Late Night Antics
April 8, 2014

Whether the CIA, with legal backing from the Bush administration, tortured detainees or merely roughly interrogated them in an enhanced manner may seem like a question of semantics. But with the Senate Intelligence Committee on the cusp of releasing a blockbuster report detailing what it (and the dictionary, probably) calls torture by the CIA, Jon Stewart took a moment on Monday night's Daily Show to check in on how the three men in charge of the wars during the period in question — President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld — are "dealing with their twisted legacy."

As luck would have it, all three men are back in the news. In a recent interview, Cheney took responsibility for enhanced interrogation but denied that it was torture. Rumsfeld, in a new documentary by Errol Morris, didn't deny anything, exactly, but he put all the blame on the attorney general, in the creepiest way possible (or maybe it's just the spooky music).

But what about Bush? Well, "the decider" has returned to public life mostly to showcase his paintings of world leaders. "He is a somewhat confounding dude," Stewart admitted. But other than not being impressed with Bush's commentary on his own art, Stewart didn't have a lot to say about Bush and torture. Maybe that's because Bush isn't talking about it? Regardless, you know it's a special Daily Show when Bush is the official treated with the most sympathy. --Peter Weber

Recommended reading
8:23 a.m. ET

In an effort to "be a good fellow candidate," Hillary Clinton decided to give Republican presidential candidates "some help" after watching the last debate. She mailed each and every Republican candidate — minus former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, who barely registers in the polls — a copy of Hard Choices, her book on her time as secretary of state, to give them a refresher on what she did in her four-year tenure.

Enclosed with each book was this note, complete with the suggestion that maybe they ought to start a book club. "With 15 candidates in the race, you've got enough people," Clinton quipped.

Upon receiving Clinton's gag gift, Republicans shot back with some reading suggestions of their own. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted that he would "gladly return the favor and send Hillary Clinton's campaign A Time for Truth." Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal tried to cut a deal with Clinton: He offered to read her book if she watched controversial videos about Planned Parenthood.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush wouldn't say whether he got a copy of Clinton's book, but The Washington Post reports that a Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell did say that he hoped "Secretary Clinton will have an opportunity to read his e-book, Reply All, when it comes out in a few weeks."

"The book," Campbell said, "[...] is a good lesson on the importance of transparency in government." Becca Stanek

help out
8:08 a.m. ET
Thierry Roge/AFP/Getty Images

The United States has already committed $4.5 billion to the Syrian refugee crisis, but there's still a long way to go to help the 12 million people displaced by the war. That's where you come in, says the White House, which prompted the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to launch its first social service campaign.

While Kickstarter is mostly used by musicians, filmmakers, and inventors who want to raise the funds to create their work by offering "rewards" to investors, the Kickstarter page for the Syrian crisis redirects donors to support refugees by buying them "rest," "water," "rescue," "shelter," and "education" through the UN Refugee Agency. At the time of publication, Kickstarter reports that 3,000 refugees have been helped by the campaign, which has raised over $735,000. The next goal, $1,225,000, would support 5,000 people. Six days remain in the campaign and already over 12,000 people have contributed.

Others have found ways to crowdfund aid as well — Airbnb, for example, is providing housing credits to aid workers in Greece, Serbia, and Macedonia, while in Iceland, 10,000 people have offered up their homes as temporary shelters. However, as The New York Times points out, while less than half of the funds requested by the UN Refugee Agency for the Syria crisis has been raised, "Appeals for other refugee crises, including those in Darfur and Central African Republic, which receive far less media attention and are not part of the Kickstarter campaign, face a worse predicament." Jeva Lange

7:39 a.m. ET

Some news organizations are already using robots to write the news, and that's only going to become more common as the technology gets better. Computer algorithms "will do, and can do, our work," New York Times columnist Barbara Ehrenreich told Hasan Minhaj on Tuesday's Daily Show. "Prepare to be unemployed, Hasan."

Associated Press Managing Editor Lou Ferrara is less concerned with this development — in fact, he's a big proponent of having robots write the news. They are quicker and more accurate, he told Minhaj — a point Minhaj argued was a bug, not a feature. He ran through some of AP's more egregious (human) errors of the past few years with Ferrara, noting that true or not, people clicked on the articles madly. "Until these robo-reporters learn the value of pageviews, bias, and straight-up lying, it looks like journalists like me are going to have a job," Minhaj said in mock triumph. That is, until Ehrenreich threw cold water on his celebration of media bias. Nothing, it seems, is safe from our robot overlords, not even snark. Watch below. Peter Weber

6:37 a.m. ET

On Wednesday, three scientists — Tomas Lindahl of Sweden, American Paul Modrich, and U.S.-Turkish researcher Aziz Sancar — were awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work uncovering the "toolbox" cells use to fix rogue DNA. Their molecular-level mapping of how "cells repair damaged DNA and safeguard the genetic information... has provided fundamental knowledge of how a living cell functions and is, for instance, used for the development of new cancer treatments," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences explained in a statement.

The three scientists will split the prestigious $960,000 prize equally. Peter Weber

Russia in Syria
5:56 a.m. ET

On Wednesday, Russia and Syria launched what appears to be their first coordinated joint strike on the insurgents battling to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian ally. Syrian ground troops launched an offensive in western Hama and Idlib provinces, supported by Russian airstrikes, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. With Russia stepping more aggressively into Syria's civil war, BBC News took a look at the military hardware Russia is believed to be using. The video below focuses on Russia's advanced SU-35 Strike Fighter, but that's just the tip of the spear. Peter Weber

Apple vs. Microsoft
5:23 a.m. ET

On Tuesday, Microsoft took a big step further in its evolution toward becoming a hardware company, showing off its first-ever laptop, the Surface Book, plus new iterations of its Surface tablet, Lumia smartphones, and Band smartwatch/fitness tracker.

The new laptop, which features a removable tablet-screen, will challenge other hardware makers rolling out their own Windows 10 notebooks, "but the main event today was clearly more about Microsoft vs. Apple," one of the tech world's biggest, longest-running rivalries, says Edward C. Baig at USA Today. "Microsoft's first bold claim is that Surface Pro 4 is 50 percent faster than Apple's MacBook Air, which it clearly views as Surface's natural competitor." Time will tell if consumers love, not just need, Windows 10 — a key goal of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella — and the Microsoft hardware that runs it. But competition is good for consumers, so game on. Peter Weber

Colbert Nationalism
4:40 a.m. ET

China is the world's second-largest movie-watching nation, after the U.S., and Hollywood regularly panders to Beijing so its movies will be allowed into China and win over its audiences, Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show, citing The Martian as one example. Well, two can play at that game. "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get a piece of that sweet — and sour — renminbi," he said, kicking off "Stephen Colbert's Pander Express," his "long-running first attempt to suck up to the Chinese censors."

And pander he did, mixing praise for the Chinese with loaded barbs, some of them in questionable taste (see Square, Tiananmen). How dedicated is Colbert to the sucking up? He almost died, choking on lamb face stew, just so a special guest could come out and save him... before urging the Chinese to watch The Late Show in Mandarin. Watch, learn, and occasionally cringe below. Peter Weber

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