Strange Bedfellows?
July 8, 2014
CC by: Senate Democrats

A very strange set of false accusations against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), which emerged late in his 2012 re-election campaign, have now taken an even stranger turn.

The Washington Post reports that Mendendez's attorney asked the Justice Department this past April to investigate evidence, obtained by U.S. intelligence, that the Castro regime in Cuba was responsible for planting a story that the senator had consorted with young or even underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.

Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, is a staunch opponent of efforts to normalize trade or other relations with Cuba. At the time of the 2012 election, he was in line to assume the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he has since done.

Several days before the election, the conservative news site The Daily Caller published an article containing allegations of prostitution by two women who appeared to be of legal age, which briefly caused a huge stir among right-leaning media outlets. Menendez easily won re-election, with 59 percent of the vote.

In the months to come, though, a total of three Dominican women then recanted their statements, saying that they had in fact been paid by someone else to make the claims.

The Daily Caller's editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson was surprised at the possibility that his reporters might have unwittingly been the funnel for a Cuban propaganda operation. "I really can't assess it without more information," Carlson told The Post. "It's bizarre on its face, but also fascinating."

This just in
9:39am ET
Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

Egypt on Sunday said it freed Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste and would soon deport him to his native Australia.

Greste was arrested in December 2013 and accused of publishing false news, sparking an international outcry from free press advocates who considered the charges bogus. Egypt has not said what it plans to do with two other Al Jazeera reporters, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, who were imprisoned along with Greste.

This just in
7:37am ET
Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

Novak Djokovic on Sunday defeated Andy Murray in four sets — 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-0 — to claim a record fifth Australian Open title.

The top-ranked player in the world, Djokovic remained perfect in Australian Open finals while claiming his eighth Grand Slam. Murray, who has never won the event, settled for his fourth second place finish in Melbourne.

This just in
January 31, 2015
AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko

Japanese officials said they are attempting to authenticate a video released on Saturday which shows the apparent beheading of Kenji Goto, a hostage of Islamic State militants, The Associated Press reports.

The video, titled "A Message to the Government of Japan," shows an apparent ISIS militant with a British accent, along with Goto, who kneels in an orange jumpsuit and does not speak in the minute-long video.

The militant speaks directly to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, saying that Abe's "decision to take part in an unwinnable war," is to blame for Goto's beheading.

"Let the nightmare for Japan begin," he adds.

Japanese and Jordanian officials had been attempting to negotiate through indirect channels for the release of Goto and Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh.

the view from the top
January 31, 2015

After nearly 7,000 miles in the air, Troy Bradley of Albuquerque and Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia came back to earth on Saturday, landing their helium-filled balloon four miles offshore of Baja California, The Associated Press reports.


Bradley (left) and Tiukhtyaev | (AP Photo/Tami Bradley-Two Eagles Balloon Team)

The Two Eagles Balloon team took off from Japan early on Sunday morning; a little less than a week later, they had broken at least two long-standing records for ballooning; the pilots easily exceeded the previous distance record of 5,209 miles, and also set a new duration record of six days, 16 hours, and 38 minutes in the air.

The official distance and time of the flight still has to be confirmed by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, so in the meantime, feast your eyes on the views from above. —Sarah Eberspacher


Crossing the Pacific Ocean | (AP Photo/Two Eagles Balloon Team)

Passing over Mount Fuji | (AP Photo/Two Eagles Balloon Team)

Really? Really.
January 31, 2015
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Jurors in the murder trial of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be allowed to watch the Super Bowl, so long as they remain vigilant, Bristol County Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh warned them on Friday.

"I am not going to forbid you from watching the Super Bowl if that's something that's really important to you," CNN reports that Garsh told the jurors. "(But), you hear that word, you've got to walk out of the room."

"That word" is of course "Hernandez." As a former star for the Patriots who helped carry the team to a Super Bowl victory three years ago, Aaron Hernandez's name could very well come up during Sunday's broadcast featuring New England and the Seattle Seahawks.

The jurors had heard two days of testimony as of Friday; Hernandez, 25, has pleaded not guilty to the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee.

Quotables
January 31, 2015
Lucas Jackson - Pool/Getty Images

While saying that "we're not there yet," outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told CNN on Friday that the United States may eventually have to send ground troops back into Iraq.

"I think (turning back Islamic State militants) may require a forward deployment of some of our troops," Hagel said. "Whether we get there or not, I don't know."

Hagel noted that the ground troops could remain in non-combat roles, such as intelligence gathering on ISIS targets. There are already 4,500 U.S. troops in Iraq, which are operating in training and advising capacities with Iraqi forces.

This just in
January 31, 2015
AP Photo/Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recalled more than 2 million vehicles from Toyota, Chrysler, and Honda due to possible air bag problems, Reuters reports. 

About 400 cases of inadvertent air bag deployments have been reported in the recalled vehicle models, although the incidents have not resulted in any known deaths, an official for the NHTSA said. The three automakers will have to fix a defective chip in the air bag systems, which will require the entire air bag module and its circuits to be replaced.

Watch this
January 31, 2015

Ah, Super Bowl weekend.

We could talk more about Deflategate, but why do that when Key & Peele released this perfectly delightful sketch spoofing Seattle Seahawks players Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch?

"Richard Sherman" spends his time critiquing the Academy Award nominations, questioning why Selma and Foxcatcher were overlooked. And "Marshawn Lynch" trots out a new catchphrase, before throwing us a surprise around the 2:20 mark. Check out the fun in the video, below. —Sarah Eberspacher

death penalty
January 31, 2015
Mike Simons/Getty Images

Ohio's Department of Rehabilitation and Correction announced on Friday that it will postpone all six executions scheduled for 2015, because it needs more time to develop a new execution drug formula, Reuters reports. 

In January 2014, Ohio executed Dennis McGuire using a combination of midazolam and hydromorphone; witnesses reported that McGuire's execution took 25 minutes, during which he gasped and seized for 15 minutes. The state halted use of the two-drug combination, but it also passed a law in December 2014 providing confidentiality to pharmacies that prepare the lethal drug formulas. Four death row inmates filed a lawsuit, saying their right to due process is violated by the new law.

The state's decision to postpone its scheduled executions comes just days after the Supreme Court agreed to temporarily block the executions of three Oklahoma inmates challenging that state's lethal-injection formula.

Roger
January 31, 2015
Eric Thayer/Getty Images

This is why planes have co-pilots.

A Delta Air Lines flight bound for Las Vegas made an emergency landing at the airport on Thursday after the pilot was locked out of the cockpit. Officials said the malfunctioning door will be examined by maintenance technicians, and a Delta spokeswoman told The Associated Press that the airline's crews are trained for such emergency situations (the co-pilot landed the plane alone).

Even more impressive: Despite the eventful landing, the plane still pulled into its gate at McCarran International Airport on time.

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