Stats of our lives
April 30, 2013

34.5
Percentage of U.S.-born kids with one allergic disease

20.3
Percentage of foreign-born kids with one allergic disease

10+
Years of living in the U.S. that caused foreign-born kids to have significantly higher odds of developing allergies

John Oliver gets excited
7:50 a.m. ET

Infrastructure, like the government officials who tout the need to maintain it, is not "sexy," John Oliver conceded on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. But is it really boring? "I'd argue that it's actually pretty interesting," Oliver said, noting that the sentiment made him like that "rad youth counselor" trying to convince kids that "Jesus was the Tayor Swift of his time." But unlike most youth group leaders, Oliver is really funny, and he has an HBO-sized budget and 20 minutes to to convince you that, yes, infrastructure is not only important, but fascinating. Watch below to see if he can make you believe. If not, he has some help near the end. —Peter Weber

This just in
7:46 a.m. ET

Afghanistan's army wants to fight the Taliban without the help of the U.S. or NATO. The Afghan army is in the midst of its biggest solo offensive against the Taliban in the southern province of Helmand.

Afghanistan wants to "strike a decisive blow ahead of the spring fighting season," The Associated Press reports. AP adds that the offensive is part of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's efforts to overhaul the country's police and army operations.

"This is an incredibly important operation," an unnamed Western diplomat told AP. "This is Ghani’s attempt to demonstrate to the U.S. and the U.S. Congress that Afghan ground forces are able to take the lead and conduct offensive operations if they have the right enablers to support them."

Afghan troops are clearing areas where insurgents have been entrenched for years, sending helicopter raids into compounds. Maj. Gen. Kurt Fuller, deputy chief of staff for U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan, told AP that the Taliban casualties have exceeded those of Afghan troops by "a factor of 10 to one." Fuller also told AP that Afghan officials and local leaders are planning to build new schools, police stations, and clinics in Helmand.

Ukraine Crisis
7:03 a.m. ET
Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

On Monday, the United Nations released its latest report on the war in Ukraine, putting the number of dead at above 6,000 and the number of wounded at nearly 15,000. The conflict had died down a bit in December, but an influx of military support from Russia had led to an escalation in fighting, dampening prospects for a peaceful resolution, U.N. Assistant Secretary General Ivan Simonovic said in Geneva.

"Credible reports indicate a continuing influx of heavy and sophisticated weaponry to armed groups in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as foreign fighters, including from the Russian Federation," said the U.N. in its ninth report on the Ukraine conflict, focusing on the period from December through mid-February. "This has fueled the escalation of the conflict and new offensives by armed groups, undermining the potential for peace as armed groups extend their areas of control." The big losers have been Kiev and civilians. You can read the entire report at the U.N.'s website.

israel
4:24 a.m. ET
Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images

The growing fissure between Israel and the U.S. is apparently personal, not business. A day before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a divisive speech before Congress about the purported dangers of President Obama's prospective nuclear deal with Iran, Secretary or State John Kerry is going to chide the United Nations Human Rights Commission over what the U.S. sees as an unfair bias against Israel. Kerry's "vigorous defense of Israel," The Associated Press reports, will include a demand for "a more balanced approach."

Jonathan Alter at The Daily Beast argues that despite mutual personal antipathy, Obama "has provided more support for Israel (including critical spare parts for the Iron Dome missile defense system that protected the country from Hamas rockets) than any president since Nixon." In 2013, for example — a year after Netanyahu all-but-endorsed Obama's GOP presidential rival, Mitt Romney — "Obama allowed Israel to become the first country other than the U.S. to operate the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most advanced military aircraft in the world." That's something to think about on Tuesday.

your health
4:11 a.m. ET
iStock

Researchers at the Albany Medical Center believe they may have found something to help people who suffer from excruciating migraines.

"Migraine headaches are one of the most common, debilitating diseases in the United States, and the cost and side effects of medicine to address migraines can be overwhelming," Dr. Kenneth Mandato, the study's lead researcher and an interventional radiologist at Albany Medical Center, said in a statement. For the treatment, clinicians put a catheter through the patient's nasal passages and administer lidocaine to the sphenopalatine ganglion, the nerve bundle behind the nose that is tied to migraines.

"Administration of lidocaine to the sphenopalatine ganglion acts as a 'reset button' for the brain's migraine circuitry," Mandato said. "When the initial numbing of the lidocaine wears off, the migraine trigger seems to no longer have the maximum effect that it once did." Following the procedure, researchers found that 88 percent of patients said they needed less or no additional medication for ongoing relief.

Foreign affairs
3:19 a.m. ET

One of five recipients of Saudi Arabia's prestigious King Faisal international prize once called the 9/11 attacks an "inside job" perpetuated by then-president George W. Bush.

Zakir Naik, president of the Islamic Research Foundation in India and founder of Peace TV, received the award in Riyhad on Sunday for his "service to Islam." The television preacher has an English language audience of more than 100 million, and he is considered to be "one of the most renowned non-Arabic speaking promoters of Islam," The Guardian reports.

He's also known for comments he made in July 2008, when he suggested on air that al Qaeda did not fly airplanes into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. "Even a fool will know that this was an inside job," he said, before claiming that Bush was behind the attacks. In 2010, he was reportedly barred from entering Britain for "numerous comments" that showed his "unacceptable behavior."

Taking the plunge
2:54 a.m. ET

Forget that ice-bucket challenge (if you haven't already): If you really care about supporting a good cause, you'll apparently gracefully flop backward into the 33-degree waters of Lake Michigan. On Sunday, actor Vince Vaughn kicked off Chicago's 15th annual Polar Plunge, wading into the machine-carved hole in the frozen lake with bagpipes blaring. He wasn't the only one to take the plunge: Among the 4,500 brave souls were Lady Gaga and her fiancé, actor Taylor Kinney, and mayoral hopeful Jesus "Chuy" Garcia. This year's event raised $1.1 million for Special Olympics Chicago. Watch Vaughn go "Vinny-dipping" below —Peter Weber

This just in
2:32 a.m. ET

A large-scale military operation by Iraqi government forces to take back Tikrit from ISIS is underway, Iraqi state television reports.

The forces are backed by allied Shiite and Sunni fighters and artillery and airstrikes by Iraqi fighter jets, The Associated Press reports. Some militants are said to have been forced out of areas near Tikrit, which is 80 miles north of Baghdad and Saddam Hussein’s hometown. Tikrit fell to ISIS last summer, and before the operation, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told Sunni fighters that if they left the militant orgnanization, they would be pardoned.

Noted
2:13 a.m. ET

Early Monday, Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas, 35, declared victory for his pro-Western Reform Party in Sunday's elections. With all votes counted, the Reform Party got 28 percent of the vote and 30 seats, beating the ethnic-Russian-favored opposition Center Party by five seats. In all, though, the ruling center-right coalition lost seven seats, giving it a 45-seat plurality in the 101-seat legislature.

A quarter of Estonia's population is ethnic Russian, and security concerns about an expansionist Moscow loomed large in the election. But all major political parties favor increased defense spending and continued membership in NATO. The main economic issue, The Associated Press reports, concerned whether to transform Estonia's 20 percent flat tax to a progressive tax, an idea opposed by the Reform Party and favored by the Center Party and the Social Democrats, a minority party in the governing coalition.

you go girl
1:22 a.m. ET

Meet the Kristy Thomas of her generation: 15-year-old Noa Mintz has started her own babysitting agency that brings in an estimated $300,000 a year.

The New Yorker has three younger siblings, and came up with the idea to launch her own company after seeing how difficult it was for her parents to find the right sitter for their family. Nannies by Noa started with Mintz matching babysitters she found with the friends of her parents, charging $100 to $200 for each pairing. Today, she has 25 full-time nannies and 50 babysitters, and charges a standard 15 percent of their initial gross salary, which People says can range from $50,000 to $80,000.

It's not surprising to Mintz's mother, Meredith Berkman, that her daughter has become successful at a young age. Berkman told the New York Post her daughter "was always trying to start these mini-companies," although this time it's "not a hobby for her. This isn't a lemonade stand." Noa's Nannies hired its first CEO in July, 26-year-old Allison Johnson, who said while it is a bit surreal to take orders from a high schooler, "I really support women who do things for themselves and get their visions out there."

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