Surprise, surprise
July 7, 2014
Facebook.com/Transformers Movie

The fourth installment in Michael Bay's Transformers series hit movie theaters in China (and the U.S.) on June 27, and the film topped the box office again this weekend, making it China's second-most grossing film of all time.

Transformers: Age of Extinction has grossed $212.8 million in China so far, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The outlet predicts that Age of Extinction will out earn Avatar, which grossed a total $217.7 million in China.

Lily Kuo at Quartz says the film's success in China is due, at least in part, to the film's Chinese product placement and echoing of Beijing's policies. Despite a negative reception from critics, many of whom called Age of Extinction the worst of the Transformers series, Chinese audiences have responded well to the film's "flattery," Kuo argues.

Paramount co-produced Age of Extinction with Chinese studios, and the movie includes product placement for Chinese items ranging from Chinese banks to Lenovo computers. Aside from product placement, the film also puts an interesting spin on the current discord in Hong Kong, with authorities turning to Beijing's central government for help fighting the giant robots.

Kuo also notes that releasing the film on the same date in China as in the U.S. may have also boosted its success because it "cut down on time for pirated copies to circulate the country."

Age of Extinction has earned $575.6 million worldwide so far. China is the film's biggest market, followed by North America, where the film grossed a total of $174.6 million. Meghan DeMaria

Quotables
11:38 a.m. ET
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Saturday Night Live's Cecily Strong spared no one in Washington with her routine at Saturday's White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, but her most poignant barbs focused on race relations in America.

"Your hair is so white now it can talk back to the police," Strong said of President Obama.

Earlier, Strong earned mostly hushed grumbling when she combined into one punchline recent police shootings of unarmed black men and reports of Secret Service incompetence. Calling for applause for Secret Service agents in attendance, Strong called them, "the only law enforcement agency that will get in trouble if a black man gets shot."

You can watch Strong's full routine below. —Jon Terbush

2016 Watch
11:04 a.m. ET
Scott Olson / Getty Images

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Saturday claimed Christians in America face persecution at the hands of intolerant liberals.

"Today's Democratic Party has decided there is no room for Christians," Cruz warned at Iowa's Faith and Freedom Coalition summit.

"There is a liberal fascism that is going after Christian believers," he added.

Counting Cruz, nine declared or potential Republican presidential candidates attended the event in hopes of wooing evangelical voters. Representing a range of experience and political positions, the presidential hopefuls all tailored their messages to fit the religious tenor of the evening. Jon Terbush

Bringing the lols
10:44 a.m. ET
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President Obama came to the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner on Saturday with plenty of barbs about Washington lawmakers and the reporters who cover them.

Noting that host Cecily Strong plays a CNN anchor on Saturday Night Live, Obama quipped that it was "surprising because usually the only people impersonating journalists are journalists on CNN." And addressing Dick Cheney's recent media tour in which the former vice president lambasted Obama, the president said the feeling was mutual.

"He thinks I'm the worst president of his lifetime," Obama said, "which is interesting because I think Dick Cheney is the worst president of my lifetime." —Jon Terbush

Developing story
9:19 a.m. ET
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At least 2,263 people are dead and nearly 6,000 are injured after Saturday's catastrophic earthquake in Nepal, according to the country's Home Ministry.

A powerful 7.8 magnitude quake and a series of violent aftershocks — one an estimated 6.7 magnitude rumbling on Sunday — rocked the mountain nation, destroying historic buildings, buckling infrastructure, and leaving behind widespread devastation. Thousands of people squatted in the streets after the first seismic activity either because the quake leveled their homes or because it made them too afraid to go back indoors.

The earthquake also triggered a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest that killed at least 18 people while injuring or trapping dozens more.

"I ran away," climber Nick Talbot told The New York Times. "I thought, 'There is no chance I can get away.' I just had my socks on." Jon Terbush

No justice no peace
7:55 a.m. ET
Alex Wong / Getty Images

Baltimore police on Saturday arrested 12 people after a dwindling protest over the police custody death of Freddie Gray descended into violence.

An estimated 2,000 people marched peacefully for hours hours before a small splinter group began hurling rocks, smashing windows, and scuffling with police. Protesters also tangled with bystanders and police outside Camden Yards during a game between the Orioles and Red Sox, prompting the city to ask fans to remain inside the venue until authorities cleared the scene.

"I am profoundly disappointed to see the violence in our city this evening," Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.

The city has suspended six officers while investigating how Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody. Jon Terbush

Develop
April 25, 2015
Omar Havana / Getty Images

A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal Saturday, leveling historic structures, causing widespread damage, and killing at least 1,457.

The quake struck around noon about 50 miles from the capital, Kathmandu. The death toll is expected to rise as rescuers pick through the rubble in search of survivors.

"We never imagined that we would face such devastation," Minister of Information and Communications Minendra Rijal said.

The quake also triggered a fatal avalanche on Mount Everest that killed at least a dozen climbers while injuring or trapping several more. From Romanian climber Alex Gavan:

The U.S. said it would send a disaster response team and pledged $1 million in aid. Jon Terbush

Ongoing investigation
April 25, 2015
Monica Schipper / Getty Images

An internal review of NBC anchorman Brian Williams' reporting has found several more alleged exaggerations, according to multiple reports. The New York Times on Friday reported NBC found a half-dozen such instances; CNN and The Washington Post later upped the tally to 10 and 11, respectively.

In February, NBC suspended Williams as it launched an investigation following his apology for embellishing details of his wartime reporting from Iraq. When completed, the investigation is expected to form the basis of NBC's decision to keep or cut ties with Williams. Jon Terbush

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