Two top leaders of Cambodia’s former communist ruling party have been found guilty of crimes against humanity by a UN tribunal. Kampuchea’s ideological chief, Nuon Chea, 88, and its president, Khieu Samphan, 83, were convicted and given life sentences for the “extermination” of some 1.7 million people from 1975 to 1979. Neither octogenarian (one in his wheelchair) reacted to the verdicts, and both can appeal, but for now they’re heading straight to jail.
The Presidential Daily Brief
The price for unloading toxic mortgages is apparently somewhere between $16 and $17 billion — the amount Bank of America has agreed to pay in a tentative deal to settle federal claims. It had held out for less but caved after a district judge ordered it to pay $1.3 billion in a related case. The ink should dry this month, with $9 billion for the feds and more than $7 billion for consumer relief. Meanwhile, the bank increased its quarterly dividend.
How do you like them apples? Vladimir Putin is mad about western sanctions and taking it out on his fruit- and veg-loving subjects by banning agricultural imports from the U.S. and EU. Russia imported nearly $1.3 billion in U.S. food and agricultural products last year, but the ban is predicted to hurt Russian consumers with higher prices more than it will impact U.S. farmers. Wait for the chant: Putin, Putin, produce, please!
He’s spent $11 billion since 2009 trying to bring U.S. rail travel into the 21st century, but it’s going nowhere fast. Critics claim Obama’s failed to do more than upgrade run-of-the-mill Amtrak services rather than focusing on the Northeast Corridor, where high-speed rail is the most viable and one forlorn “Acela” stretch gets up to 150 mph. Republican opposition is also to blame, but better planning and support will be needed to get the program back on track.
Israel ready to extend Gaza ceasefire. (Al Jazeera)
CDC ramps up Ebola alert to highest level. (NBC)
Islamic State seizes large Christian town in Iraq. (BBC)
Final arguments under way in Pistorius case. (CNN)
U.S. to set up Africa peacekeeping force. (DW)
When a monkey steals a camera, it’s one thing. When Wikipedia says it’s the monkey’s intellectual property, that’s bound to drive the camera’s owner bananas. British photographer David Slater, claiming intellectual property, says he owns a famous 2011 selfie of a grinning endangered crested black macaque and wants Wikipedia to remove it. The site argues the monkey pushed the button, so the public owns it. The animal may have monkeyed around, says Slater, “but I did all the setting up.”
Hitch your wagon to a star, but your spacecraft will do quite nicely with a comet for now. The European probe Rosetta has ended its 10-year trek to meet up with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Making space exploration history with a $1.7 billion journey, the spacecraft is within 60 miles of the rubber duck-shaped comet. Rosetta will study dust and gases of the comet as it orbits the sun in an effort to unravel the mysteries of the solar system.
Little pill, what can’t you cure? Already prized for its daily blood-thinning benefits for heart patients, aspirin showed an impressive cancer-fighting correlation in a new 20-year study. Looking at more than 130,000 people in Britain, researchers found that those who took an aspirin a day from middle age greatly reduced their cancer risk. Colorectal, prostate and stomach cancer rates dropped by up to 35 percent, and esophageal cancer deaths were cut by as much as 50 percent.
Even wall art is state-controlled in Iran, so pulling a Banksy is dangerous. But anonymous street artist Black Hand is decorating public walls to protest Iran’s censorship. Pieces have highlighted and challenged everything from homophobia to Iran’s legal organ trade, which sees poor families selling kidneys for cash. Black Hand says he hopes to continue working for the “people who are not taken seriously enough” without painting himself into a corner with authorities.
Most tigers can hop into bunkers without injury, but Eldrick Tont Woods strained his back doing just that. When Tiger bowed out of Sunday’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, many feared he’d skip this weekend’s PGA Championship in Louisville. Even a wounded tiger tends to steal the show, as organizers know, so all were relieved when their sore celeb announced he was fit and ready to swing. But the scare highlights golf’s dependence upon the 14-time Majors champ for plumping crowds and television ratings.