politics of 'our base' and 'their base,' we unite people around ideas and principles."

Ryan then took his own advice, admitting that he has not always been right and backpedaling on "ugliness" he's spread in the past. "There was a time when I talked about makers and takers in this country... I realize I was wrong," Ryan said, adding, "We should demand better from ourselves." Becca Stanek

9:57 a.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In the key battleground state of Pennsylvania, Republican chairmen are waiting for commands from the Trump headquarters only to watch cobwebs grow on their phones. Even as Hillary Clinton moves into make-or-break counties in preparation for the general election, the Trump campaign severely lags in infrastructure to swing the state red.

For Trump supporters, that means good news and bad news: "The good news is, the level of enthusiasm for Mr. Trump in this county is the strongest I've ever seen for anyone. The bad news is, the resources at our disposal are by far the worst I've ever seen in any campaign, at least in any presidential campaign," Republican chairman of Westmoreland County Michael Korns told Politico.

Korns explained that, "They don't yet have any sort of field-level staffers, at least that I've interacted with, that are paid, which is unusual at this point in a campaign. Four years ago, we did have multiple staffers available, and that's not here yet."

Other GOP staffers echoed Korns when talking with Politico, saying they also haven't heard from the Trump people yet. That's intentional, at least to some extent — Trump plans to pass control to the Republican National Committee and state party. Still, "There are a number of individuals, with varying levels of authority, some self-appointed, some not, that sort of float around on [the Trump] campaign, so it’s definitely been a bit of a learning curve on our end,” Korns said.

Despite Clinton's early organization, she still lags 3 points in the state according to RealClearPolitics and a pro-Clinton super PAC. Maybe there is something to be said for bumper stickers after all. Jeva Lange

9:25 a.m. ET

Taking a page from the Donald Trump playbook, the staunch Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov is launching a TV series modeled after The Apprentice, the winner of which will get to serve in his government. Kadyrov's assistants will also have to face challenges on the television show, Meduza reports.

"Participants will be able to test themselves and show what they can do in the most beautiful corners of Chechnya: They'll climb mountains, descend into lakes, walk through the forests, and fully appreciate the hospitality and traditions of Chechnya," Russian television network, Rossiya 1, said in a statement, according to Meduza. People of every "age or social status" are encouraged to apply to be contestants on the show.

Despite a macho demeanor and a concerning human rights record, Kadyrov has a noted fondness for television and social media, having posted to Instagram earlier this year in an effort to find his lost cat as well as using his account to announce that he would star in a "Hollywood" action film, Whoever Doesn't Understand Will Get It. Jeva Lange

8:35 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) is likely on the shortlist to be Hillary Clinton's running mate, but if selected, his acceptance of gifts could provide ample ammo for enemies seeking to take Clinton down in the general election. Although Virginia has especially lenient gift laws (which has gotten others, such as former Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), into hot water), Republicans can point to Kaine's acceptance of an $18,000 Caribbean vacation, $5,500 in clothes, and tickets to the NCAA basketball Final Four as evidence of a corrupt political class, Politico reports.

"During his eight years as lieutenant governor and governor, Sen. Kaine went beyond the requirements of Virginia law, even publicly disclosing gifts of value beneath the reporting threshold. He's confident that he met both the letter and the spirit of Virginia's ethical standards," a spokesperson said. Kaine indeed has never been accused of corruption; his gifts were rather received out of acts of apparent friendships rather than in a bargain for political favors.

Still, "the danger here is that there's already a narrative on Hillary Clinton: It's crooked cronyism, and any pick or any other action that drives that narrative is going to be bad for her," former Republican National Committee Deputy Research Director Matt Moon said. "If you're on the Clinton campaign side, you want to look at potential vulnerabilities in how a VP pick would drive an opposition narrative." Jeva Lange

7:55 a.m. ET

Leila, Liina, and Lily Luik have many things in common: their parents, their birthday, and soon, their status as Olympic marathoners at the 2016 games in Rio.

Although the International Olympic Committee does not keep track of siblings, Olympic historian Bill Mallon told The New York Times that he is "99.99 percent sure" triplets have never competed together in the same or separate Summer or Winter Olympics. "This just doesn't happen," Mallon said.

Hailing from Estonia, the triplets are well known in their home country, although none of them are expected to medal in the games. It was only six years ago that any of them even began to take running seriously. Another Olympic historian, Taavi Kalju, hopes the trio will finish in the top 50, with Liina aiming to crack the top 20.

"Three together, we get so much energy from each other. No one wants to be the slowest. We push, push, push," Leila said.

Read more about the trials of the Trio for Rio in The New York Times. Jeva Lange

7:24 a.m. ET

Major Brexit campaigner and former mayor of London Boris Johnson will not run for prime minister, he announced in a shocking decision on Thursday. Following the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron after the Brexit vote, Johnson was all but assumed to be the successor.

"This is not a time to quail, it is not a crisis, nor should we see it as an excuse for wobbling or self-doubt, but it is a moment for hope and ambition for Britain," Johnson said Thursday.

All eyes now turn to Michael Gove, an ally of Johnson's, and Theresa May, the home secretary, who has also made a bid to lead the Conservative Party. Jeva Lange

7:10 a.m. ET
Gokhan Tan/Getty Images

Turkish officials announced on Thursday that the suicide bombers in the Ataturk Airport attack, which killed 42 and wounded dozens more on Tuesday, were from Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Also on Thursday, the Istanbul police reported that they have detained 13 suspects following the attacks; the police raids all targeted suspected Islamic State operatives, according to the state-run news agency. Three of the detainees are foreign nationals. No terrorist group has yet claimed responsibility for the Ataturk attacks. Jeva Lange

5:50 a.m. ET

The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics are fast approaching, but concerns about whether or not the city is prepared to host the Games are mounting in the face of a growing list of scandals. On Wednesday, mutilated body parts, including a severed foot, washed up on Copacabana Beach near the court where the Olympic beach volleyball competitions are set to take place. Police aren't sure where the body parts came from, but they may be connected to recent violent attempts to capture a Brazilian drug trafficker that resulted in gun battles throughout the city's slums, The Independent reports.

Killings in Rio have been on the rise in the first half of 2016, according to The Associated Press. Rio's acting governor has warned the Games could be a "big failure" due to a lack of funding and security shortages. Last week, an Australian Paralympian was robbed at gunpoint in Rio while riding her bike. Meanwhile, the lab in charge of drug testing for the Games has been suspended for not conforming to international standards, and several high-profile athletes have decided to skip the Games due to fears about Zika. Jessica Hullinger

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