July 21, 2014

We're still in the midst of summer blockbuster season — but if you want a sneak peek at this year's Oscar race, look no further than the trailer for The Imitation Game.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, the mathematician and computer genius who was recruited by the British government during World War II to help crack Germany's Enigma machine, which enabled them to use sophisticated ciphers. "It's the greatest encryption device in history. The Germans use it for all major communications," says Cumberbatch, who proposes building their own machine that could "break every message and win the war." To bring his plan to fruition, he works alongside a team that reads like a who's-who of talented British actors, including Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, and Charles Dance.

So far, so good — but The Imitation Game has already been met with a fair amount of controversy. It attracted early criticism for allegedly downplaying Turing's homosexuality (and the British government's horrific response to it). Since then, the film's producers have promised that there was never a version of the script "where Alan Turing is anything other than homosexual" — but that part of the story isn't exactly apparent in this trailer.

The Imitation Game hits theaters in November. --Scott Meslow

9:45 a.m. ET

After 14 long years, authorities have cracked the case of the missing Vincent van Gogh paintings. Two paintings by the famous Dutch artist were stolen during a heist at an Amsterdam museum in 2002, and they were finally found by Italian authorities "wrapped in cloth in a safe in a house in the picturesque seaside town of Castellammare di Stabia, near Pompeii," BBC reported. Italian authorities uncovered the paintings' location after an extensive investigation into the Amato Pagano clan of the Camorra Mafia family, a clan Italian prosecutors described as "one of the most dangerous and active crime groups among the Camorra gangs of the territory."

The paintings, "Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen" (1884/85) and "Seascape at Scheveningen" (1882), were given a combined estimated value of $30 million when they were listed on the FBI's "top ten art crimes" list in 2005, CNN reported. The burglars managed to swipe the paintings after climbing onto the museum's roof with a ladder, breaking a window, and then using a rope to escape the building once they'd snagged the Van Goghs.

Both paintings were found without their frames, but were in "relatively good condition." Because the two paintings are being used as evidence in a criminal trial in Italy, it is not yet clear when they will finally head home to the Netherlands. Becca Stanek

9:30 a.m. ET

The Republican nominee for the President of the United States of America had a long night. Donald Trump by all appearances spent the 5 a.m. hour of Friday morning tweeting about the former Miss Universe's so-called "sex tape" and "past," and the 3 a.m. hour tweeting about "made up lies." The timeline (which affords Trump no more than a maximum of five hours of sleep, assuming he tweeted as soon as he went to bed and woke up) is as follows:

Thursday, 10:16 p.m.:

Friday, 3:20 a.m.:

Friday, 5:14 a.m.:

Friday, 5:19 a.m.:

Friday, 5:30 a.m.:

Friday, 8:50 a.m.:

Naturally the tweetstorm raises some questions:

  • Were these early morning tweets or late night tweets?
  • Alternatively, did Trump wake up at 3:20 a.m. with a jolt of inspiration and get on Twitter because he couldn't wait?
  • Seriously, why was he awake?
  • Who was the intended audience for these public service announcements? (Possible options: New Delhi, Nairobi, Jakarta, Moscow, Reykjavik)
  • Is Trump the first presidential nominee to tell America to "check out sex tape"?
  • Will he ever learn to spell "judgment" correctly?
  • Is he okay???

The conclusion, regardless: Sleeping is clearly for losers. Jeva Lange

8:55 a.m. ET

Self-appointed "law and order" candidate Donald Trump reportedly didn't get the permission of Phoenix law enforcement officers before featuring them in one of his campaign ads. On Thursday, city officials in Phoenix, Arizona, sent the Republican candidate a cease-and-desist letter demanding that he pull his ad, entitled "Movement", because he failed to get police officers' consent before featuring them in the video. The ad shows Phoenix officers shaking hands with Trump, while the word "together" appears on the screen:

Phoenix City Attorney Brad Holm wrote in the letter that the uniformed officers shown "were unaware that they were photographed and videotaped, and they did not consent to the use of their on-duty images in any Trump (or other) campaign advertisement." Moreover, Holm said the officers' appearance suggests they support Trump, which "is not the case." Per the federal Hatch Act of 1939, individual law enforcement officers "are not permitted to appear in campaign literature or ads," Talking Points Memo reported.

NBC was unable to immediately reach the Trump campaign for a comment; Trump's Arizona state director declined The Arizona Republic's request for a comment. Becca Stanek

8:39 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Congressional Republicans have avoided getting behind their Democratic counterparts' calls for an investigation of Donald Trump's alleged ties to Russia — but not because they're not concerned about the charges. The Daily Beast reported Friday that Republican congressional staff said "Trump and his aides' connections to Russian officials and business interests haven't gone unnoticed and are concerning" to GOP lawmakers.

The Republican presidential nominee has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong leader and, at the first presidential debate Monday, Trump avoided expressing agreement with the U.S. intelligence community that Russian government hackers were behind the Democratic National Committee break-ins. In August, Trump's top adviser, Paul Manafort, resigned over questions about his ties to pro-Russia Ukrainian politicians. Last week, it was reported that U.S. intelligence officials are probing another Trump adviser for alleged ties to the Kremlin.

Yet, Trump likely won't face the scrutiny his advisers have. The Daily Beast reported that although GOP lawmakers apparently reviewed Democrats' "written requests to the FBI that it investigate Trump before they were made public," they didn't sign on, possibly in the interest of avoiding a probe into their party's nominee.

This lack of bipartisan support leaves Democrats unable to issue subpoenas for witnesses — and generally less able to investigate the Republican nominee.

Head to The Daily Beast for the full report. Becca Stanek

8:22 a.m. ET

Donald Trump's campaign has been trying to come up with an effective way to defuse the flare-up that followed Monday night's presidential debate over Trump's decade-old belittling of a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado. After Hillary Clinton mentioned Machado at the debate, her campaign put out an ad featuring the Venezuelan-Cuban actress, two magazine profiles came out, and Machado went on TV to talk about how Trump had publicly called her fat, alleging he used the terms "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping."

The Trump pushback has included arguing that Machado was overweight and difficult, alleging that she was the getaway driver in an attempted murder, that she was allegedly filmed having sex with a costar on the reality TV show La Granja (like MTV's The Real World), and posed topless in Mexican Playboy — you can see all iterations of that in supporter Scottie Nell Hughes's appearance on CNN. Media outlets that support Trump, like Alex Jones' InfoWars, Rush Limbaugh, and The Daily Caller, went dirtier, saying Machado became a porn star (Snopes says she did not).

Trump adviser Mike Flynn, the former DIA chief, made the tame version of this argument on Thursday night's Kelly File. "You look at some of the things that have come out about this young lady in the last 24 hours," he said, and Kelly — who has already criticized Trump's response — stepped in. "Even though this woman had some troubles, even though this Miss Universe had some troubles," she said, "his comments about her weight are on camera," including from earlier this week.

Early Friday morning, Trump apparently decided that his supporters weren't doing a good enough job pressing the case that the Machado "cookie is going to crumble really quickly" for Clinton, as Hughes said, or "blow up in her face," as Newt Gingrich said on Sean Hannity's show, so he took to Twitter to press the case himself.

Because obviously the story is not that Trump publicly humiliated a 19-year-old woman over her weight, as captured on video, but that the woman went on to star in a reality TV show and pose for Playboy. Peter Weber

8:18 a.m. ET

After more than a decade of observing comets in the cosmos, the historic Rosetta spacecraft executed a planned crash on Comet 67P around 7:20 a.m. Eastern time. While the touchdown was a gentle two miles per hour, the probe was never designed to land and its intentional crash cut off transmissions to Earth.

While researchers had determined Rosetta's mission had come to an end as it followed Comet 67P to the outer leg of its orbit, taking the probe away from the sun, its power source, Rosetta leaves behind overwhelming amounts of data that still need to be analyzed. The probe was the first to orbit a comet and it opened up a new era of understanding how the rock and ice bodies are tied to the universe's origins.

"There is no mission in the future that will do anything like Rosetta," Christopher Carr, the head of one of Rosetta's instrument teams, said. Watch the 2014 short film about Rosetta's mission below, and the epilogue released Wednesday by the European Space Agency, here. Jeva Lange

7:35 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Nearly a million immigrants applied to be legal citizens last year in time for this November's election, a surge that is now looking insurmountable for the federal agency in charge of the process. "With the agency now reporting that it takes up to seven months to complete the process, Obama administration officials are reluctantly admitting that many — perhaps most — of the immigrants in the backlog will not become citizens in time to vote," The New York Times writes.

In places like Florida, which saw a 40 percent increase in immigrants seeking to naturalize over a year earlier, the backlog could theoretically cost Hillary Clinton the state. Translated to a potential block of about 66,000 voters, polls have shown Latinos in the battleground state prefer Clinton to Trump in overwhelming margins.

"I've been checking my mail every day, but I haven't heard anything," Francisca Fiero, a Mexican immigrant in the battleground state of Nevada, told the Times. "I'm starting to get very worried." She applied in January; voter registration is due in Nevada on Oct. 18.

With the 23 percent surge in legal immigrant applications over the previous year, officials say they had "anticipated that there would be a spike in applications this year, but the increase has exceeded expectations," according to Jeffrey T. Carter, a spokesman for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. As of June 30, 520,000 applications had not yet been looked at. Jeva Lange

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