* Oregon: "Federal agents sealed off an Oregon wildlife refuge occupied by armed protesters Wednesday, hours after authorities arrested several members of that group and killed one of the most prominent occupiers."
* He'll need Senate confirmation: "Army Lt. Gen. John 'Mick' Nicholson, a veteran of the Afghanistan War, has been nominated to command U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.... If confirmed by the Senate, Nicholson will succeed Gen. John Campbell, who has served as commander in Afghanistan since 2014 and is expected to complete his tour shortly."
* Cleveland: "The Cleveland Division of Police has fired Michael Brelo and five other officers over their actions during a high-speed chase in 2012 that ended in the deaths of two unarmed suspects. Brelo was accused of jumping onto the vehicle's hood and firing 15 rounds through its windshield."
* Fed: "The Federal Reserve on Wednesday said 'economic growth slowed' since its last meeting in December and that inflation is unlikely to rise rapidly toward its 2% target, a more dovish tone that suggests the bank won't be quick to raise interest rates again."
* CDC: "As the mosquito-borne Zika virus moves northward, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued interim guidelines for evaluating and testing infants in the United States suspected of being infected."
* Milwaukee: "A terrorist-style plot intended to kill dozens of people with automatic weapons at a Masonic center in Milwaukee was foiled this week by FBI agents, federal prosecutors said Tuesday."
* If you think education is expensive, try ignorance: "The nation's per-pupil spending on K-12 public schools dropped in 2013 for the third year in a row, reversing more than a decade of funding increases, according to federal data released Wednesday."
It's been hard to miss the degree to which Republican insiders have warmed up to Donald Trump's candidacy of late. After months of panicked hand-wringing about Trump's position atop GOP polls, much of the party's "establishment" recently entered the acceptance phase in the stages of grief.
Dana Milbank wrote the other day, "That soft flapping sound you hear is the Grand Old Party waving the flag of surrender to Trump. Party elites ... are acquiescing to the once inconceivable."
But the shift didn't just occur out of a sense of resignation. Away from the Beltway, there was growing evidence that the Republican race was becoming a two-man contest between Trump and Ted Cruz. Party insiders had to decide whom they hated less. Trump prevailed.
Or did he? Matt Yglesias noted a scheme yesterday that is slowly becoming a more common topic of conversation in GOP circles.
[O]ver the weekend, one political operative floated to me a theory that began to rapidly gain credence on Monday. Establishment Republicans aren't choosing Trump over Cruz because they prefer Trump to Cruz. They are backing Trump over Cruz because they think doing so is the best way to stop Trump.
Stick with me for a minute because there's a decent chance that this gambit, which sounds nutty, is actually the plan establishment Republicans intend to pursue.
Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.
* In Iowa, the new Quinnipiac poll shows Bernie Sanders with the edge over Hillary Clinton, 49% to 45%.
* At the national level, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Clinton leading Sanders by nearly 20 points, 55% to 36%.
* At an Iowa event yesterday, Donald Trump welcomed an endorsement from Joe Arpaio, the controversial right-wing sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona.
* Chris Christie doesn't apologize often, but he apologized yesterday to the mayor of North Wildwood, "whom he referred to the night before as 'crazy.'"
* Jeb Bush's super PAC has slammed Marco Rubio repeatedly over his previous support for the bipartisan immigration reform package, but this week, Right to Rise is also hitting Rubio over the senator's misuse of a party credit card in Florida.
* Ted Cruz's favorability ratings have taken a sharp turn for the worse over the last couple of weeks, coinciding with his escalating feud with Trump.
* President Obama and Bernie Sanders don't have a strong personal relationship, but the senator will visit the White House today for a private meeting. Their chat will reportedly be held in the Oval Office.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) has already blinked on the Medicaid expansion fight, reversing course on the campaign promises he made last year. But as the Lexington Herald-Leaderreports, the Tea Party governor unveiled his budget plan yesterday and he's moving forward with plans to scrap the state's Kynect health-insurance exchange.
The Republican governor who took office Dec. 8 was specific in saying that Kynect "is going away" and added that it won't be in existence a year from now. The exchange offers a website to shop for health coverage.
Bevin predicted that a move to the federal exchange, Healthcare.gov, will save the state millions of dollars each year.
Kynect is a popular system that's worked beautifully, but Bevin is determined to scrap it anyway, in part because of knee-jerk partisanship -- "Obamacare" is bad, or something -- and in part because the new Republican governor believes the move will save the state money.
Except, it won't. State officials have already estimated that dismantling the successful Kynect system will cost taxpayers $23 million.
Just as importantly, Kentucky received millions more in federal funds to create Kynect, and the governor's decision to tear it down means the state will likely have to pay Washington back for the investment Kentucky no longer wants.
What's more, as we discussed a few weeks ago, there's also an under-appreciated irony to all of this: Bevin, a far-right governor, is also abandoning the tenets of his own ideology. By scrapping Kynect, the Kentuckian is shifting power from his state to Washington, D.C., on purpose, without explanation.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the only member of the Bush/Cheney cabinet whom President Obama kept in place, has been critical at times of the Democratic president's style.
But it's nothing compared to what Gates, now retired from the public sector, has to say about the Republican Party's 2016 field. Gates, who considers himself a Republican, was asked on MSNBC last week about the GOP's national candidates. "First of all they, they don't know what they're talking about," he responded.
Gates added, "[P]art of the concern that I have with the campaign, particularly when it comes to national security, is that the solutions being offered are so simplistic and so at odds with the reality of the rest of the world, with the way the world really works."
The Guardianreported that Gates went even further yesterday.
"The level of dialogue on national security issues would embarrass a middle schooler," Gates said of the Republican contenders at a Politico Playbook event in Washington on Monday. "People are out there making threats and promises that are totally unrealistic, totally unattainable. Either they really believe what they're saying or they're cynical and opportunistic and, in a way, you hope it's the latter, because God forbid they actually believe some of the things that they're saying."
Reading Gates' criticisms, I was reminded of the recent reaction to a GOP debate from Dan Drezner, a center-right scholar, who wrote last month, "When it comes to foreign policy, the GOP's candidates for president in 2016 are either ignorant or insane."
Ordinarily, one might not necessarily connect flamethrowers with contemporary American politics, but the devices have come up more than once lately.
Last summer, for example, Rand Paul put together some online videos in which he literally destroyed the U.S. tax code. Unconcerned with appearing presidential, the Kentucky Republican invited people to vote on their preferred method of attack: chainsaw, wood chipper, or flamethrower. (If you're curious, the chainsaw was the most popular.)
The senator's campaign hasn't gone especially well, but the political relevance of flamethrowers has endured. Bloomberg Politics' Josh Green published this eye-opening report yesterday:
Eliot Engel, a Democratic congressman from New York, is a big Saturday Night Live fan and an even bigger fan of former "Weekend Update" anchor Seth Meyers. He also thinks flamethrowers are dangerous. These are the salient facts behind what is surely the best-named legislation in the history of the U.S. Congress -- a bill (H.R. 4009) recently introduced by Engel called the "Flamethrowers? Really? Act."
The bill, which would regulate flamethrowers like machine guns, came about after Engel discovered that flamethrowers are unregulated in all but two states, Maryland and California. You can even order them through the mail, a fact that left Engel incredulous. "It's not something I'd thought about before," he admitted, "because you'd just assume -- right? -- that flamethrowers would be regulated. It just causes you to scratch your head and say, 'Really?'"
The "Really?" part of the equation may have been inspired by the Seth Meyers bit, but none of this is a joke. Obtaining an unregulated flamethrower is, in reality, surprisingly easy throughout most of the country, so the New York Democrat introduced legislation to add some federal restrictions. "Qualified law enforcement officers" would be exempt.
Officials from both of the major parties desperately hoped to avoid drama over presidential candidates' debates during the 2016 campaign. So far, that's not going well -- by last night, both parties were embroiled in unexpected controversies.
Let's start with Republicans, where the lineup is set for tomorrow night's Fox News debate in Des Moines, Iowa, but the GOP frontrunner, at least for now, doesn't intend to show up.
Donald Trump said Tuesday that he "most likely" will not participate in Thursday night's FOX News-Google debate, citing the participation of "lightweight" Megyn Kelly as well as FOX's "wise-guy" press release poking fun at Trump's rhetoric. [...]
After the press conference, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandoski told reporters that the real estate mogul "will not be participating in the Fox debate" and that it is "not under negotiation."
As Rachel noted on the show last night, Trump has made similar threats before, though this one seems far more serious and the language used by his campaign is more categorical.
As the afternoon progressed, Fox responded by mocking Trump and refusing to consider his demands, which only seemed to harden the leading Republican candidate's position.
So now what happens? There's still time for Trump and Fox to work something out -- the GOP frontrunner said he'll only speak with News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch -- so it's probably best not to make any ironclad assumptions. Ted Cruz responded to the news by challenging Trump to a one-on-one debate with no moderator, but that's unlikely to happen, too.
Perhaps the more salient question is what effect a debate boycott would have on Trump's candidacy.
Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.