the saga continues
August 7, 2014
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Infamous whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden was granted three more years of temporary residency by Russia, his lawyer announced Thursday. Russia had granted Snowden one year of temporary asylum last year, but that expired on Aug. 1.

Snowden is wanted by the United States on espionage charges, but because Russia does not have an extradition treaty with the United States, it has refused to hand Snowden back to American authorities. Russia's acceptance of Snowden last year sparked increasing tensions between Russia and the U.S. — even before this year's conflicts over the annexation of Crimea and separatists in eastern Ukraine. Add this to the latest round of sanction-swapping and it doesn't seem this modern Cold War is warming up any time soon.

10:05 a.m. ET

Archaeologists from Leicester University have finally revealed the contents of a lead coffin found near the grave of King Richard III. Richard III was found buried under a parking lot in Leicester, England. The coffin, discovered within a sarcophagus in 2013, contained the remains of an elderly woman, archaeologists announced Sunday.

The coffin held a crucifix, along with the woman's skeleton. Scientists believe the woman was likely buried during the second half of the 13th century, before Richard III died. The find marks the first intact medieval stone coffin found in the area, Discovery News reports.

The site is also home to several other graves, discovered beneath the parking lot. Matthew Morris, who led the dig, told Discovery News that there is "potential for hundreds more burials" at the site, which was once home to a medieval Franciscan church.

Morris told Discovery News that the archaeologists thought the person buried inside the coffin would be male. He believes the discovery will provide "important insights into the interaction of women and the religious orders in the medieval period."

This just in
9:51 a.m. ET

A federal judge on Monday nixed Nebraska's ban on same-sex marriage, though the ruling will not take hold until March 9 so the state can file an appeal.

The delay could mean that the fate of Nebraska's ban remains in limbo until this summer, when the Supreme Court is expected to issue a landmark ruling on whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed. Seven same-sex couples in Nebraska filed suit last year over a voter-approved ban on gay marriage.

TV talk
9:49 a.m. ET

The Dowager Countess' days of quipping are nearing their end. In a recent interview with the Sunday Times, Maggie Smith — who plays the legendarily caustic character on the popular period drama Downton Abbey — has revealed that she will leave the series after its sixth season.

"They say this is the last [season], and I can’t see how it could go on," said Smith. "I mean, I certainly can’t keep going. To my knowledge, I must be 110 by now. We’re into the late 1920s."

Though there are persistent rumors about Downton Abbey ending after its upcoming sixth season, the show's creative team has refused to confirm their long-term plans. "We'll call time when we think the time is right," said executive producer Gareth Neame in a recent interview.

This just in
9:32 a.m. ET
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Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the longest-serving woman in the history of the Senate, will not seek re-election once her term expires at the end of next year, according to The Washington Post, Associated Press, and others.

The 78-year-old Mikulski has served in the upper chamber since 1987, and served in the House for 10 years before that. Known affectionately as the "dean" of Senate women, Mikulski is scheduled to hold a news conference Monday morning to discuss her future plans.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em
9:19 a.m. ET

Millennials are the driving factor behind the rapid rise in support for legal marijuana in the U.S. And in the latest sign of the changing times, even a significant majority of young Republicans — 63 percent to be precise — now favor legalization, according to Pew.

By comparison, only 31 percent of all Republicans support marijuana legalization.

9:04 a.m. ET

Archaeologists discovered the remains of 700 people at the graveyard of England's Hereford Cathedral between 2009 and 2011. But recent osteological research has revealed that one of the bodies is particularly noteworthy: The skeleton's broken bones suggest that the man may have been a medieval knight who sustained jousting injuries throughout his life.

The skeletons are from the Norman Conquest, which ran from 1066 C.E. through the 19th century, Ancient Origins reports. The bones of the man who may have been a knight have fractures on his right side, at the man's ribs and shoulders. Archaeologists believe the man was hit in the right side of his upper body during jousting events. The man also had a break in his left leg that researchers believe may be due to a stirrup injury.

"Obviously, we can never be sure how people came about their wounds, but in this case there is a considerable amount of evidence suggesting this man was involved in some form of violent activity, and the locations of his injuries do match quite closely what might be expected from taking part in mock battles," Andy Boucher, the Headland Archaeology researcher in charge of the osteological study, said in a statement. "The fact that he was still doing this after he was 45 suggests he must have been very tough."

8:07 a.m. ET
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) meeting on Monday, a day before his controversial speech to Congress. But the Obama administration isn't giving Netanyahu an empty stage to make his case against a prospective nuclear deal with Iran. White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice and U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power will make the case for the deal at AIPAC, and Obama will likely discuss the Iran negotiations in an interview scheduled with Reuters on Monday afternoon.

John Oliver gets excited
7:50 a.m. ET

Infrastructure, like the government officials who tout the need to maintain it, is not "sexy," John Oliver conceded on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. But is it really boring? "I'd argue that it's actually pretty interesting," Oliver said, noting that the sentiment made him like that "rad youth counselor" trying to convince kids that "Jesus was the Tayor Swift of his time." But unlike most youth group leaders, Oliver is really funny, and he has an HBO-sized budget and 20 minutes to convince you that dams and roads and bridges are not only important, but also fascinating. Watch below to see if he can make you a believer. If not, he has some help near the end. —Peter Weber

This just in
7:46 a.m. ET
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Afghanistan's army wants to fight the Taliban without the help of the U.S. or NATO. The Afghan army is in the midst of its biggest solo offensive against the Taliban in the southern province of Helmand.

Afghanistan wants to "strike a decisive blow ahead of the spring fighting season," The Associated Press reports. AP adds that the offensive is part of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's efforts to overhaul the country's police and army operations.

"This is an incredibly important operation," an unnamed Western diplomat told AP. "This is Ghani’s attempt to demonstrate to the U.S. and the U.S. Congress that Afghan ground forces are able to take the lead and conduct offensive operations if they have the right enablers to support them."

Afghan troops are clearing areas where insurgents have been entrenched for years, sending helicopter raids into compounds. Maj. Gen. Kurt Fuller, deputy chief of staff for U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan, told AP that the Taliban casualties have exceeded those of Afghan troops by "a factor of 10 to one." Fuller also told AP that Afghan officials and local leaders are planning to build new schools, police stations, and clinics in Helmand.

Ukraine Crisis
7:03 a.m. ET
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On Monday, the United Nations released its latest report on the war in Ukraine, putting the number of dead at above 6,000 and the number of wounded at nearly 15,000. The conflict had died down a bit in December, but an influx of military support from Russia had led to an escalation in fighting, dampening prospects for a peaceful resolution, U.N. Assistant Secretary General Ivan Simonovic said in Geneva.

"Credible reports indicate a continuing influx of heavy and sophisticated weaponry to armed groups in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as foreign fighters, including from the Russian Federation," said the U.N. in its ninth report on the Ukraine conflict, focusing on the period from December through mid-February. "This has fueled the escalation of the conflict and new offensives by armed groups, undermining the potential for peace as armed groups extend their areas of control." The big losers have been Kiev and civilians. You can read the entire report at the U.N.'s website.

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