Francis in China
July 4, 2014

There is an interesting article at Quartz looking at the PR problem Pope Francis could face if he tries to mend relations with Beijing.

For those of you not up to date on Sino-Vatican relations, China hasn't held official talks with the Holy See since the 1950s. The communist country actually allows a state-sponsored version of the church to exist, but it has clashed repeatedly with the Vatican. Several of its bishops were even excommunicated after they were appointed without the Vatican's approval.

There have been signs, however, that relations have been thawing — the most notable example being when Pope Francis and Chinese President Xi Jiping exchanged correspondence — and speculation has been growing that the pope might make a visit. (And no, it's not because Pope Francis has a natural affinity to a communist country.) At Quartz, Heather Timmons shows just what a minefield such a visit could turn out to be:

There are an estimated 12 million Catholics in China, but they are divided between the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a group created by Communist Party in 1957 that does not recognize the Vatican as its head, and an underground, technically illegal, Catholic church that recognizes the Pope (and still has millions of members).

Visiting China in an official capacity would almost certainly require a meeting with the former, but Pope Francis would be unlikely to want to come without a promised meeting with the underground group as well, which would embarrass Beijing. [Quartz] Nico Lauricella

2016 Watch
9:09 a.m. ET

Since 2002, the Clintons have been raking in speaking engagement fees that, on the high end, ranged from $100,000 for Chelsea Clinton, $500,000 for Hillary Clinton, and $1 million for Bill Clinton.

After pressure from outsiders that found discrepancies in the foundation's accounting, the Clinton Foundation released the previously undisclosed fees Thursday. The list comprised 97 speaking engagements that span 13 years and netted the organization between $12 million and $26.4 million.

No specific dates were included in the list of payments, but Bloomberg reports that at least a few came as Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state. All told, there are nearly two dozen speeches paid to Clinton and her husband by foreign groups that will be of particular interest to critics given the presidential hopeful's role and influence at the time as a top diplomat.

"Posting these speeches is just another example of how our disclosure policies go above and beyond what’s required of charities," the Foundation spokesperson said. Lauren Hansen

2016 Watch
8:50 a.m. ET

Jeb Bush may differ from his brother on money, but he and George W. Bush are apparently alike when it comes to massages.

In 2006, former President George W. Bush gave Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel a shoulder massage, a move Vice President Joe Biden later recreated with Defense Secretary Ash Carter's wife. Now, Jeb Bush has joined in, as he massaged the shoulders of Salem New Hampshire Chamber of Commerce President Donna Morris at an event Thursday.

Morris joked to Jeb Bush, "Oh, you take my breath away," and he responded with the massage. Check out Bush's move in the video below. —Meghan DeMaria

2016 Watch
8:30 a.m. ET
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

That's certainly the implication of The New York Times' analysis of Karl Rove's American Crossroads super PAC, which for several elections has been "among the most powerful forces in national politics, a shadow party that has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising, data, and opposition research to help elect candidates." And while you can certainly never count out a political operative who's been as successful as Rove has, the Times makes a compelling case that the mighty may have indeed fallen.

The nonprofit arm of Crossroads is facing an Internal Revenue Service review that could eviscerate its fund-raising. Data projects nurtured by Mr. Rove are being supplanted in Republican circles by a more successful initiative funded by the Koch political network, which has leapfrogged the Crossroads organizations in size and reach.

And the group faces intense competition for donors from a new wave of "super PACs" that are being set up by backers of the leading Republican candidates for president, who are unwilling to defer to Mr. Rove's authority or cede strategic and fund-raising dominance to the organizations he helped start. [The New York Times]

The Times rattles off other factors, too: the death of Bob Perry and Harold Simmons, two of Crossroads' biggest donors; the losses of ever-so-many Crossroads-backed candidates in recent elections; the departure of top fundraisers like Ed Gillespie and Haley Barbour; Rove's rather unfriendly relationship with Jeb Bush; and on and on. Read the whole thing here. Ben Frumin

Watch this
8:09 a.m. ET

Nobody likes the annual job evaluation (unless there's a raise, maybe). But "as someone who runs a company, I've been told that it is my job to occasionally have performance reviews," said Conan O'Brien, "CEO of Conaco," on Conan. So, he put on "serious" glasses, showed his alpha-boss dominance by throwing stuff around, and threatened and mocked his employees, mixing in a little sexual harassment for the fun of it. The result is an often-funny, irreverent caricature of a bad performance review, and while it is mostly safe for work, maybe wear headphones if the boss is within hearing distance. —Peter Weber

survey says
8:00 a.m. ET

A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows once again that disliking Congress has become an increasingly widespread and bipartisan hobby.

Only 23 percent of poll respondents agreed that congressional Republicans "are keeping the promises they made during last fall's campaign." After the first few months of 2011's GOP Congress, 33 percent of respondents said lawmakers were keeping their campaign promises. That number was 40 percent for the Dem Congress in 2007, and a whopping 59 percent for the GOP in 1995.

Only 41 percent of Republicans today approve of the Republican-led Congress. Compare that to 60 percent in April 2011.

The poll surveyed 2,002 adults from May 12-18. Meghan DeMaria

This just in
7:22 a.m. ET

A suicide bomber struck the Imam Ali mosque in al-Qadeeh, in Saudi Arabia's eastern Qatif province, during Friday prayer services. Witnesses tell Reuters that 30 people were killed in the blast. The official Saudi news agency has confirmed an attack at a mosque, but hasn't provided details. Photos posted to Twitter show bodies covered with rugs and blankets amid rubble inside the Shiite mosque.

Saudi Arabia is about 15 percent Shiite, and most of them live in the eastern part of the Sunni kingdom. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. BBC News tries to make sense of the attack in the video below. —Peter Weber

I spy
7:20 a.m. ET

That startling claim surfaced in interviews CNN conducted with two North Korean defectors, including Kang Myong Do, who said that in the 1980s, his job was to send North Korean spies around the world, a practice that still exists today. Kang says there are likely hundreds of agents working for North Korea in the U.S. at any one time, most of them Korean-Americans.

How do Kim's agents recruit Korean-Americans to help North Korea?

"There are three different tactics they use," he said. "First is to give them free visas to North Korea, second, to give them access to do business and make money there, and third, they use women to entice them. This tactic has been widely used since the '80s." [CNN]

The entire CNN report is worth a read and watch — it's full of fascinating nuggets on North Korean spycraft. But there's one important asterisk: "CNN is unable to independently verify [these] claims, as North Korea is one of the world's most secretive countries." Ben Frumin

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