2016 Watch
August 3, 2014
Alex Wong / Getty Images

Third time's the charm?

With the midterm elections almost upon us, the 2016 guessing game is kicking into high gear. And in the latest iteration, The Washington Post reports Sunday that Mitt Romney is quietly emerging as a top GOP campaign surrogate this year and thus raising speculation that he will throw his hat into the ring once more.

Despite Romney's insistence he won't run again, his loaded schedule has his old backers "yearning for him to give it a go and arguing that he would be a stronger candidate than last time."

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R), whom Romney recently endorsed for reelection, said in an interview that Romney remains the GOP's best hope of winning back the White House.

Asked whether he and other Republican officials are coalescing around Romney as a 2016 favorite, Mead said: "There is a movement afoot. . . . I'd tell him, 'Governor Romney, people here in Wyoming and around the country would encourage you to take another look at it.'" [The Washington Post]

The Romney 2016 speculation has percolated since last year, though it's gained momentum of late as other potential GOP candidates fizzled or became embroiled in scandal. A few admittedly early polls have found Romney running competitively in a GOP primary too, further fueling speculation he would be a formidable candidate should he run again. Jon Terbush

Airline Tragedies
6:53 a.m. ET

On Thursday, Taiwan's Aviation Safety Council (ASC) released a more detailed preliminary report on the Feb. 4 crash of TransAsia Airways Flight 235 into Taipei's Keelung River, and though the report doesn't assign blame, the plane's pilot, Capt. Liao Jian-zong, doesn't come out looking very good. Forty-three people died in the crash, including Liao and the copilot, and 15 survived.

Liao, 41, switched off the ATR 72-600's only working engine right before it crashed, the ASC reports, and didn't recognize his mistake in time. "Wow, pulled back the wrong side throttle," Liao was heard saying on the voice recorder seconds before the plane clipped a highway and crashed into the shallow river. The final words on the recording are from a junior officer: "Impact, impact, brace for impact."

In May 2014, Liao had failed flight simulator training after instructors found that he often failed to complete preflight procedures and checks and had poor "cockpit management and flight planning" skills, Reuters reports. He passed the test a month later, earning his promotion to captain, but instructors noted during training a week later that he was "prone to be nervous and may make oral errors during the engine start procedure." Last November, an instructor advised that Liao "may need extra training" regarding engine failures after takeoff, the ASC found. The ASC's final report will be released next April, with a draft coming out this November. You can learn more in the Reuters video below. Peter Weber

5:47 a.m. ET

Polygamist Nathan Collier, who has appeared on the TLC reality show Sister Wives, said Wednesday that he had applied for a marriage license with his second wife, Christine, claiming he was inspired by last week's Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. The reality TV star and his wives Victoria and Christine applied in Billings, Montana. Collier said he would sue if the application is turned down. "It's about marriage equality," he said. "You can't have this without polygamy."

Collier says he asked the ACLU of Montana to help him if he decides a lawsuit is necessary. ACLU legal director Jim Taylor tells The Associated Press that while he hasn't seen Collier's request and had no opinion about his case, the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling "is about something very different." Harold Maass

Maritime disasters
5:13 a.m. ET

On Thursday, a ferry carrying 173 passengers and 16 crew sank minutes after leaving Ormoc city on Leyte Island in the Philippines, killing 36 people and leaving 118 survivors; 19 passengers are still missing. The MBCA Kim-Nirvana was en route to Camotes island, about 27 miles to the south, when its bow hit a big wave and the ferry capsized, survivors tell The Associated Press.

Maritime accidents are unfortunately common in the Philippines, a populous archipelago made up of 7,100 islands. Peter Weber

Who will think of the children?
4:27 a.m. ET

Sometimes progress comes at a steep cost. Sealed Air Corp., the company that invented Bubble Wrap and has sold it since 1960, is changing things up — and in the new version of its iconic product, iBubble Wrap, you won't be able to pop the plastic capsules. Sealed Air is making the change because shipping the pre-inflated Bubble Wrap takes up a lot of space — yes, Bubble Wrap has to be shipped, too — and the new version is delivered in flat sheets that online retailer and other customers will inflate at their warehouses, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Sealed Air almost discontinued Bubble Wrap a few years ago, leaving the market to imitators, because the bulk of the packages made it too expensive to ship more than 150 miles. The new iBubble Wrap takes up 1/50th of the space before it is inflated. With the rise of e-commerce, protective packaging material is big business, The Journal reports, hitting $20 billion in global sales in 2013, $2 billion of that bubble packaging. iBubble Wrap may help Sealed Air recapture more of that market, but does nobody care about the kids? (Or the older Bubble Wrap fanatics?) You can see the new Bubble Wrap in action in the Wall Street Journal video below. Peter Weber

The Daily Showdown
3:36 a.m. ET

Chris Christie, the Republican governor of Jon Stewart's home state of New Jersey, jumped in the already-very-crowded 2016 GOP presidential race Tuesday morning; Stewart got around to mocking him on Wednesday's Daily Show. In a recent survey, 65 percent of New Jersey residents said Christie would make a lousy president, he noted, but that's not the governor's biggest problem.

"Let's do some straight talk," Stewart said, laughing. "It's not that New Jerseyeans love you too much to let you go, it's that you've already finished second in the loud Northeastern egomaniac primary," with the winner being Donald Trump. "How far must Christie have fallen to be a two-term governor unfavorably compared to a perfume-selling escalateur" like Trump, he mused. But his No. 1 problem is that "he has crossed a red line for Republicans," Stewart said, committing "the unpardonable crime of treating Barack Obama like a person." Well, it's a theory. Peter Weber

Gay marriage
2:23 a.m. ET
Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals bowed to the inevitable and ordered federal courts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas to quickly issue final rulings on same-sex marriage in their states, noting pointedly that the right to marry regardless of sexual orientation "is the law of the land and, consequently, the law of this circuit, and should not be taken lightly by actors within jurisdiction of this court."

In Texas, at least, a brief rebellion against Friday's Supreme Court's ruling, encouraged by state Attorney General Ken Paxton, was already coming to a close. As of Wednesday morning, according to Texas for Marriage, 80 percent of Texas counties were issuing same-sex marriage licenses, including Hood County, where county clerk Katie Lang had told her staff: "We are not issuing them because I am instilling my religious liberty in this office."

Bud Kennedy at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram obtained that eyebrow-raising communiqué through a freedom-of-information request, but in the process he uncovered a listserv used by all Texas county clerks, and most of them were baffled and angry at Texas officials for not preparing them or offering them guidance.

"We were the first people to be affected and the last ones to be contacted," Deborah Rushing, the clerk for Yoakum County, wrote to her colleagues. "No one had our back." Clerk Jennifer Fountain said that one local resident accused her of "taking Shelby County to the fires of hell" by issuing same-sex licenses, even though nobody complained about other marriage contracts, including those she had issued to "couples that I've had in court for beating each other up" and "people that have lived together for 20 years." Paxton, she added, "hung us all out to dry, threw us under the bus."

Red River County's Shawn Weemes spoke for a lot of fellow clerks: "I [am] so not looking forward to Monday." You can read more about how Texas county clerks dealt with same-sex marriage at the Star-Telegram. Peter Weber

allllrighty then
2:21 a.m. ET

Either Jim Carrey is preparing for the role of a lifetime as an unhinged Twitter user, or the actor knowingly had an online meltdown where he called California's governor a "corporate fascist" and posted several photos of children crying over a new, strict vaccination law.

After Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Tuesday signed into law a bill that requires all public school children to be vaccinated beginning in 2016, Carrey went on a Twitter rampage, writing that Brown "says yes to poisoning more children with mercury and aluminum in mandatory vaccines. This corporate fascist must be stopped." Later, he added, "They say mercury in fish is dangerous but forcing all of our children to be injected with mercury in thimerosol is no risk. Make sense?" Then, he clarified, "I am not anti-vaccine. I am anti-thimerosal, anti-mercury. They have taken some of the mercury laden thimerosal out of vaccines. NOT ALL!"

Carrey then turned on the CDC, saying they "can't solve a problem they helped start. It's too risky to admit they have been wrong about mercury/thimerasol. They are corrupt." After tweeting several times that he's "PRO-VACCINE/ANTI-NEUROTOXIN," Carrey started adding photos of freaked out looking children to his messages. He finally went silent on the matter Wednesday morning, but not before he was bombarded with pro-vaccination tweets and news articles about how he was descending into madness. It's not too surprising that Carrey has these views — his ex-girlfriend Jenny McCarthy is famous for speaking out against vaccinations. What is surprising is that he thought people were actually waiting for him to weigh in on the matter. Catherine Garcia

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