Laughing all the way to the bank
July 8, 2014

Film critics almost universally dislike director Michael Bay, but as his very lucrative (and somewhat formulaic) Transformers franchise proves, audiences love him — Transformers 4: Age of Extinction is pulling in cash hand-over-fist. Jimmy Kimmel noted this discrepancy between critical loathing and audience approval on Monday night's Jimmy Kimmel Live, then took it one step further, asking critics who've panned Bay films (a wide pool) to say something nice about the super-wealthy director.

It's actually kind of a sweet idea. And the prominent movie critics come in at different points on the "nice" scale — "Well, he seems to have great hair, and I hear he's above average in the height department," says the Chicago Sun Times' Richard Roeper in one of the more cutting compliments (but not the worst). A little passive-aggressive? Sure, but at least their hearts are almost certainly in the wrong place — and who is Bay to object to something with high entertainment value? --Peter Weber

Discoveries
8:57 a.m. ET

Archaeologists in France have uncovered the tomb of a Celtic prince from the Early Iron Age, also known as the Hallstatt era.

The team believes the prince lived 2,500 years ago, and his burial site is one of the largest ever found from the fifth century B.C.E. And the most incredible part is that it was found under a traffic roundabout.

Archaeologists from France's National Archaeological Research Institute (Inrap) have been working at the Troyes site since October. The tomb contained Greek and Etruscan artifacts, including a chariot, a cauldron decorated with Greek gods, and an amphora with images of Dionysus. The value of the corpse's burial items are what led the team to believe he was an aristocrat and likely a prince.

"Even in the rich Greek tombs you don't find such objects," Dominique Garcia, the head of Inrap, told The Telegraph. "These objects were like diplomatic gifts."

In a statement, the researchers explained that Celtic communities would have acquired Greek and Etruscan items through trade with Mediterranean cultures. The archaeologists described the find as an "extraordinary" discovery, The International Business Times reports.

This just in
8:25 a.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The latest report from the Bureau of Labor statistics found the U.S. economy generated 295,000 new jobs in February, while the unemployment rate ticked down a bit to 5.5 percent, from 5.7 percent in January. Average hourly earnings for all workers also rose to $24.78, up from $24.75 in January. The December 2014 jobs creation number of 329,000 was unchanged, and January 2015 was revised downward, from 257,000 to 239,000.

The February numbers actually beat out the expectations of Wall Street economists, who were anticipating 235,000 new jobs, an unemployment rate of 5.6 percent, and an increase in average hourly earnings of 0.2 percent from January. The last month job growth fell below 200,000 — roughly the threshold needed to keep up with population growth — was January of 2014. So this remains the longest stretch of sustained growth above that mark since the early 1990s.

Really?
7:51 a.m. ET

Eleven-year-old Liam Scholes didn't get to celebrate World Book Day with the rest of his class. The reason? His book character of choice was Christian Grey, of 50 Shades of Grey.

Sale High School in Greater Manchester asked students to dress up as literary characters for World Book Day on Wednesday. Scholes chose Grey, wearing a gray suit and carrying an eye mask and "cable ties" to complete the look, BBC News reports.

Apparently, the school didn't appreciate Scholes' costume, though, and he wasn't allowed to participate in the class photo. His mother, meanwhile, supported the costume. Nicola Scholes told BBC News that it was perfectly fine for a teacher to dress as a serial killer and for children to come in with toy guns, so her son's costume should have been allowed. She added that children her son's age "all talk about sex."

"Liam was advised to dress as James Bond, but he was promiscuous and a murderer,” Nicola Scholes told BBC News. "Personally, I'm more offended by a murderer."

#Hashtags
7:20 a.m. ET

Jimmy Fallon normally reads out his own Hashtag selections — tweets using a hashtag he suggested — but on Thursday night's Tonight Show he handed that responsibility over to Tariq Trotter in his house band, The Roots. Most of the #SpringBreakRaps tweets are about what you'd expect — drinking, hooking up, regret — but there are a few pleasant surprises thrown in. My favorite: "Gonna trash the hotel / We won't clean up the mess / Leave your town black and blue / Like a white and gold dress." So, nice work, @edillades. Watch that and the other tweet raps artfully performed by Tariq and the band below. —Peter Weber

Clintonemails
7:01 a.m. ET
Lisa Lake/Getty Images for Massachusetts Conference for Women

Hillary Clinton has requested that the State Department make public the stash of emails from her private account that her aides vetted and turned over to the department last fall, but an unidentified senior State Department official told Reuters that "the review is likely to take several months given the sheer volume of the document set."

Separately, a department official told The Washington Post that Clinton's use of a private email account didn't necessarily violate State Department rules, as long as the emails were preserved, but that the review would determine if she broke security policies by transmitting sensitive or classified information over an email system that didn't meet security standards. A Clinton aide told The Post that 90 percent of Clinton's correspondence was with department employees at their state.gov account — presumably meaning it is already archived — but the remaining 10 percent was with government officials in other departments or email accounts "not on a government server."

The red planet was blue
5:47 a.m. ET

About 4.3 billion years ago, up to 20 percent of Mars was covered by an ocean that reached about a mile in depth, according to scientists from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The polar ice caps today contain the 13 percent of that ocean that didn't evaporate into space when Mars' atmosphere largely disappeared.

Geronimo Villanueva and his colleagues at Goddard reached this surprising conclusion by using infrared beams to make a map of water molecules in what's left of the Martian atmosphere, they report in Thursday's issue of the journal Science. "Our study provides a solid estimate of how much water Mars once had, by determining how much water was lost to space," Villanueva said in a statement.

Scientists already knew that Mars once had water, but this extends the red planet's wet period for much longer. "With Mars losing that much water, the planet was very likely wet for a longer period of time than was previously thought, suggesting it might have been habitable for longer," said Goddard's Michael Mumma, another author of the report. Mumma and Villanueva explain their research and its implications in greater detail in the NASA video below. —Peter Weber

The Daily Showdown
4:27 a.m. ET

The murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, right outside the Kremlin in the heart of Moscow, has prompted a lot of speculation about what role, if any, Vladimir Putin played in the killing. Jon Stewart didn't directly point the finger at Putin on Thursday night's Daily Show, but he did laugh at the Russian president's insistence that he will personally lead the investigation into Nemtsov's murder.

"Oh good, he's vowing to find the real killer," Stewart laughed, showing a photo of OJ Simpson. "That's a promise that always inspires confidence. The only thing that could be more OJ is if Putin started stealing sports memorabilia...." which, of course, he allegedly has. Not that Stewart was done with the comparisons: Putin started out as a fairly normal guy, like Draco Malfoy in the first Harry Potter novel, he said, but after spending too many nights "in the dungeon-y parts of Hogwarts" with the bad kids, Putin has become "Lord Vladimort." Hopefully there isn't a sequel. —Peter Weber

The Daily Showdown
3:39 a.m. ET
The Daily Show

When Michael Brown, a black teenager, was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, last August, everyone was outraged — just not for the same reason, Jon Stewart said on Thursday night's Daily Show. Now, a new set of Justice Department reports suggests, "everybody was right!" The DOJ declined to press charges against Wilson and also found a troubling history of racism and de facto extortion by the Ferguson police. "According to our Justice Department," Stewart summarized, "everybody's anger was separate but equally justified."

Stewart largely left the "self-vindicating gloating" about Wilson to Fox News, while he and correspondent Jessica Williams tackled the Ferguson PD's habit of stopping black residents for things like "manner of walking along roadway," then funneling the resulting selective fines to city coffers — to the tune of $2.6 million in 2013. "What? $2.6 million?" Stewart said. "Maybe they don't hate blacks, they just love green." Williams played up the shake-down angle, but watch for Jason Jones' cameo at the end. —Peter Weber

ISIS
3:15 a.m. ET

About 20,000 Iraqi army troops, Shiite militia members, and Iranian advisers are advancing on Tikrit, in Iraq's largest effort to retake a city from Islamic State control. ISIS is staging counter-attacks and, sources tells Reuters, setting fire to oil fields about 20 miles northeast of Tikrit to slow the assault. Torching the Ajil oil field, ISIS apparently believes, will protect them from Iraq military helicopters.

Before ISIS conquered Tikrit last August, the Ajil field produced about 25,000 barrels of oil and 150 million cubic feet of gas a day. Under ISIS control, that amount has gone down significantly, but ISIS partly relies on its oil sales to fund its self-proclaimed caliphate.

panda-monium
2:24 a.m. ET

Here's something you don't see every day (or night): A giant panda walking through the deserted streets of a town in southwest China. Closed-circuit television captured the bear as it ambled down the road late one night, seemingly enjoying having the streets all to herself. Experts who viewed the footage believe the animal is about 2 years old, and say that pandas are commonly found in this area. —Catherine Garcia

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