May 2, 2014

Despite garnering the worst reviews of any Spider-Man movie in history, box-office analysts expect The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to do big business over the weekend. The Spider-Man franchise has evolved into a billion-dollar business, which is all the more impressive when you consider the character's humble origins in the pages of Marvel's Amazing Fantasy #15 just a little over 50 years ago.

Where did the idea for Spider-Man come from? In a 2009 interview with Kevin Smith, creator Stan Lee described the character's origins:

"In superheroes, the most important thing is to get a new power. And you run out of powers. A guy can fly, a guy is strong — what's left? I figured, if a guy can stick to walls like an insect. So I run down a list of names: Insect Man didn't have it, Mosquito Man wasn't dramatic... finally, I hit on Spider-Man. Spider-Man. Man, that sounded dramatic to me. […] When I proposed the name to Martin, my publisher... Now, he had been on board with everything, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk. He thought I could do no wrong. So I told him about Spider-Man, and he said, 'You're crazy, Stan. People hate spiders. You can't do a book called Spider Man. And you want him to be a teenager? Teenagers can only be sidekicks."

Learn more about the origins of Spider-Man in the video below. --Scott Meslow

12:43 p.m. ET

Civilians awaiting rescue in Raqqa, the Islamic State's de facto capital, might not actually be that thrilled about their impending liberation. That's because, as CNN reports, given the choice between liberation by the predominantly Kurdish (and U.S.-backed) Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and rule under ISIS, Syrians in Raqqa may actually choose to "throw their lot" behind the terrorist group. As one tweet from the activist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently put it, the "strategy of taking Raqqa by SDF ... [may] push a lot of people to join ISIS."

While the inhabitants of Raqqa may not quite be enjoying life since ISIS seized the city in 2013, ethnic tensions have Raqqa's Arabs leery of their potential liberators:

Backed by the United States, the Syrian Democratic Forces are a coalition of Kurdish, Assyrian, Christian, Arab tribal and other forces. But they are dominated by the Kurdish YPG, the Popular Defense Units. In other words, it's a Kurdish armed force with a multi-ethnic façade, and the Arabs of Raqqa could well be worried about their intentions in a post-ISIS Syria. [CNN]

The conundrum is one deeply rooted in history. The Kurds have long been suspected of trying to create a separate state from Syria and Iraq, CNN notes, which has Raqqa residents wary; when they see a predominantly Kurdish force coming to clear the countryside north of the city, the question arises of whether they're truly coming to rescue them, or just to take their land. Thus far, the SDF has promised its efforts are not aimed at the city itself.

Head over to CNN for the full back story on the current situation in Raqqa. Becca Stanek

11:28 a.m. ET

The Obama family's tenure in the White House isn't quite over, but they're already planning their post-presidential digs. News broke Wednesday that the first family reportedly has plans to lease this 8,200-square-foot pad in the Washington D.C. neighborhood of Kalorama come January:

The Obamas announced in March that they would be staying in D.C. after President Obama's second term ends to let their younger daughter, Sasha, finish high school.

The house — which is owned by NFL Executive Vice President of Communications Joe Lockhart and his wife, Giovanna Gray Lockhart, the Washington editor of Glamour — last sold in May 2014 for $5,295,000. It sits on about a quarter-acre of land and has nine bedrooms, eight-and-a-half bathrooms, and a spacious backyard.

If that one picture wasn't enough, head over to The Washingtonian to get a peek inside the house, too. Becca Stanek

10:35 a.m. ET

The 2020 Republican primary schedule may look quite a bit different from this year's process if party leadership gets its way with rule changes at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer.

Following a chaotic nominating process and looking toward the possibility of the first contested convention in decades, the GOP is beginning to consider a substantial overhaul of the way it picks presidential candidates. In one proposal, Iowa and New Hampshire would retain their early voting status, but each would be paired with a rotating selection of other states from their region — Iowa with Minnesota in 2020, for example, and then with South Dakota in 2024.

Other suggestions are more radical, like abolishing these states' unique position altogether in favor of a fully rotating calendar of primaries which gives voters in all 50 states a chance to be early deciders every few years. One thing seems certain, though: Nevada will likely lose its early position on the primary calendar thanks to alleged "irregularity" and disorder at the state's 2016 caucuses. Bonnie Kristian

10:18 a.m. ET
Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

Weeks after rumors of his infidelity emerged in wife Beyoncé's new visual album Lemonade, Jay Z is finally putting in his two cents on the matter. The musician debuted his response Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium in the form of a newly released remix of Fat Joe and Remy's "All the Way Up." The song's first verse: "You know you made it when the fact your marriage made it is worth millions/Lemonade is a popular drink and it still is."

Prior to the song's release, Jay Z had stayed mum about his apparent infidelity, despite the onslaught of angry reactions from Beyoncé fans and the ruthless search for the identity of the rapper's mistress, whom Beyoncé refers to as "Becky with the good hair" in her track "Sorry". The couple has been married for eight years and allegedly went through a rough patch in 2014.

Jay Z is also rumored to be writing an entire album telling "his side" of Lemonade. For now, you can listen to his latest track on Tidal. Becca Stanek

10:17 a.m. ET

An internal State Department audit has found fault in the way Hillary Clinton, her aides, and other former secretaries of state managed their electronic communications while in office, The Associated Press reports. A copy of the report by the agency's inspector general cited "longstanding, systemic weakness" in relation to email and computer information security. Additionally, the secretaries were "slow to recognize and to manage effectively the legal requirements and cybersecurity risks associated with electronic data communications, particularly as those risks pertain to its most senior leadership," the report said.

The internal audit sharply criticized Clinton for failing to request permission to use her personal server, permission that the Office of the Inspector General said "would not" have been approved due to "the security risks in doing so." Clinton's personal server and BlackBerry never proved they could “[meet] minimum information security requirements," the report went on.

The review followed accusations that Clinton had exclusively used her private email account and server while serving as secretary of state. An official publication of the report will be released Thursday.

Update 12:33 p.m.: Clinton's press secretary has responded to the State Department report on her emails. "While political opponents of Hillary Clinton are sure to misrepresent this report for their own partisan purposes, in reality, the Inspector General documents just [show] how consistent her email practices were with those of the other secretaries and senior officials at the State Department who also used personal email," the statement says. Read the full comments here. Jeva Lange

10:09 a.m. ET
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The federal prison system hangs on to hundreds of prisoners for longer than it is supposed to each year, finds a new report on the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) from the inspector general at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Between 2009 and 2014, some 4,183 federal inmates were subject to "untimely release," with 152 late releases due to staff errors. Three of the staff-caused mistakes resulted in prisoners being held for more than a year past the end of their sentences, the DOJ said, though most were held for about one extra month.

Though the DOJ report doesn't include the names of the prisoners affected, one case which fits the description is that of Jermaine Hickman, an Omaha man who was imprisoned for 13 months past his mandatory release date. Astonishingly, the BOP attempted to blame Hickman himself for his late release, arguing that he was at fault because he did not "raise any issues concerning his sentence computation or continued incarceration via the formal grievance process with the BOP." Hickman ultimately received a settlement of $175,000 for wrongful imprisonment. Bonnie Kristian

9:15 a.m. ET
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The Central Asian country of Tajikistan has voted to abolish presidential term limits solely for their authoritarian president, Emomali Rahmon. The decision will effectively allow him to rule until the end of his life.

An overwhelming 94.5 percent of voters were in favor of the amendment to the national constitution, which also lowered the minimum age for Tajik presidential candidates to 30, apparently so Rahmon's 29-year-old son can run in the 2020 election.

While human rights groups have criticized the former USSR nation for the lack of religious freedom for its predominantly Sunni Muslim population as well as its rejection of political pluralism, many voters were apparently enthusiastic about keeping Rahmon in power. "Rahmon brought us peace, he ended the war, and he should rule the country for as long as he has the strength to," one voter told AFP.

In 2015, democracy watchdog Freedom House rated Tajikistan with a Democracy Score of 6.39, with 7 being the worst. "Observers of the most recent parliamentary (2010) and presidential (2013) elections noted that both contests failed to meet basic democratic standards or offer a real choice among candidates," the organization said.

Rahmon, 63, has been in power since 1992. Jeva Lange

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