March 3, 2014

The White House said today it won't be sending a presidential delegation to the upcoming Paralympic Games in Sochi. The decision is a result of Russia's military invasion of Ukraine, a National Security Council spokeswoman told National Journal. American athletes will still participate in Friday's event.

"President Obama continues to strongly support all of the U.S. athletes who will participate in the Paralympics and wishes them great success in the Olympic competition," a statement said.

The six-person delegation that will no longer attend had included Rep. Tammy Duckworth and three administration officials, including Celeste Wallander, the senior director for Russia and Central Asia on the National Security Council.

The news comes after Britain said it won't be sending a group of government officials to Sochi because it would be "wrong" to attend. Jordan Valinsky

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 made 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 UK 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 convinced 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

2:33 a.m. ET

Marvel's Doctor Strange is coming out next week, and its star, Benedict Cumberbatch, made an appearance (literally) on Thursday night's Jimmy Kimmel Live. The premise of the skit is that Kimmel hired Cumberbatch's Marcus Strange to perform at a children's birthday party. It goes about as well as you'd hope. "I don't understand — are they possessed?" Dr. Strange asked when Kimmel showed him the children. "Basically," Kimmel said. "They ate, like, 50 cupcakes." "All right, I'll vanquish them," Strange replied. "No, no, no vanquishing," Kimmel said. "Just pull a rabbit out of somewhere, do tricks." Cumberbatch's Strange protested that he does not do "tricks," but everybody has a price. And he almost abided by the no-vanquishing rule, too. Watch below. Peter Weber

2:06 a.m. ET
AFP/Getty Images

Witnesses in Kirkuk, Iraq, say that armed militants attacked two police compounds on Friday morning, and they were able to hear gunfire and explosions.

The Islamic State claims their fighters are behind the assault, and the men have also entered a town hall and took control of a hotel, BBC News reports. Iraqi media is saying suicide bombers attacked police stations and a power plant, but security forces were able to protect the properties. They also reported the city is under a curfew until "further notice."

Kirkuk is an oil-rich city 180 miles north of Baghdad and 100 miles away from Mosul, where Iraqi forces on Monday began an offensive to get ISIS out of Iraq's second-largest city. Catherine Garcia

1:48 a.m. ET

The Al Smith Dinner, a white-tie charity event hosted by the archbishop of New York, is a big deal every four years, when, traditionally, both major-party presidential candidates show up to mock themselves and roast their opponent. This year is different, because Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both call New York home and also because the tenor of the campaign is unusually nasty, and Trump's speech drew jeers and boos when he stepped over the line in jabbing at Clinton. Clinton landed some pretty good verbal punches, too. After the event, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who sat between the two at the dinner, called his seat "the iciest place on the planet."

But maybe that was just in the jocular spirit of the event, named after the first Catholic ever nominated for president. After all, after roasting each other, Clinton and Trump did shake hands — unlike at their debate just 24 hours earlier.

"I was very moved by their interaction together around me, they were very friendly, very uplifting, very complimentary to one another," Dolan told Fox News after the dinner. "I thought the evening accomplished its goals." Reporter Bryan Llenas asked if the cardinal didn't think some of the jokes went too far, and he shrugged. "Ah, who knows? Humor. To each his own, it's a matter of taste…. The fact that we're together, the fact that they shake hands at the end and say, 'see you on the campaign trail,' that's not bad."

Dolan, sadly, did not explain what was going on here. Peter Weber

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