In their never-ending quest to reach the coveted Millennial demographic, the producers of the Academy Awards have hit on everyone's favorite trend-piece subject: Selfies! Host Ellen DeGeneres invited a slew of famous faces — including Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, and Brad Pitt — to join her for a meme-ready picture:
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) March 3, 2014
A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows once again that disliking Congress has become an increasingly widespread and bipartisan hobby.
One hundred days into this new Congress, only 23 percent of poll respondents agreed that congressional Republicans "are keeping the promises they made during last fall's campaign." After the first 100 days of 2011's GOP Congress, 33 percent of respondents said lawmakers were keeping their campaign promises. That number was 40 percent for the Dem Congress in 2007, and a whopping 59 percent for the GOP in 1995.
Only 41 percent of Republicans today approve of the Republican-led Congress. Compare that to 60 percent in April 2011.
Pew notes that the poll results are "far more negative" than the public opinion of 2007's Democratic-led Congress. The poll surveyed 2,002 adults from May 12-18. Meghan DeMaria
A suicide bomber struck the Imam Ali mosque in al-Qadeeh, in Saudi Arabia's eastern Qatif province, during Friday prayer services. Witnesses tell Reuters that 30 people were killed in the blast. The official Saudi news agency has confirmed an attack at a mosque, but hasn't provided details. Photos posted to Twitter show bodies covered with rugs and blankets amid rubble inside the Shiite mosque.
— DW (English) (@dw_english) May 22, 2015
Saudi Arabia is about 15 percent Shiite, and most of them live in the eastern part of the Sunni kingdom. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. BBC News tries to make sense of the attack in the video below. —Peter Weber
That startling claim surfaced in interviews CNN conducted with two North Korean defectors, including Kang Myong Do, who said that in the 1980s, his job was to send North Korean spies around the world, a practice that still exists today. Kang says there are likely hundreds of agents working for North Korea in the U.S. at any one time, most of them Korean-Americans.
How do Kim's agents recruit Korean-Americans to help North Korea?
"There are three different tactics they use," he said. "First is to give them free visas to North Korea, second, to give them access to do business and make money there, and third, they use women to entice them. This tactic has been widely used since the '80s." [CNN]
The entire CNN report is worth a read and watch — it's full of fascinating nuggets on North Korean spycraft. But there's one important asterisk: "CNN is unable to independently verify [these] claims, as North Korea is one of the world's most secretive countries." Ben Frumin
On Friday or next week, the Obama administration will formally unveil new clean-water regulations aimed at giving the federal government greater authority to curb pollution in lakes, rivers, wetlands, and groundwater, The New York Times reports. The rule, known as Waters of the U.S., isn't a surprise: The Environmental Protection Agency proposed it a year ago, and has spent months holding public meetings, reading public comments, and finalizing the language.
"Water is the lifeblood of healthy people and healthy economies," EPA chief Gina McCarthy wrote in an April blog post. "We have a duty to protect it. That's why EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are finalizing a Clean Water Rule later this spring to protect critical streams and wetlands that are currently vulnerable to pollution and destruction."
The federal government had broad authority to regulate the nation's waters under the 1972 Clean Water Act, but Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 created confusion over smaller waterways. The new rule would cover about 60 percent of U.S. waters, The Times reports. Farm and some business groups oppose the rule, and Republicans are trying to stop it through legislation — the House has already passed a bill blocking the rule, and Senate Republicans are working on their own measures. Peter Weber
It's not clear if Friday's referendum to allow same-sex marriage in traditionally Catholic Ireland will pass, but the fact that it might signals a pretty rapid turnaround for a country that only decriminalized homosexuality in 1993. If the Irish approve the gay-marriage proposal, the Republic of Ireland will be the first country to do so by popular vote. The polls suggest the measure has a good chance of passing, though it's unclear if conservative sections of rural Ireland will turn out in large numbers to defeat the referendum.
The Catholic bishops of Ireland are opposed to the measure, but some parish priests publicly support it, as do some conservative political parties. "In many ways, Ireland hasn't changed because the Irish people have always been tolerant, decent, and compassionate," Sen. David Norris, 70, told The New York Times. "But you've still got to say that it's extraordinary to have once been considered a criminal and now I might be able to marry — if anyone would have me, that is!"
In majority protestant Northern Ireland, the government has voted down three recent proposals to join the rest of the United Kingdom in allowing same-sex marriage. Peter Weber
If you shut off the TV or switched from CBS after David Letterman's final sign-off Wednesday night, you missed Late Late Show host James Corden's car trip with Justin Bieber. Don't worry, they posted it to YouTube. It's billed as "carpool karaoke" — which, not to quibble too much, is wrong both because the music has the original vocal tracks and only one of the dudes is going to work (Corden) — but the singing to the radio is the least interesting part, anyway.
The reasons to watch are Justin Bieber's impressive Rubik's Cube skills and the conversation — specifically, Bieber's reaction when Corden laid out a fairly elaborate fantasy involving a woman, a bed, some Bieber tunes, and a cutout of Bieber's silhouette on the bathroom door. Lesser pop stars might have jumped out of the car; Bieber agreed to swap clothes. You can watch below. —Peter Weber
Among the trove of documents and book titles newly declassified and released from the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011 was a letter bin Laden wrote to one of his wives in Iran around December 2010. In the three-page letter he discusses routine domestic issues, like his wife's dental work, and says he was thinking about leaving for another hideout.
"I have been living for years in the company of some of the brothers from the area, and they are getting exhausted — security wise — from me staying with them and what results from that," he wrote. "Sadly, I came to realize that they have reached a level of exhaustion that they are shutting down, and they asked to leave us all." He had been with the hosts for so long, he added, "I think that I have to leave them," though it would take a few months "to arrange another place where you, Hamza, and his wife can join us."
As The New York Times notes, "it is impossible to know how any change in location by bin Laden might have altered the ability of American intelligence agencies to accurately track him to his secret compound." If he had escaped before the May raid, he might still be alive.