April 4, 2014

George W. Bush famously claimed that he had peered in Vladimir Putin's soul. And this, apparently, is what he saw. It's one of two dozen portraits of world leaders that were unveiled today. --Ryu Spaeth

7:13 a.m. ET

Iraqi military and Kurdish peshmerga forces drew within 10 miles of the outskirts of Islamic State–held Mosul on Thursday night, and early Friday, ISIS launched a series of coordinated attacks on Kirkuk, about 100 miles away. At least 11 people were killed by ISIS militants at a power plant 30 miles north of Kirkuk, including at least three Iranian engineers, and there are an unknown number of casualties from multiple suicide bombers, grenades, and gun battles inside Kirkuk. Security forces have at least two ISIS militants surrounded in a building used as a hotel, Iraqi security forces say.

The attacks on Kirkuk appear to be an attempt by ISIS to draw forces away from the Mosul offensive. Peter Weber

6:24 a.m. ET

If you missed Wednesday's final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — or you didn't — and you don't want to watch it (again) because it was ugly, long, or boring, "Weird Al" Yankovic and the Gregory Brothers have already made it short and sweet for your pleasurable consumption. Weird Al is the moderator of this three-and-a-half-minute debate, and like actual moderator Chris Wallace, he asks substantive questions then gets out of the way and lets Clinton and Trump answer — only he belts out the questions and the candidates' answers are edited and auto-tuned so they sing them in rhyme (somehow while still remaining coherent).

"We can't say we were shocked that songifying the final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump revealed a terrifying space opera about bad hombres and nasty women," the Gregory Brothers write in The New York Times. "So terrifying, in fact, that it ripped open a wormhole to another dimension, and pulled an unsuspecting Weird Al Yankovic in from his home in a parallel universe to moderate the whole thing." If that sounds unpleasant to watch, just give it a try — as the Gregory Brothers write, "the hidden songs of the cosmos are full of surprises." Peter Weber

5:52 a.m. ET

Rich Hall is an American comedian who has the unenviable task of translating the 2016 election for inhabitants of Great Britain on BBC News, and he kicked things off with a list of five things Britons "should probably know about the United States presidential election." He does this in a little over 2 minutes, and his first four points make for a pretty insightful civics lesson that American voters would benefit from watching as well.

For example, in explaining that Americans vote for state and local offices, not just president, Hall says that "the traffic cone commissioner is more important to most Americans than the president" — you probably won't find "traffic cone commissioner" on your ballot, but his point that local elections affect Americans more than national ones is a good one and underappreciated. He also explains the electoral college very succinctly, and reminds everyone (especially Americans) that America has had uglier elections than this one. "I'm pretty sure Trump is not going to come out and call Hillary a cannibal," Hall said. "I mean, he could, but he probably won't." The last point is probably true if you are talking about petitions to legalize marijuana, but Britons, this is actually not how Americans conduct presidential polls. Still, watch and learn below. Peter Weber

5:05 a.m. ET

Stephen Colbert began Thursday's Late Show by noting he has a "Trump hangover" from the "third and final debate — if there is a God." In his live post-debate show Wednesday night, Colbert lit into Donald Trump for refusing to say he would accept the results of the Nov. 8 election, and Colbert wasn't done 24 hours later. "Now the polls pretty much all say Clinton won, but Trump is no longer accepting the polls — or reality," he said, noting that Trump pledged on Thursday to "totally accept" the results "if I win."

The audience booed, but Colbert laughed. "Come on, you got to give it to him," he said, pointing toward Trump: "You really got me for a second there: I actually believed you had a shred of integrity." Colbert put this in perspective. "What an amazing psych-out, you know, a national psych-out," he said. "It's like that classic joke where you offer to shake somebody's hand, but when they go to shake it, you undermine our system of government." He dropped the laughter, mostly. "How did we get to the point where the fate of the American experiment rests in Donald Trump's tiny, whining, loser hands?" Colbert asked. "And undermining 250 years of representative democracy to protect his ego wasn't Trump's only contribution to the debate." Watch below for a few more shots from the debate and one halfhearted dig at Hillary Clinton. Peter Weber

4:16 a.m. ET

"We are now just a few weeks from Election Day, which means it's time for every American to perform their civic duty: threatening to move to Canada if their candidate doesn't win," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. "Talk like this happens every four years — Canada is like America's safety school." But can Americans unhappy with President-elect Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump really just make a run for the northern border? Colbert sat down with Toronto-based Canadian immigration lawyer Andrew Cumming to, as he put it, "find out how to turn over a new maple leaf." It isn't a slam dunk, it turns out, but if Cumming is any indication, Canadians really are very polite — and annoying them with Gordon Lightfoot tunes will only get you so far. Peter Weber

3:51 a.m. ET

On Thursday, Britain's Conservative government said that it will posthumously pardon thousands of men convicted of crimes relating to homosexuality, like buggery, gross indecency, and loitering with intent, often in men's restrooms. Homosexuality was decriminalized in the U.K. in stages between 1967 and 1982, and same-sex marriage was legalized in 2014. John Sharkey, the member of the House of Lords who proposed the forthcoming law, also pushed through a 2009 formal government apology to Alan Turing, the mathematician and World War II codebreaker who was convicted on homosexuality charges in 1952 and committed suicide two years later. Queen Elizabeth II pardoned Turing in 2013, and the new law will be named after him.

Sharkey estimates that some 65,000 men were convicted under the anti-homosexuality laws — lesbian activity was never specifically made illegal in Britain — and 15,000 are still alive. Not all deceased gay men would be eligible for pardon — certain acts, like sexual activity in a public lavatory, are still illegal. Irish playwright Oscar Wilde may or may not be eligible under the new law, because of the particulars of his case, The New York Times notes.

Not all gay rights proponents are satisfied with the new law, including the advocacy group Stonewall, which says it should also automatically pardon living men — they can seek a case-by-case pardon under at 2012 law — and activist George Montague, 93, who was convicted in the 1970s of gross indecency. Watch Montague explain to the BBC below what life was like for gay men in the bad old days, why they congregated in restrooms, and why he wants an apology and would not accept a pardon. Peter Weber

3:01 a.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On Friday, British American Tobacco PLC (BAT) offered rival tobacco giant Reynolds American $47 billion for the 57.8 percent of the company it doesn't already own. The price — $56.50 a share, or a 20 percent premium over Reynolds' Oct. 20 closing price — values the American company at $81.3 billion, and the combined cigarette behemoth would pass Altria to become the biggest player in the U.S. market, combining the brands Camel, Newport, Pall Mall, Kent, Dunhill, Lucky Strike, and American Spirit. About $20 billion of the offer would be in cash and the other $27 billion in BAT shares. Peter Weber

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