Crime and punishment
May 20, 2014
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Longtime conservative author and activist Dinesh D'Souza pled guilty Tuesday to charges that he illegally used "straw donors" — the practice of soliciting others to make donations to a political candidate, and then reimbursing them, in order to evade personal contribution limits.

D'Souza's sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 23, USA Today reports.

The charges involved D'Souza having funneled $20,000 to the unsuccessful Senate campaign of Wendy Long, an old friend of his, who in 2012 was the Republican nominee in New York against Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. For her part, Long told investigators that D'Souza lied to her about the source of the money.

The actual Senate race in question was never seriously contested by the national parties during the 2012 campaign cycle. Gillibrand won the election with 72 percent of the vote, against Long's 26 percent.

D'Souza has made a name for himself in recent years by charging that President Obama is carrying out an "anti-colonial" agenda, inspired by his late Kenyan father, to tear down America's economic and military power in the world.

if you can't say something nice...
11:00 p.m. ET
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

An American helicopter mechanic is learning the hard way that the United Arab Emirates takes cyber-slander laws very seriously.

Ryan Pate worked in the United Arab Emirates at Global Aerospace Logistics (GAL), and was upset that the company would not let him extend his time off back home to see a doctor about a back injury. While in the U.S., he turned to Facebook and went on a rant, calling GAL "backstabbers" and using a racial slur against Arabs, the BBC reports. When he came back to the UAE to resign, he was summoned to the police station, where he was presented with screenshots of his Facebook post.

The authorities told him that GAL filed charges against him, saying he broke the country's laws against slander; in 2012, the UAE made it an offense to use the internet to say derogatory things about people and organizations. Pate's trial will start March 17, and he could face a hefty fine and up to five years in jail if convicted. 

9:41 p.m. ET

Iraqi officials say that ISIS extremists have used heavy vehicles to demolish more ancient artifacts in Iraq, this time razing the Assyrian site of Nimrud.

Nimrud, 20 miles south of Mosul, is home to ruins dating back to the 13th century BC, Iraq's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said in a statement. Government officials have been worried about the site since ISIS took over large sections of the Nineveh province in 2014, the Los Angeles Times reports. The damage took place a week after ISIS released a video showing militants destroying priceless statues in Mosul's national museum.

This is terrible
8:39 p.m. ET
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A report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the suicide rate for girls and young women between the ages of 10 and 24 is increasing, and at a pace faster than for males in the same age group.

Suicide rates since 2007 have been on the rise; there were 4,320 deaths that year, and 5,264 in 2013. Although the suicide rate for boys and young men is three times higher than the female rate for that age group, the increase for females has been steadier, The Associated Press reports. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people 10-24 years old in the United States, and experts say more girls and young women are hanging themselves or using other forms of suffocation.

This just in
6:55 p.m. ET

Actor Harrison Ford was injured on Thursday when the World War II training plane he was flying crashed on a golf course in Mar Vista, California.

Sources tell NBC News he was stabilized on the scene before being taken to a hospital, and has lacerations to the head and possible fractures. It is not yet known what caused the plane to crash. His son, Ben Ford, wrote on Twitter that his father is "battered, but OK." Ford is believed to have been the only passenger onboard the vintage plane. A witness describes the crash in the Associated Press video below. —Catherine Garcia

Crisis in Syria
6:44 p.m. ET

Syrian state media is reporting that the commander of the al-Nusra Front, Abu Homam al-Shami, was killed during a "unique operation" carried out by the Syrian army.

On social media, the militant group confirmed that al-Shami was killed in an air strike along with three other leaders. State media said they were targeted while meeting in northern Idlib province. Al-Nusra is considered an affiliate of al-Qaeda, and on Wednesday attacked the Air Force Intelligence headquarters in Aleppo. The militants detonated explosives in a tunnel under the building, the BBC reports, and then fighters launched a ground assault against government forces, who forced them back. Twenty soldiers and militiamen and 14 rebels are believed to have been killed.

This just in
5:22 p.m. ET
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The nation's largest banks are all financialy strong enough to weather an economic crisis, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday. Thirty-one banks in all passed the Fed's annual stress test, meaning they had enough available capital to withstand a theoretical depression in which unemployment soars to 10 percent amid collapses in the housing and stock markets.

However, it was only the first stage of stress testing. Next week, the Fed will announce whether banks pass a second test to determine if they are fit enough to buy back stock and distribute dividends to shareholders.

4:55 p.m. ET
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Cardinal Edward M. Egan, who led the Archdiocese of New York from 2000 to 2009, died Thursday of a heart attack. He was 82 years old.

In a statement, Cardinal Timothy Dolan praised Egan's "generous and faithful priesthood," adding, "Thank God he had a peaceful death."

space stuff
3:04 p.m. ET JPL

Astronomers have discovered what is only the second known planet living in a family of four stars.

While still rare, the find means four-star systems with planets are much more common than previously believed. Discovery News notes that the discovery could have significant implications about how planets form in multi-star systems.

Scientists had previously identified the planet, but thought it was part of a three-star system. Only recently did astronomers discover a fourth star, a red dwarf, lurking there.

"Star systems come in myriad forms. There can be single stars, binary stars, triple stars, even quintuple star systems," Lewis Roberts from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory told Discovery News. "It's amazing the way nature puts these things together."

Scientists now believe that four percent of solar-type stars are part of four-star systems. The findings about the new four-star system, named 30 Ari, will be published in the Astronomical Journal.

Let the boys play!
2:31 p.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Because of liability concerns, lots of cities across the U.S. have banned sled-riding in public places. And residents of our nation's capital are taking it lying down — literally.

The Hill reports that protesters upset over the sledding ban on the west lawn of the Capitol — prime sledding real estate — planned to stage a ''sled-in'' today. An online petition to get the Capitol Board Police to lift the ban had more than 800 signatures by noon on Thursday.

A police official told The Hill, ''For security reasons, the Capitol grounds are not your typical neighborhood hill or playground.''

Defiant sledders are reportedly being told to leave the premises ''brusquely'' by police.

Dropping names
2:27 p.m. ET
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As a former local news anchor and current executive vice president of Marriott International, Kathleen Matthews has a lot going for her besides a famous husband. And it looks like she'll try to add to that impressive resume. 

Politico reports that the wife of Chris Matthews, the firebrand host of MSNBC's Hardball, has begun "talking to Democratic activists and interviewing potential consultants'' about running for Rep. Chris Van Hollen's (D-Md.) seat, as he leaves to seek retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski's seat.

According to Politico, Kathleen Matthews has worked to improve Marriott's sustainability and to make the company friendlier toward the LGBT community. She also earned kudos from former President Bill Clinton, who recently attended the opening of a Marriott in earthquake-damaged Haiti, an effort Matthews spearheaded.

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