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Justice served cold
August 7, 2014
CC by: ECCC/Mark Peters

On Thursday, a United Nations–backed tribunal in Cambodia convicted the two remaining senior Khmer Rouge leaders of war crimes and genocide, and sentenced them to life in prison. They will likely be short sentences — Khieu Samphan, the head of state during the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror in the 1970s, is now 83, and Nuon Chea, its chief ideologue, is 88.

More than 1.7 million people — a quarter of Cambodia's population — died in the Khmer Rouge "killing fields," purges, and forced relocations between 1975 and 1979. The tribunal's chief judge, Nil Nonn, said the men are guilty of "extermination encompassing murder, political persecution, and other inhumane acts comprising forced transfer, enforced disappearances, and attacks against human dignity." Both men said they would appeal, but they will stay in detention during the process.

During the trial, which started in 2011, Khieu Samphan blamed the killings on top Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, who died in 1998; Nuon Chea defended the regime and blamed Vietnamese troops for the massacres. Two other senior regime leaders were put on trial at the same time, but one of the defendants died in 2013 and the other was declared unfit for trial due to dementia in 2012.

"The victims have waited 35 years for legal accountability," conceded tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen, but "now that the tribunal has rendered a judgment, it is a clear milestone" as well as "a historic day for both the Cambodian people and the court." Peter Weber

Ancient palaces
7:58 a.m. ET
Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

Archaeologists are rushing to uncover and preserve Emperor Nero's Domus Aurea, or "Golden House," one of the most lavish palaces ever constructed in the Roman Empire, Archaeology reports. The Domus Aurea serves as a reminder of the notorious emperor's tyrannical, opulent, and lasciviousness lifestyle; before Nero eventually took his own life in 68 AD, he raised the Domus Aurea on grounds flattened by the devastating fire of 64 AD, leading to the speculation that he burned Rome himself. To quote the historian Suetonius:

[The Domus Aurea's] courtyard was so large that a 120-foot colossal statue of the emperor himself stood there; it was so spacious that it had a mile-long triple portico; also there was a pool of water like a sea [...] In other parts of the house, everything was covered in gold and adorned with jewels and mother-of-pearl; dining rooms with fretted ceilings whose ivory panels could be turned so that flowers or perfumes from pipes were sprinkled down from above; the main hall of the dining rooms was round, and it would turn constantly day and night like the Heavens; there were baths, flowing with seawater and with the sulfur springs of the Albula; when he dedicated this house, that had been completed in this manner, he approved of it only so much as to say that he could finally begin to live like a human being. [Suetonius, in Archaeology]

The pleasure palace eventually fell into disuse and was abandoned by Nero, only to be discovered again more recently. Only now are archeologists finally learning the extent of Nero's greed.

While working to restore the structure, which occupies the space of more than 30 Sistine Chapels, archaeologists unearthed surviving sections of the Domus Aurea that have never been explored. One area, 8,000 square feet wide, supported the Bathes of Trajan, while another unearthed area revealed nine graves — the work of Middle Age inhabitants who occupied the Roman ruins. Another section of the palace recently uncovered revealed entertaining and dining spaces. The columned portico that stretched 800 feet and opened into the artificial lake, described by Suetonius, has now also been further documented. Jeva Lange

More than 1000 words
6:42 a.m. ET

The European migration crisis got a tragic human face on Wednesday: Aylan Kurdi, a 3-year old refugee from Kobani, Syria, whose body washed ashore in Turkey along with his 5-year-old brother, Galip. Aylan, Galip, their mother, and nine others died trying to reach the Greek island Kos, an entry into Europe for many Syrians and other refugees seeking asylum. Photos of the dead toddler seized the world's attention:

The news media and social media were split sharply on whether to show more graphic, heartbreaking photos of Kurdi's lifeless body, but advocates for the migrants and some journalists said seeing Kurdi dead in the sand was a necessary jolt as hundreds of would-be refugees are dying en route to Europe.

"The image is not offensive, it is not gory, it is not tasteless — it is merely heartbreaking, and stark testimony of an unfolding human tragedy that is playing out in Syria, Turkey, and Europe, often unwitnessed," argued Kim Murphy, a news editor at the Los Angeles Times. "We have written stories about hundreds of migrants dead in capsized boats, sweltering trucks, lonely rail lines, but it took a tiny boy on a beach to really bring it home to those readers who may not yet have grasped the magnitude of the migrant crisis."

In Canada, meanwhile, a legislator says that Kurdi's aunt had submitted a request to bring the family to Canada from Turkey, but that Canadian immigration officials denied the request. European leaders have been unable to agree on how to deal with the huge influx of Africans, Afghans, Syrians, and others fleeing war and other violence. Peter Weber

game of thrones
5:00 a.m. ET

Actress Amanda Peet is married to David Benioff, one of the creators and executive producers of Game of Thrones, a show that counts Peet among its passionate fans. Because of her great love for the show, the marriage may not last, Peet told Jimmy Kimmel on Wednesday's Kimmel Live. What happened with your husband? asked a surprised Kimmel. "I don't love him anymore," Peet said, then elaborated. "Jon Snow. I told him, if you kill him, that's it.... I'm in the process of getting divorced — I'm not kidding." She almost certainly is, but she tells a good story. She also does a pretty impressive Jon Snow imitation, reading instructions for an invisible bra she claimed to be wearing. Or at least Kimmel said it was a good impression. You can watch the whole dramatic exchange of Game of Thrones love, and find out what it's like to be a huge fan married to a man who won't tell you the show's secrets, below. Peter Weber

This just in
4:22 a.m. ET
Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina resigned early Thursday, according to his spokesman, amid a fraud scandal that had already led to the imprisonment of his vice president and forced the resignation of some cabinet members. Hours earlier, Attorney General Thelma Aldana had told a local TV station that a judge had approved her request to detain Perez Molina to testify in court. The judge, Miguel Angel Galvea, would have been able to force the president to step down or even be sent to prison.

The resignation isn't official until Guatemala's Congress approves it and names a successor, moves expected Thursday. Under the constitution, Vice President Alejandro Maldonado, a conservative former high court judge, is next in line for the office.

The corruption scandal, which has dogged Perez Molina's administration for months and led to daily street protests, revolves around businesspeople paying bribes to customs officials to avoid paying import duties. It was uncovered by Guatemalan prosecutors and a United Nations commission. Perez Molina is accused of illegal association, fraud, and receiving bribes. The former president says he is innocent, and long maintained he would not step down. Guatemala is holding elections to pick his successor on Sunday, but Perez Molina wasn't scheduled to leave office until January. Peter Weber

last night on late night
3:52 a.m. ET

According to a new poll, Jimmy Kimmel said on Wednesday's Kimmel Live, 54 percent of Republicans still believe that President Obama is a Muslim. "I'm sure Donald Trump had something to do with this," Kimmel said. He was surprised enough by the findings to make that questions — "Is President Barack Obama a Muslim?" — his "pedestrian question." The way the game works is the interviewer asks the question to a random pedestrian on the street, and then the audience guesses his or her answer, based only on name and place of residence. Did he find any "yes" votes, on camera? You can play along below. Peter Weber

Watch this
3:21 a.m. ET

Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who is thwarting the Supreme Court by continuing to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, sought another last-minute injunction on Wednesday, despite the U.S. Supreme Court rejecting her appeal on Monday. This earned an unusual rebuke from the top federal prosecutor in the area. "We have grave concerns about the reported failure to comply with the court's order," said U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey, who isn't involved in the case. "Government officials are free to disagree with the law, but not disobey it."

Davis' confounding bid to delay the inevitable also earned her a Funny or Die video interspersing her on-camera refusal to obey the Supreme Court with scenes from the NBC hit Parks and Recreation, featuring stars Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman. Clerks and Recreation won't illuminate any of the issues in the case, but it might well make you laugh. Watch below. Peter Weber

Clinton Emails
2:43 a.m. ET
AP Photo/Richard Drew

In August, a House committee issued a subpoena to Brian Pagliano, a former information-technology staffer on Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid who later worked at the State Department and set up and oversaw Clinton's private email server at her home in New York. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of that committee — set up to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya — ordered Pagliano to testify on Sept. 10 and provide documents related to Clinton's homebrew server, The Washington Post reports. Through his lawyer, Pagliano said he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent if he is compelled to attend the hearing.

"It is not clear why Mr. Pagliano is refusing to answer questions about the server," notes Michael S. Schmidt at The New York Times. "The FBI is investigating how classified information was handled in connection with the account, but no evidence has surfaced that Mr. Pagliano had anything to do with those materials."

Pagliano's lawyer, Mark MacDougall, acknowledged in a letter to Gowdy that the decision "may be controversial in the current political environment," but cited the FBI investigation and quoted a Supreme Court ruling about the Fifth Amendment protecting "innocent men... 'who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances.'"

Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, blamed Gowdy and backed Pagliano's decision. "Although multiple legal experts agree there is no evidence of criminal activity, it is certainly understandable that this witness's attorneys advised him to assert his Fifth Amendment rights, especially given the onslaught of wild and unsubstantiated accusations" from Republicans, he said. "Their insatiable desire to derail Secretary Clinton's presidential campaign at all costs has real consequences for any serious congressional effort." Peter Weber

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