The Daily Showdown
June 26, 2014

On Tuesday, African-American voters bailed out two long-term incumbents, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and, more surprisingly, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Jon Stewart said on Wednesday night's Daily Show. How long-term? There are "160 years of life between them, 86 of those years in elected office," Stewart said, adding: "Aaaaaaaaaugh!"

Then he got out his calculator and actuarial tables: If Rangel and Cochran "were one man, they would have been born in 1854, elected to Congress in 1928, they would have died in 1944, and still held office for 70 more years." Stewart shook his head over Rangel's 22-term incumbency, then trotted out a more-than-serviceable Charlie Rangel impersonation.

But he also cast a jaundiced eye at Cochran's defeat of Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel. The black Democrats don't like Cochran much, but they fear/despise McDaniel, he said. But there's a larger reason for Stewart's discontent over this unorthodox win for relative moderation: "And so it is that the nation's African-Americans have returned Tharley Cochangel to Congress — for years 87 through 94." Hey, it's a living. --Peter Weber

The backlash continues
9:06 a.m. ET
Jerry Markland/Getty Images

NASCAR on Tuesday joined a growing chorus of businesses to speak out against Indiana's controversial new religious freedom law that critics fear could permit discrimination against gays and lesbians.

"We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance," the auto racing organization said in a statement, adding that it was "disappointed" in the legislation and would "continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events."

Facing a mounting backlash, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) on Tuesday said his state would clarify and "fix" the law to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

9:03 a.m. ET

Archaeologists have discovered a medieval hospital cemetery beneath the Old Divinity School at St. John's College in Cambridge, and they've unearthed skeletal remains from more than 400 medieval burials.

The findings are described in the latest issue of the Archaeological Journal. The archaeologists, who are part of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, believe the burial grounds contained about 1,300 burials. In a statement from the University of Cambridge, the archaeologists describe the skeletons as "almost perfectly preserved," despite being underground for centuries.

The bodies were from the medieval Hospital of St. John the Evangelist and date back to the 13th to 15th centuries. The archaeologists believe the cemetery was built to serve the poor, because most of the burials lacked coffins and personal items.

The team's statement notes that the cemetery's existence has been known to researchers for years, but they had no idea how large the burial ground actually was until the recent excavation.

Rest in peace
7:48 a.m. ET
Buddhika Weerasinghe/Stringer/Getty Images

Misao Okawa, the world's oldest person, died on Wednesday of heart failure, officials from her nursing home announced. Nursing home employees told NBC News that Okawa had recently begun eating less than normal, and they were concerned for her health.

Okawa, who lived in Osaka, Japan, was declared the oldest living person by Guinness World Records in 2013. She celebrated her 117th birthday in March. Okawa was married at 21 and had three children, three grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

"She went so peacefully, as if she had just fallen asleep," Tomohiro Okada, an official at the nursing home, told The Associated Press. "We miss her a lot."

Gertrude Weaver, a 116-year-old woman living in Arkansas, is now the world's oldest living person.

Israel and Palestine
7:25 a.m. ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

In a low-key ceremony in The Hague on Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority formally joined the International Criminal Court. Joining the ICC allows the Palestinians the right to pursue war crimes charges and other legal actions against Israel, which isn't part of the ICC, but also opens Palestinian militants to prosecution by the international tribunal.

The PA has dropped early plans to file its own charges against Israel, but the Palestinians plan to support a preliminary investigation by the ICC's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, into allegations of war crimes by Israel in land recognized by the United Nations as belonging to the State of Palestine. That investigation will take time. "I don't want to disappoint our people," Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki told Voice of Palestine radio on Wednesday, "but the ICC procedures are slow and long and might face lots of obstacles and challenges and might take years."

Foreign affairs
6:29 a.m. ET
Anthony Behar-Pool/Getty Images

On Tuesday, President Obama lifted a ban on U.S. weapons sales to Egypt that he had imposed after Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, general turned president, overthrew President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. The unfreezing of arms deliveries and purchases is widely seen as driven by the U.S. need for allies in the tumultuous Middle East and as a win for Sisi, who has done little or nothing to address the concerns about Egypt's democracy that Obama cited when initiating the ban, says Peter Baker at The New York Times.

But "Obama's decision does include elements that may irritate Mr. Sisi," Baker adds:

Until now, Egypt and Israel were the only countries permitted to buy American arms by drawing credit from future foreign aid. Mr. Obama said he would halt that for Egypt, barring it from drawing in advance money expected in the 2018 fiscal year and beyond. He will also channel future military aid to four categories — counterterrorism, border security, maritime security, and Sinai security — rather than give Egypt broad latitude to decide how to use it. [New York Times]

That will, among other things, make it easier for the U.S. to cut off military aid in the future.

Things that make you go hmmm
5:42 a.m. ET

Josh Gad's house is a funhouse-mirror version of most homes with young children, he told David Letterman on Tuesday night's Late Show. Gad, who voiced the snowman Olaf in Frozen, said his daughter is the one who is no longer enthralled with the Disney blockbuster, and he is still a fan. When his daughter starts talking about how much she loves Big Hero 6, he points out that Frozen is paying for her house and private school, Gad joked. "We love Olaf in this house."

Which led to an odd discussion about how much Gad earned from the movie. "The thing made a couple of billion, and I made a couple of thousand," Gad said. Letterman protested that surely he was joking, to which Gad replied "no, they actually paid me very well" — while shaking his head to signal they didn't. "I love you Disney, I really do," he added with a laugh, when Letterman called him out on his mixed signals. "They actually really took care of us," he added, somewhat cryptically, before confirming that Disney is making a Frozen sequel. Smart move, Gad. —Peter Weber

Watch this
5:08 a.m. ET

Ignore the premise of this bit on Tuesday night's Tonight Show — science shows that if you sing lullabies in the voice of Bob Dylan, kids will fall right asleep (not sit upright in terror) — but do watch to see Ethan Hawke and Jimmy Fallon compete to do the better Dylan impersonation. (Spoiler: Fallon.) And parents, even if you can do a better Dylan, don't try this at home —Peter Weber

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