homophonia
August 3, 2014
iStock

A man working for an English language learning center in Utah says he was fired after writing a blog post about homophones, which his boss complained made their school "associated with homosexuality."

Tom Torkildson had worked at the Nomen Global Language Center in Provo for three months when he wrote about homophones — words that sounds the same but have different meanings, like "through" and "threw" and "be" and "bee." Torkildson wanted the English language learners to grasp this concept early on, and although he told The Salt Lake Tribune that he "knew the 'homo' part of the word could be politically charged," he still posted the lesson.

A few days later he says he was fired by his boss and the school's owner, Clarke Woodger. Woodger told the Tribune that he fired Torkildson for going "off on tangents," but he does think the lesson was too complex for anyone just starting to learn English. "People at this level of English...may see the 'homo' side and think it has something to do with gay sex," he said. Catherine Garcia

The Daily Showdown
4:41 a.m. ET

Last Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) stood on the Senate floor for 10.5 hours, staging a quasi-filibuster to protest the USA Patriot Act. Almost all of his GOP colleagues rolled their eyes at him — literally, sometimes — but if the Senate doesn't act, the Patriot Act will expire on June 1. Good, said Jon Stewart on Tuesday's Daily Show. It was always meant to expire, "and why should we allow the U.S. government to continue to infringe on liberty?"

The Republican answer is that the law, and the NSA mass surveillance it didn't quite authorize, are important tools to prevent terrorism. "I guess the lesson here is that saving American lives is sometimes more important than civil liberties and government overreach," Stewart summarized — "you know, unless you're, obviously, trying to save those lives by providing health insurance." NSA surveillance and ObamaCare, connected. One statistic — that 45,000 people die every year because they lack health insurance, per a 2009 Harvard study — blew Stewart's mind: "How do we make that the thing the government cares about? Do we have to rename Type 2 diabetes 'Osama bin unable to process insulin'?" Well, it's a thought. —Peter Weber

Watch this
3:18 a.m. ET

"In recent years, a stunning breakthrough has been made in our concept of what the universe is for," Bill Nye (the Science Guy) said on Tuesday's Inside Amy Schumer. If you're expecting a science lesson, though, remember what you're watching. Nye, without grimacing, laid out the joke: "We now know the universe is essentially a force sending cosmic guidance to white women in their 20s," a "giant dream board on which women pin their wishes."

Many young white women, the show suggests, have turned "the Universe" into a mashup of God and a Magic 8 Ball, with perhaps a smidgen of instant karma — see How I Met Your Mother for slightly more subtle usage. Nye can only take so much, and there is definitely NSFW language from both Schumer and Nye. If that doesn't bother you, watch below. —Peter Weber

death penalty
2:53 a.m. ET
Facebook/GovernorPeteRicketts

On Tuesday, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) vetoed a bill that would abolish capital punishment in the Cornhusker State, arguing that his executive negation was "a matter of public safety" and "also a matter of making sure the public prosecutors have the tools they need to put these dangerous hardened criminals behind bars." Legislators scheduled a vote for Wednesday afternoon to override Ricketts' veto; it's expected to be a close vote.

In the last of three votes to pass the death penalty ban, 32 members of the unicameral legislature voted yes and 15 voted no. That's two votes more than needed to overturn the veto, but at least one yes vote has since publicly changed his mind. Ricketts has been trying to get other lawmakers to switch to no, also. If the bipartisan coalition succeeds, Nebraska will be the first conservative state to abolish the death penalty in decades, joining 18 states and Washington, D.C. Peter Weber

but can they remember all their names?
2:05 a.m. ET

Leo and Ruth Zanger of Quincy, Illinois, may have just welcomed their 100th grandchild, but they say they treat every new arrival like it's their first.

"We just love them all and they're all so precious," Leo, 79, told Today.com. "Birth is a miracle, and to have a new one is just a wonderful thing." The Zangers have been married for 59 years and have 12 children ranging in age from 31 to 59 (their youngest son was an uncle 10 times over by the time he was born), so it's no surprise that their family has steadily grown over the years. With the birth of Jaxton Leo Zanger on April 8, the official grandchild count hit 100, although technically little Jaxton is the 46th great-grandchild (there's also one great-great-grandchild).

Most of the family lives in or near Quincy, where Leo operates a real estate agency, and they gather together during all the major holidays — they just have to rent out church halls since no one's house can fit everyone. "When we get together, it's big," daughter Donna Lane told Today.com. "It's really big. There are a lot of people — a lot of kids — but that's what it's all about. We always have a really good time." Catherine Garcia

This is terrible
1:40 a.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In a report released Wednesday, Amnesty International says that the militant group Hamas tortured and killed dozens of Palestinians during the war against Israel in the Gaza Strip last year, taking advantage of the "chaos of the conflict" to carry out "spine-chilling actions, some of which amount to war crimes."

The report says that during July and August, dozens of people were arrested and tortured, and at least 23 were executed, the Los Angeles Times reports. Amnesty International says that Hamas targeted members of Fatah, its rival political faction and the political base of the Palestinian Authority. "It is absolutely appalling that while Israeli forces were inflicting massive death and destruction upon the people in Gaza, Hamas forces took the opportunity to ruthlessly settle scores," Phillip Luther, Middle East and North Africa program director for Amnesty International, said in a statement.

One incident that was said to take place happened in August, when six men accused of being collaborators with Israel were executed in front of hundreds of people, including children. Hamas official Salah Bardawil called the report biased and not objective, and said Amnesty International "should have investigated the war crimes against humanity committed by Israel instead of criticizing the victims." Catherine Garcia

Breaking news
12:57 a.m. ET
Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

Early Wednesday, plainclothes Swiss police quietly entered the tony Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich, picked up hotel room keys, and arrested six FIFA officials on U.S. corruption charges being unsealed in U.S. federal court Wednesday morning. Soccer's governing world body has gathered in Zurich for FIFA's annual meeting, and while FIFA's powerful longtime president, Sepp Blatter, isn't among the more than 10 FIFA officials indicted, the arrests are a blow to his tenure. Blatter is expected to be elected to a fifth term on Friday

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, and IRS criminal division head Richard Weber will be in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, to announce the charges on Wednesday morning, The Wall Street Journal reports, underlining the high profile of the charges. "We're struck by just how long this went on for and how it touched nearly every part of what FIFA did," one law enforcement official told The New York Times. "It seems like this corruption was institutionalized."

The U.S. indictment reportedly charges FIFA officials with two decades of pervasive corruption in picking World Cup host countries, marketing deals, and broadcast rights, and the FBI caught a break in its long-running investigation when U.S. former FIFA executive committee member Charles "Chuck" Blazer started cooperating in 2011, agreeing to hand over documents and secretly record conversations. Blazer, who is gravely ill, is clouded by his own ethics problems.

Among those indicted are two vice presidents of FIFA's secretive 26-member executive committee, Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands and Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay, plus Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago, a former executive committee member. Peter Weber

Late Night Antics
12:45 a.m. ET

Armed with pudding pops and ugly patterned sweaters, Amy Schumer defended Bill Cosby against rape allegations the best way she could on Inside Amy Schumer: by telling a jury in the Court of Public Opinion that Cosby "probably can't get in any legal trouble," and it's really about "not punishing ourselves for loving great comedy." Pushing the nostalgia angle hard, Schumer showed the jury a clip of The Cosby Show and then asked, "Did anybody feel raped by that? How about drugged? I felt comforted by a familiar father figure." Watch the video all the way to the end to see how Schumer handles receiving a gift from her client. —Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads