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

3:43 p.m.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to cut his visit to the U.S. short on Monday after his country began bombing Hamas targets in the disputed Gaza Strip. Yet judging by the very uninformative video President Trump tweeted after the curtailed visit, and by Monday comments by Vice President Mike Pence, he's undoubtedly on their good side.

Last week, Trump unexpectedly tweeted that he'd recognize Israel's sovereignty over Golan Heights, a region long the subject of an Israeli-Syrian dispute. Netanyahu visited the U.S. shortly after to be there when Trump made the proclamation official. And even though Netanyahu's Gaza Strip bombing started while he was still in America, Golan Heights was the only topic in the wordless, dramatically scored video Trump shared later.

Trump did acknowledge Israel's apparent attack on Hamas terrorist cells in the Palestinian territory of Gaza on Monday, saying he supported "our friends in Israel as they carry out an incredible way of life in the face of great terror," per CNN. The bombing came after two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv last week, which did not cause any damage, but which Israel blamed on Hamas, Reuters says.

Netanyahu left before he could make his annual speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference. Benny Gantz, a centrist whom Netanyahu faces in a tough upcoming election, still made an appearance. Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, used his AIPAC slot to decry Democrats who boycotted the conference. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:01 p.m.

Apple is officially entering the streaming wars.

Apple on Monday announced its brand new streaming service, Apple TV+, during an event in Cupertino. After showing off a montage of clips from upcoming original shows, the company described Apple TV+ as "not just another streaming service" but rather "the destination where the world's greatest storytellers will bring their best ideas to life."

Several of those storytellers were in attendance on Monday to speak briefly about their shows. The line-up consisted of Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, Jason Momoa, Alfre Woodard, Kumail Nanjiani, J.J. Abrams, Sara Bareilles, and even Big Bird.

The event ended with Oprah Winfrey, who said she's excited to work with Apple because the fact that they're "in a billion pockets" represents a "major opportunity to make a genuine impact." She's working on two documentaries for Apple, one about sexual harassment and one about mental health, and says Apple will also stream book club conversations. "I want to literally convene a meeting of the minds connecting us through books," she said.

Apple ended its event without revealing how much the service will cost, which had remained one of the biggest unanswered questions heading in. But it was announced that the service will be ad-free and available in more than 100 countries, with content being downloadable and new programming coming each month. It's set to launch sometime this fall — meaning it will likely debut around the same time as Disney's streaming service, Disney+. Brendan Morrow

2:58 p.m.

There might be some concern from congressional Democrats after Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation did not definitively find that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian interference in 2016 — no doubt dashing some longstanding impeachment dreams.

But the Democrats campaigning for the party's 2020 presidential nomination? Well, they're not too concerned. And they haven't been for a while.

The Washington Post and The New York Times both report there has been — for quite a while — a "dichotomy" between what was captivating Washington and what the voters on the road actually care about: policy and President Trump's performance as commander-in-chief.

So while the consensus is that Mueller's investigation appears to be a victory for the Trump administration, it may also serve as a boon for his possible 2020 competitors, who now have more clarity about what direction they should take their campaigns. Read more at The Washington Post and The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

2:25 p.m.

The third time is most certainly not the Brexit charm.

After suffering two failures, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday there isn't "sufficient support" to bring her proposed Brexit deal for a third vote in Parliament. The announcement effectively spells the end of May's wildly unpopular plan, piling even more uncertainty onto Britain's delayed EU departure.

May's plan for a "slow Brexit" has been rejected twice, with a historic 432-202 denial in January sparking a no-confidence vote in the leader. There's since been little visible progress to find a deal both May's Conservative Party and the opposition Labour will agree on, leading the EU to agree to delay Brexit until June 30 at May's request. In the meantime, the Labour Party has floated the idea of running a second Brexit referendum that could keep Britain in the EU after all. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:11 p.m.

Apple has its own credit card now.

The company at an event on Monday announced Apple Card, which users can sign up for on their phone. They receive a digital card, which they can use to receive 2 percent cash back on Apple Pay purchases, per The Verge. Apple also touted "no late fees, no annual fees, no international fees, and no over limit fees." Purchases can be monitored through the Wallet app.

Although Apple Card is digital, you can also get an actual, physical card, which is made out of titanium and has the user's name laser etched into it. It has no card number, no CVV security code, no expiration date, and no signature. Purchases made with the physical card will earn users 1 percent cash back.

Apple also announced its news subscription service, which will feature content from 300 magazines and cost $9.99 per month, per The Hollywood Reporter. Brendan Morrow

1:45 p.m.

It turns out that Attorney General William Barr had a lot longer than just 48 hours to analyze the fact that Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not reach a conclusion as to whether President Trump obstructed justice during Mueller's investigation into whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russian election interference in 2016.

In fact, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met with members of Mueller's prosecutorial team three weeks ago, CNN reports. Mueller's team informed them that Mueller would neither indict or exonerate the president of obstruction. Barr reportedly did not expect this conclusion.

But the revelation is important because it challenges the widely-held notion that Barr reached his own judgment on obstruction in the tight, 48-hour window between when Mueller handed the report to Barr on Friday evening and Barr's letter to Congress briefing them on the principal conclusions of the investigation, which he sent on Sunday afternoon. Tim O'Donnell

1:32 p.m.

Federal prosecutors have just announced charges against Michael Avenatti.

Avenatti, the former lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels, has been arrested and charged over an alleged attempt to extort millions of dollars from Nike. Southern District of New York prosecutors allege he demanded Nike pay him and a client millions of dollars or he would hold a press conference revealing damaging information about the company, CBS News reports. Prosecutors say he said he would not hold a press conference if Nike retained him and paid him and a co-conspirator "at a minimum, between $15 and $25 million." He allegedly said that if Nike didn't agree to his demands, he would "go take ten billion dollars off your client's market cap."

CNBC reports Avenatti has been arrested and is being charged with wire and bank fraud. He had tweeted earlier on Monday that he would hold a press conference "to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by Nike that we have uncovered." Brendan Morrow

See More Speed Reads