Pen and phoning it in
July 29, 2014
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Speaking to the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders this week, President Obama touted the rule of law as vital to a nation's success:

Regardless of the resources a country possesses, regardless of how talented the people are, if you do not have a basic system of rule of law, of respect for civil rights and human rights, if you do not give people a credible, legitimate way to work through the political process to express their aspirations, if you don't respect basic freedom of speech and freedom of assembly... it is very rare for a country to succeed. [Devex]

Obama explained that though some short-term success might be possible in the absence of the rule of law, long-term failure would be inevitable.

As civil libertarians have readily pointed out, Obama's comments are incongruous with his willingness to defend the NSA's unconstitutional activities, to ignore laws which contradict his campaign promises, and to govern by "pen and phone" if Congress does not pass his preferred legislation. Speaker of the House John Boehner recently announced his desire to sue the President on charges of lawlessness. Bonnie Kristian

Discoveries
9:03 a.m. ET
Twitter

Archaeologists have discovered an incredibly rare, advanced weapon, and they found it by accident.

A Russian archaeological team was studying a sabre that was discovered seven years ago in Yaroslavl. They were only conducting a routine examination, but closer inspection revealed that the sabre was actually the oldest crucible steel weapon found in eastern Europe.

Asya Engovatova, who led the research, said in a statement that the discovery was "highly unexpected," since the sabre had already been on display at a local museum for seven years. In 2007, Engovatova's team found the weapon at a mass grave site for civilians killed in a massacre in 1238. The site also yielded skeletons and household items, including dishes and jewelry.

Analysis of the sabre revealed that it was a sword made from crucible steel, a rare and expensive material. The archaeologists believe the sabre could have belonged to a wealthy warrior from the army of Batu Khan, who led the 1238 invasion. They also believe the sabre was burned during a ritual before it was buried. There's still much for historians to explore about the weapon, but for now, the sabre has returned to its display at the Yaroslavl Museum. Meghan DeMaria

Noted
8:25 a.m. ET

On Tuesday, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn, who led the Kansas City/St. Joseph diocese. Finn pleaded guilty in 2012 to charges that he failed to report suspected child abuse to authorities — he waited six months to tell police that Rev. Shawn Ratigan had hundreds of explicit photos on his computer of young girls from around churches where he worked — and was sentenced to two years of probation. Ratigan was given 50 years for child pornography.

Finn, 62, offered his resignation under a section of canon law that allows early departure of duties due to illness or other "grave" reason that renders them unfit for duty. Last month, Pope Francis demoted Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Scotland and stripped him of all priestly "duties and privileges" after O'Brien admitted to sexual misconduct in 2013, but Finn is the first U.S. bishop removed for failing to report a suspected child abuser. Archbishop Joseph Naumman will temporarily lead the Kansas City diocese. Peter Weber

Science!
7:52 a.m. ET

The universe's largest known structure has turned out to be nothing more than a supervoid — a.k.a, a really big hole.

Scientists discovered the supervoid, a blob that's a stunning 1.8 billion light years across, during a recent astronomical survey. Istvan Szapudi, who led the research, told The Guardian that the hole may be "the largest individual structure ever identified by humanity."

Szapudi explained that the astronomers had hoped to find the void, because it provides an explanation for why previous reports showed the area as "unusually cool," The Guardian reports. The new research suggests that the "Cold Spot," where the hole was discovered, could be a result of the supervoid draining the energy from light traveling through the region. The void could help explain the universe's formation after the Big Bang, because light photons would lose energy and become cooler after passing through the void, The Guardian explains.

A giant hole may not seem exciting, but for scientists, the rare find is spectacular. "It just pushed the explanation one layer deeper," Roberto Trotta, a cosmologist at Imperial College London, told The Guardian. "Now we have to figure out how does the void itself form." Meghan DeMaria

Money and politics
7:32 a.m. ET
(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) will let his super PAC, Right to Rise, do a lot of the heavy lifting (and fundraising) in his undeclared presidential campaign, The Associated Press reports, citing "two Republicans and several Bush donors familiar with the plan." Right to Rise might do many of the things presidential campaigns typically do, like run TV ads and direct-mail campaigns, get-out-the-vote drives, and gather voter data.

"Nothing like this has been done before," campaign spending limit opponent David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, tells AP. "It will take a high level of discipline to do it." The advantages for Bush are obvious: Money. Super PACs can raise unlimited amounts from people, groups, and corporations, while campaigns must limit donors to $2,700 in the primary and another $2,700 in the general election.

The downside? Once Bush launches his 2016 bid — but not before — he and his campaign can't coordinate with the super PAC. At least not legally. Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell downplayed the strategy, telling AP that "any speculation on how a potential campaign would be structured, if he were to move forward, is premature at this time." Read more about Bush's evolving plan, and how it fits with campaign finance laws, at AP. Peter Weber

Egypt in turmoil
6:34 a.m. ET

On Tuesday, a judge in Cairo handed down 20-year prison sentences to ousted President Mohamed Morsi and 12 other defendants, most of them members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, for the death, kidnapping, and torture of protesters in the violent demonstrations that led to overthrow of Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president. Judge Ahmed Sabry Youssef acquitted the men of murder, which could have led to death sentences.

The sentences can be appealed, but Morsi faces three other trials, and the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi — the former general who overthrew Morsi — has cracked down harshly on the Muslim Brotherhood. The sentencing hearing, from a makeshift courtroom at the national police academy, was broadcast on national TV. Peter Weber

The Daily Showdown
6:01 a.m. ET

Monday was April 20, and Jon Stewart got all dressed up to celebrate 4/20 with a lighthearted look at pot in the news. CNN, the object of Stewart's frequent mockery, seemed ripe for the picking, but actually turned out substantive reports on the benefits of medical and recreational marijuana for patients and state tax coffers, respectively. "This pot story isn't fun at all," groovy Stewart said on Monday's Daily Show.

That's when Jessica Williams made an appearance as the voice of a sober new generation of pot smokers, playing the foil to Stewart old-school stoner shtick. But since this is The Daily Show, and not sketch comedy, Stewart got in the last jibe, at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who it turns out is only against certain suspect forms of raising revenue for his state, regardless of opposition from the feds. —Peter Weber

Police Under Fire
5:32 a.m. ET

Police in Baltimore arrested Freddie Gray, 25, on April 12, and took him to the station in police van. Gray, who is black, died on Sunday after a weeklong coma, and police say they aren't sure how he came to "suffer a significant spinal injury that led to his death," Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said at a news conference on Monday, after days of protests. "We have no evidence — physical, video, or statements — of any use of force."

Six officers have been suspended with pay while the department investigates what happened, Commissioner Anthony Bratts said, and police have adopted new policies on transporting suspects and giving them medical care. "When Mr. Gray was put in that van, he could talk, he was upset," Rodriguez said. "And when he was taken out of that van, he could not talk and he could not breathe." Billy Murphy, the Gray family's lawyer, said Gray's "spine was over 80 percent severed at his neck."

The arrest report said that Officer Garrett Miller wanted to charge Gray with possessing a switchblade knife, and suggested he was pursued because he made eye contact with police and fled. "I understand the community's frustration,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said at the news conference. "I understand it because I'm frustrated. I’m angry that we are here again, that we have to tell another mother that her child is dead." You can watch excerpts of the news conference below. —Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads