American Peter Theo Curtis is heading home after two years of captivity by al-Nusra Front rebels in Syria. The 45-year-old New England journalist was handed over to UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights. His family said Qatar’s government helped negotiate the release, and U.S. officials have denied paying a ransom. Curtis is not believed to be connected to hostages held by the Islamic State, which has threatened to kill another U.S. journalist unless America ends airstrikes in Iraq.
The Presidential Daily Brief
A British rapper’s voice may prove his downfall. UK authorities believe they’re close to identifying the Islamic State militant with a British accent dubbed “Jihadi John” who beheaded James Foley. Reports finger a rapper named Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, 24, who recently tweeted a photo of himself holding a severed head. He may be among the scariest of some 500 Brits — with easy travel access to Europe and the U.S. — believed to have joined IS.
Is it time to make the donuts? The fast food king is in talks to acquire coffee chain Tim Hortons — Canada’s “favorite donut” maker — in a deal that could move the U.S.-based sizzler’s tax base north of the border. The merger would broaden Burger King’s breakfast market share and its global reach while significantly reducing its tax bill. It would also create a whopper of a company, the world’s third-largest quick-service chain, with 18,000 locations in 100 countries.
If the fault lines didn’t shake them, the price tag will. The San Francisco Bay Area was rocked by its strongest earthquake since 1989, injuring at least 120 people. The 6.0-magnitude event cracked buildings in Napa, disrupting water and gas mains and causing several fires, including one at a mobile home park that destroyed six homes. Thousands were left without power, and Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency as authorities count damages they fear will reach $1 billion.
French PM announces government’s resignation over economic squabbles. (CNBC)
Michael Brown’s dad pleads for peace during son’s funeral. (CBS)
Renamo ends two-year insurgency in Mozambique. (DW)
DR Congo confirms two cases of Ebola. (CNN)
British actor Lord Richard Attenborough, who appeared in more than 70 films and won an Oscar for directing Gandhi, has died. In more than six decades on screen, the Cambridge-born brother of naturalist Sir David Attenborough played roles as diverse as a squadron leader in The Great Escape and an eccentric grandpa in Jurassic Park and directed highly acclaimed films like Chaplin and Shadowlands. Prime Minister David Cameron called Attenborough — who leaves behind his wife of almost 70 years — “one of the greats.”
Authorities’ attempt to remove “unsightly” air cooling units in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, seems to have loosened the iron grip of intimidation President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov holds over Turkmenistan. About 50 citizens blocked cherry-picker cranes sent yesterday to pluck the units from apartment windows. The civil disobedience succeeded, and the cranes rolled off. The lesson? Total control might preclude a Turkmen spring, but when summer comes with 120-degree temperatures, it’s best to let folks keep their cool.
Want to track terrorists? A citizen journalist website, headquartered in the UK and crowdfunded to the tune of $85,000, may have found the locations of James Foley’s beheading and a training camp for Islamic State militants. Bellingcat — whose home-based founder Eliot Higgins nailed Syria for using chemical weapons a year ago — analyzed IS videos and matched landmarks in photos linked to Google Maps. Would-be Web detectives can join the hunt here.
Electrically stimulating the brain may seem like comic book fare, but research — and an unregulated cottage industry — suggest that lightly juicing the scalp can stimulate brain neurons. The U.S. military does this to improve the performance of drone pilots, and it’s boosted math scores and helped those suffering from depression. Scientists say positive results can be had in controlled environments, but poor placement and pulses can also have adverse effects. Applying current to improve a 12-year-old’s Bioshock score is not advised.
They won’t be saying “Play it again, Sam” anytime soon in St. Louis. When the Oklahoma City-born quarterback tore his ACL last season, the Rams remained hopeful that Bradford would return. But the 224-pound drop-back passer has re-injured himself in pre-season play. “We have lost Sam for the year,” coach Jeff Fisher said, adding that while he hasn’t begun looking for another quarterback, it “doesn’t mean to say that we won’t.” Fans, meanwhile, will be left singing the blues.