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  • inventions    2:50am ET 
Facebook.com/Toyota
Facebook.com/Toyota

If your throat is sore from shouting at your kids in the back seat to sit down/stop punching each other/act like civilized human beings, Toyota has a solution.

The company recently announced that the 2015 Sienna vans will feature Driver Easy Speak, which will amplify the driver's voice into speakers in the back seat. That way, you can kindly remind your children that you can turn this car around without having to strain your voice. The best part of the system is it doesn't work both ways, so your kids can mumble all they want and you won't hear it. For those who want to have an eagle eye on the backseat, there's also the optional "pull-down conversation mirror," which allows the driver to see what's going on in the back without having to turn around.

As minivan sales decline, Toyota is hoping these new features will cause parents to run down to their nearest dealership. "I think they're on the right lines of trying to find these features that people are going to talk about," Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst at Edmunds.com, told The Associated Press.

 
  • Border Crisis    2:04am ET 
AP/YouTube
AP/YouTube

On Monday, as expected, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) announced in Austin that he plans to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the state's border with Mexico, to be a "force multiplier" for Operation Strong Safety, a state operation Perry initiated last month that includes sending state troopers to the border to help local law enforcement deal with an influx of Central American children and families in recent months. Processing and housing the children and teenagers has tied up U.S. Border Patrol agents.

The deployment of National Guard troops will cost an estimated $12 million a month, on top of the $1.3 million Texas is already spending on its state operation each week. Perry didn't say how he planned to pay for that, though state officials at his press conference said they'll ask the federal government to pick up the bill.

It's also not clear what exactly the 1,000 National Guard troops will do in the Rio Grande Valley. "If we were asked to, we could detain people," Texas Adjutant Gen. John Nichols said at Perry's briefing. "But we're not planning on that. We're planning on referring and deterring." A Texas National Guard spokeswoman later added that the guard forces "will not exceed their authorities," and will be operating under the "umbrella" of the state police.

State and local law enforcement can't detain people based solely on their immigration status, but they can tell the Border Patrol about people they suspect are in the U.S. illegally.

The Obama White House says it is open to deploying National Guard troops for humanitarian purposes as part of the president's $3.7 billion border package proposal. But it doesn't seem too excited about the idea as a standalone plan and suggested that Perry is motivated by political concerns at least as much as public safety. Perry, widely expected to run for president again in 2016, spent last weekend in Iowa, his fourth visit to the first-presidential-contest state in eight months. Here's an excerpt from Perry's announcement:

And below is a brief analysis from The Wall Street Journal. --Peter Weber

 
  • sip and spit    1:40am ET 
iStock
iStock

If you're under 21 in California, congratulations, you can legally drink! But, there's a catch: You must be at least 18, enrolled in an accredited beer-brewing or winemaking class, and you can only swish the drink around and not actually swallow.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed AB 1989 (aka "the sip and spit" bill) into law Monday. Now, California is one of 13 states that lets students under 21 sample alcohol for educational reasons. Andrew Waterhouse, a professor in the department of viticulture and enology at UC Davis, is excited that his students can now try what they make. "It's an experience they can't really get any other way," he told NBC LA. "And it's much better if they do it in an educational setting where they can ask a lot of questions."

Tara Pattison, who studies brewing science at UC Davis, thinks being able to taste the drinks will make the end product much better. "If you cannot test the final products you will never know what mistakes you have made or, in a perfect world, didn't make," she said.

 
  • No to the Nuge    1:09am ET 
CC by: Ron Gallegos
CC by: Ron Gallegos

Ted Nugent's notoriety for offensive trash-talk has just cost the longtime rocker a gig with a Native American clientele. The Coeur d'Alene Casino in Worley, Idaho, announced Monday that that they are canceling a scheduled concert for Aug. 4 — citing what they called Nugent's "racist attitudes and views."

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe released an official statement from casino marketing director Laura Stensgar, alluding to a backlash among the tribal community:

We adamantly do not want our casino to be used as a venue for the racist attitudes and views that Ted Nugent espouses. Unfortunately, when we booked him, we were looking at him from an entertainment perspective, as an '80s rock 'n' roller who we thought folks might enjoy. We take the comments and concerns of our community very seriously and we apologize to anyone who was offended by the idea that we would promote these kinds of attitudes. We will do our best to avoid such mistakes moving forward. [Sensgar, Coeur d'Alene Tribe]

Nugent has made a variety of incendiary comments for many years about women, various minority groups, and liberals. In a very notable example from just this past January, he publicly referred to President Obama as a "subhuman mongrel." After a number of prominent conservative politicians distanced themselves from Nugent's remark, he gave a mea culpa of sorts, saying that he apologized "for using the street-fighter terminology of 'subhuman mongrel' instead of just using more understandable language, such as 'violator of his oath to the Constitution.'"

 
  • food and firearms    12:32am ET 

They love a theme at Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado. The menu features the Swiss and Wesson and Guac 9 burgers, and owner Lauren Bobert and most of the waitstaff are armed, in Bobert's case with a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun.

"I wanted to start carrying just for my protection," Bobert told Nightline. "This is my establishment, so I didn't see anything wrong with that. I began to open carry." Bobert, a 27-year-old mother of four, opened Shooters Grill last year. While she says it's "not a gimmick," the theme does bring in customers from hundreds of miles away. Those who can't make it to Shooters show their support from afar. One man, who said he was a U.S. Marine from California, called and offered to buy a gun for any waitress without one; that's how Carsyn Copeland ended up with a Kimber .45 three days ago.

(Twitter/ShootersGrill)

Not everyone is a fan, and Bobert said she regularly receives angry phone calls, letters, and posts on social media. Dave Hoover of Lakeview, Colorado, lost his nephew in the Aurora theater shooting in 2012, and is afraid people might forget about the impact of guns. "This is America, they're allowed to [open carry], but you can't glamorize the gun," he said. "What we need to worry about is keeping the guns out of [the hands of] those who shouldn't have firearms."

Bobert would like it to become "normal" to see people carrying guns around, and says she believes that would keep violence down. She argues that everyone who comes into Shooters Grill is safe, and nobody in the establisment has to be concerned about getting shot: "I'm more worried about my cooks getting burnt in the kitchen than a firearm going off in the restaurant."

 
  • Science!    July 21 
iStock
iStock

When Lauren Arrington decided to study the lionfish for her sixth grade science fair, the 12-year-old had no idea she would make a discovery that would surprise conservationists.

The Jupiter, Florida, youth had long been interested by the lionfish, an invasive species known for its spiky (and venomous) fin rays. Along with her father, who has a Ph.D. in fish ecology, Lauren worked on determining how far lionfish can make it in water that's not salty. Her dad believed they wouldn't be able to survive in salinity of less than 12 parts per 1,000, which is about a third as salty as ocean water. Lauren decided to go lower than that, and slowly went down to 6 parts per 1,000. The fish continued to do well, but Lauren stopped there, afraid she might kill her subjects if she dipped below that number.

Lauren's research shows conservationists that lionfish might be able to make their way into more waters than previously thought. North Carolina State University ecology professor Craig Layman used her findings and expanded upon them in a new study; he was sure to give Lauren credit for her discovery.

 
  • mixing primary colors    July 21 
CC by: Senate Democrats
CC by: Senate Democrats

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D, N.Y.) is now embracing a reform movement for party primaries: To get rid of party primaries as we know them, and replace them with the "top two" open primary system.

"The partisan primary system, which favors more ideologically pure candidates, has contributed to the election of more extreme officeholders and increased political polarization," Schumer writes in a column published Monday night at The New York Times. "It has become a menace to governing."

The top-two system involves all candidates running together on a single primary ballot, with the top two contenders — regardless of party affiliation — proceeding to a runoff general election. Its supporters believe that it encourages a larger turnout of voters in the open primary, and that candidates will try to reach out to the middle instead of the party extremes. The system has been used in Louisiana since the 1970s, and in recent years it has been copied over into both Washington State and the nation's most populous state, California. Oregon and Colorado voters are considering adopting a top-two system this year.

Schumer also contrasts two recent party primaries, which produced very different results: The surprise defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) by an even more conservative primary challenger, and the victory of incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), whose campaign openly encouraged Democratic-leaning African-American voters to cross over into the Republican primary in order to defeat the more conservative challenger. Schumer cites Cantor's loss as an example of the problems in current primaries and Cochran's win as a positive development in working out political compromises.

 
  • This just in    July 21 

On Monday afternoon, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Ryan Pitts, a former Army sergeant who held off Taliban fighters in northeastern Afghanistan.

Pitts held his ground during 2008's Battle of Wanat, even after being hit by grenade shrapnel in one arm and both of his legs. He will be the ninth living recipient of the Medal of Honor, America's highest award for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Pitts has been modest about his award, however. Earlier this month, he told Here and Now that his work in Afghanistan was a "team effort." "It belongs to every man there that day, and I'll accept it on behalf of the team," Pitts told the news program. "It's not mine."

Watch an ABC News report of Obama awarding Pitts the medal below. --Meghan DeMaria

 
  • Poor Door    July 21 
iStock
iStock

It looks like the "poor door" will really be coming to New York City after the Department of Housing Preservation and Development approved plans for a new luxury apartment building with separate entrances for rich and less-rich folks. The proposal had been pending since last year, but the board finally gave it the green light this month, according to the New York Post.

Real estate developer Extell unveiled last August a plan to build a fancy 33-story Upper West Side building with 55 units of affordable housing. The catch: The cheap digs would have separate elevators and a proprietary entrance. Hence, the term "poor door." And as if that setup wasn't controversial enough already, Extell was able to seek millions of dollars in tax breaks in exchange for setting aside some units for people making significantly less the the area's median income.

Predictably, the proposal drew vocal condemnation, with New York State Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, who represents the neighborhood, saying the arrangement was "abominable and has no place in the 21st century."

 
  • America the Beautiful    July 21 

Another day, another food-themed American holiday. That's right: National Eat Junk Food Day is a real thing, and it's today.

Instead of just eating any old unhealthy food, though, why not spice things up a bit? Two Harvard students have the solution: Spray Cake, a can that dispenses microwaveable cake batter.

John McCallum, a Harvard junior, invented Spray Cake during his first-year science and cooking class. His fellow student Brooke Nowakowski encouraged the endeavor, adding that it was good for weight watchers, since you can "make one cupcake, then put it back in the fridge," she told The Boston Globe.

McCallum and Nowakowski are currently trying to patent Spray Cake, which releases air bubbles inside the batter to eliminate baking soda. The cakes are fully cooked after just one minute in the microwave. Watch a demo of the Spray Cake in action below. --Meghan DeMaria

 
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