Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker officially announced this week that he is running for — wait for it — re-election as governor of Wisconsin.
It will be at least another six months before he says anything definitive regarding that other office, the oval-shaped one in Washington D.C.
And that's to be expected.
Governors in both parties routinely run for re-election while keeping coy about the White House - much like Bill Clinton in 1990 and George W. Bush in 1998 and Rick Perry in 2010.
Of course there's no question what 's on Walker's mind, long-term. His autobiography is titled Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge - generously expanding his current horizon.
Although just 46 years old, the Wisconsinite has avoided any public vow that he'll serve out his four years if re-elected, and he's wandered as far afield as Las Vegas to court the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who bankrolled Newt Gingrich's last run for the White House.
Walker moved up on a lot of people's short lists after the media love affair with Chris Christie's candidacy got nipped in the bud by Bridgegate. He has some of Christie's potential to span the GOP's internal divide, appealing to both the establishment (as Jeb Bush might) and the hardcore conservative base (as nearly all the other wannabes are trying to do).
But to rise into that role, Walker needs a boost from a robust re-election. And that could get tricky in a swing state like Wisconsin, where pride often goeth before a fall.
Walker's state GOP stands at a pinnacle of success and influence at home and in Washington. As he reclaimed the governorship for his party in 2010, the GOP was also seizing control of the state legislature. Republicans captured the majority of the seats in the state's congressional delegation for the first time since 1996 and Ron Johnson became the first Wisconsin Republican in the U.S. Senate since 1992.
Since that watershed, Wisconsinite Reince Priebus has become chairman of the Republican National Committee and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan has been the party's nominee for vice president.
But even this apparent Golden Age for the party has worrisome elements in the mix. Good times can expose rifts, and recently state Sen. Glenn Grothman, a hardline conservative from West Bend, announced a challenge to 73-year-old Republican Tom Petri in the state's 6th Congressional District.
Though a good party man, Petri is too mild-mannered a conservative for many in the Tea Party wing. Not long after Grothman got in, the 73-year-old got out, retiring after 35 years in office.
Something of that same insurgent spirit animated a recent 6th District meeting of activists that produced a resolution calling on state legislators to affirm the state's rights - including its right to secede "under extreme circumstances."
In headline shorthand, that became a "secession resolution," but a party committee approved it for consideration by the full statewide GOP convention in May. That prompted lots of media inquiries and forced Walker to disassociate himself with the"secession resolution" forthwith.
It was the second time this month the governor, who has been a darling of much of the right, found himself at odds with some conservatives. The first came when his new 25-year-old campaign spokesperson, Alleigh Marre, was outed as a supporter of Planned Parenthood and "a woman's right to choose." Walker's allies in the anti-abortion movement erupted in protests. But so far the governor has stood by his aide.
No, Walker has not become some middle-of-the-road pol. To be sure, his re-election would be rooted in his high-profile showdown with public employee unions in 2011 and his renown as a social conservative. But to win a big re-election this fall, he needs to cut into his Democratic opponent's margins among women and independents. That is a tall order against that opponent, Democrat Mary Burke, a woman with a business background.
That could be why Walker, ever "the conservative's conservative," has lately seemed attuned to sensibilities beyond his fan base. He has not shifted on policy but on tone, turning toward "big tent" tolerance. That will not make Walker the national favorite of his party's hardliners. But the competition to be the most implacable conservative in the 2016 GOP presidential field is already crowded to the point of pointlessness. The better running room for Walker is to be found somewhere between Jeb Bush and everyone else.
When I saw the first episode of BBC America's Orphan Black last year, I was convinced it was a crappy Canadian police drama.
That's because the set-up seemed like the oddest sort of crime procedural nonsense. A street urchin-style grifter sees a middle class woman who looks just like her leap in front of a commuter train, nabs her purse and climbs into her life - only to find her doppelganger is a troubled police officer with problems of her own.
Orphan Black fans know that was only the tip of the tale; grifter Sarah Manning learned she was one of more than a half dozen clones spread across the world. And someone was killing them off, even as others were suffering from a mysterious health breakdown which seemed connected to their unique heritage.
The show returns Saturday for its second season in fine form, with star Tatiana Maslany continuing her unerring ability to inhabit several different characters - many of them onscreen at the same time - and make you believe each one is separate and distinct.
Maslany's sizable achievements aside, however, I'm convinced another big reason Orphan Black stands as one of the best new series of last year is because it is really several different kinds of shows in one.
On the surface, it's a science fiction story about the dangers of science advancing ahead of legality and morality. As the second season opens, the clone we know best, British-raised Sarah Manning, has seen her daughter and foster mother disappear, possibly taken by the shadowy medical corporation that's monitoring the clones.
Last season, we learned one clone had been brainwashed into killing the others by a religious zealot. On Saturday, we will see that he is not alone; other people of faith have joined the quest to capture the clones, raising compelling questions about where God's laws end and man's ambition begins.
There's also a thriller element to all this, as several of the clones have banded together in hopes of discovering how they came to be and why the CIA-like Dyad Institute is so interested in monitoring and controlling them. The clone who is a buttoned-down housewife, Alison Hendrix, is the go-to for comedy relief, stuck performing in a god-awful community theater musical while enduring rejection from her soccer-mom buddies for a meltdown last year.
And don't forget the bits of cop drama: Sarah originally took the identity of police office Beth Childs. Now Beth's partner Art Bell has joined forces with Sarah to track the conspiracy, risking his own career in the process. A double murder in a diner - which Sarah happened to witness - only draws more police attention in Saturday's show.
The new episode is a rollicking return to form for the series, featuring Sarah confronting the Dyad Institute itself to find her missing child and foster mom. Maslany's command of her work is so complete in this second season, you barely notice when the Canadian actress plays against herself in scenes featuring two and three clones interacting at once. It's fascinating to see how they film it all.
TV insiders credit social media for much of Orphan Black's success, as high profile fans such as Kevin Bacon, Patton Oswalt, Scandal co-star Josh Molina and Sarah Silverman tweeted love for the show, sometimes using the hashtag #CloneClub.
But I'll always value how Orphan Black's ability to shift and combine genres — sometimes in the same scene — kept me hooked through the first season while supercharging the second.
After so many stories this month about accidents and disasters, we needed something completely different and hopefully cute.
This would seem to fit the bill:
"Kittens accidentally packed in box, shipped from Los Angeles to San Diego." (San Diego's ABC10 News)
"Two kittens are recovering after they were found inside a box that was shipped from the Los Angeles area to a Cox Communications office in Chula Vista," the station reports. That's a trip of about 130 miles.
Now named Mouse and WiFi, the newborns are being cared for by the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA. Jenny Bonomini, manager of the facility's kitten nursery, says in a statement that:
"What we think happened was the mom had the babies and she put them in a safe spot ... and she left. Then they got boxed up and they got shipped."??
J.C. Collins, who works at Cox's Chula Vista facility, tells ABC10 News the kittens "were very, very lucky that they didn't fall out of it in transport or when we were unloading the truck."
If you need a pick-up, we suggest watching this awww-inspiring report about their adventure.
It's a sunny afternoon at Kelly's Collective, a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, and Nikki Esquibel is getting stoned. But you wouldn't know it.
The 19-year-old, who has a medical prescription for marijuana, is "smoking" pot with a handheld vaporizer, or a vape pen. It's sleek, black, and virtually indistinguishable from a high-end e-cigarette.
That's the point, says Esquibel. "I use it mostly around my neighborhood. It's easy to hide." The vapor coming from the device doesn't even have an odor.
Discretion, it turns out, makes for good money. While e-cigarettes have been grabbing the headlines, the vape pen industry has been quietly ballooning. And it's reshaping the business and culture of marijuana.
The latest versions of e-cigarettes contain a battery-powered heating element that vaporizes a liquid containing nicotine. Vape pens for pot use the same mechanism, but the devices are optimized to vaporize the active molecules in concentrated marijuana oils, not nicotine. And just as with e-cigs, there's no fire or smoke.
Pot users are flocking to the pens: One out 3 reviews on Leafly, the Yelp of the pot world, are about vaping marijuana.
The pen doesn't carry the stigma or notoriety of a bong or joint, says Todd Mitchem, an executive at O.pen Vape, which sells its products on the West Coast and in Colorado.
"We are getting people buying vape pens who wouldn't normally come into a [marijuana] dispensary," he tells Shots. "Now, all of a sudden, they have an alternative [to smoking pot]," he adds.
Two years ago, Chris Folkerts was selling vape pens out of the trunk of his car. Today his company Grenco Science has 6,000 square feet of prime real estate in central Los Angeles.
"You could never get your mom to hit a bong," he says. "But your mom would potentially hit a G Pen. My mom did. My grandmother did too! And I have god-fearing Christian grandparents from the Midwest. When they tried it, I knew I was onto something."
Most vape pens don't actually vaporize the marijuana plant. They're loaded with marijuana concentrates or "hash oil:" a viscous, yellow resin chemically extracted from the plant. In many places, that extraction often occurs in somebody's kitchen — which can be explosive and dangerous.
And the concentrates can be strong. Really, really strong. Marijuana leaves usually contain about 25 percent THC, the psychoactive chemical that makes you feel high. But the concentrates can contain up to 90 percent THC. Esquibel says she almost fainted when she tried her first hit.
Those high THC levels worry Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, a nonprofit lobbying group working to broadly legalize marijuana use.
"Between the fact that you can potentially pass out with a single inhalation, or you can have such property damage and potential bodily harm just producing it ... these [issues of the vape pen] definitely need to be addressed," he says. "This is a screaming call for regulation if there ever was one."
Most states, such as California, that allow the sale and use of medical marijuana don't have rules on the books about marijuana concentrates or about vaping the substance. California is considering a ban on concentrates, while Colorado and Washington allow them. The sale and use of vape pens is legal in every state.
And what about the health effects of vaping pot compared to smoking it?
"The problem is that, right now, it's hard to tell how much [THC] you are actually getting when you take a puff of one of these things," says Mark Kleiman, who studies marijuana laws and policies at the University of California, Los Angeles. "The risk of getting wrecked is a lot higher."
And given that the output of vape pens is odorless, Kleiman is also concerned about what the rising popularity of the devices means for parents and teachers.
"For them this will be a nightmare," he tells Shots. "If I am running a school or a house and I have a nose, I can tell if my kids are smoking pot. But if they're using a vape pen, forget about it."
A powerful magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck near Mexico's resort town of Acapulco could be felt as far away as Mexico City, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.
The U.S. Geological Survey says the epicenter of Friday's quake was located about 80 miles northwest of Acapulco at a depth of about 15 miles. The effects, however, were felt 165 miles northeast in the Mexican capital, where shaking startled residents and lasted for about 30 seconds.
The Associated Press says a woman who answered the phone at the civil protection office in Acapulco reported that officials were patrolling the city to check for damage and casualties.
NPR's Jasmine Garsd, reporting from Mexico City, says that while Mexicans are used to earthquakes, this one, which occurred on a holiday at about 9:30 a.m., was particularly strong.
"People started running out in the street," she says, adding that "street signs and street lights were waving back and forth."
"You could see a lot of people still in their pajamas, or barefoot," Jasmine says. "It lasted for quite a bit."
In 1985, a magnitude 8.1 quake killed some 6,000 people and destroyed many buildings in Mexico City.