foreign affairs
May 13, 2014
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

A controversial bill in Iraq, proposed by former Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari and passed by the cabinet, would allow girls to be considered adults at age 9 and thus able to marry, NPR reports.

Known as the Jaafari law (after a school of Islam of the same name), it still has to make its way through the parliament. No action will likely be taken until after Iraq forms its new government, following last month's elections. If passed, the law will be voluntary and will only apply to the country's Shia Muslim majority.

Those who oppose the law say that despite some new freedoms in Iraq — more travel opportunities and internet access, for example — women's rights are not moving forward and conservative religious politics are becoming more mainstream. "We know the state of women in Iraq is getting worse, despite the intellectual openness that women had benefited from following the American occupation and the removal of the regime," lawyer Fawzia al-Babakhan told NPR.

In the end, the law is unlikely to be passed — it was likely an electoral overture to conservative Shiites — but it is still unsettling to radio host Ahlam al-Obeidi. "We are a society plagued by patriarchal attitudes and outdated tribal laws, which are all conducive to violence against women," she said to NPR. "This is not marriage, but rather the selling and buying of young women." --Catherine Garcia

Daily Show shrinkage
12:52 a.m. ET
The Daily Show

Whoever takes over for Jon Stewart at The Daily Show — and now we know it won't be Samantha Bee — will have plenty of opportunity to hire new talent. On Thursday, TBS announced that it has signed Bee for her own topical comedy show, as yet unnamed, that will allow her to "apply her smart and satirical point of view to current and relevant issues." TBS also recently poached Bee's husband, Jason Jones, for a scripted comedy series.

Jones and Bee will be executive producers on both shows, and TBS is talking up the "family affair" angle. "We actually have their kids coming in next week to pitch us animation," said Brett Weitz, TBS executive vice president of original programming, in a statement. Presumably TBS will leave the comedy writing to the pros.

leave harper lee alone
12:21 a.m. ET

The notoriously press-shy Harper Lee isn't one to mince words, and she let a pesky reporter know that his efforts to get her to talk were all in vain.

Over on AL.com, Connor Sheets admits that he basically stalked Lee for several days, trying to reach the author through her lawyer and publisher before actually going to her nursing home in Monroeville, Alabama. Despite the fact that she has been known to tell reporters asking for an interview "not just no, but hell no," Sheets said he finally decided to send her a two page letter on Feb. 5. He let her know that while he didn't expect a response, he was hoping she would "confirm that she is in fact lucid and fully in control of the destiny of Go Set a Watchman," her soon-to-be-released book.

Instead of answering this insulting question — did he seriously expect her to write back, "Why yes, I am completely lucid! Thanks so much for your concern about my mental faculties, random stranger!" — she returned the now-crumpled letter with a brief message scrawled on the bottom: "Go away! Harper Lee." Sounds like a fitting response to someone who just can't take a hint.

Memory Lane
12:12 a.m. ET

Sometimes you forget how deep Saturday Night Live's roots spread through American comedy. Conan O'Brien was a writer at SNL when a 23-year-old Adam Sandler joined the cast in 1990. On Thursday night's Conan, O'Brien asked if Sandler remembered those days, and Sandler mostly recalled being cocky, telling Lorne Michaels that he was going to be "the next Eddie Murphy," and a memorable staff dinner with actor Michael Keaton.

Then Sandler took over the questioning. "Hey Conan, do you remember [Chris] Farley's order when we would go out?" Conan remembered: "Chris Farley loved to eat, to a degree I've never seen since, by any human being." Sandler's recounting of his late friend's dining-out habits is still pretty shocking, and yet there's something kind of touching in watching him describe it. Watch below. —Peter Weber

if you can't say something nice...
March 5, 2015
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. 

senseless
March 5, 2015

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
March 5, 2015
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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
March 5, 2015

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
March 5, 2015

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
March 5, 2015
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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.

RIP
March 5, 2015
Mario Tama/Getty Images

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."

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