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July 20, 2014

Weird Al Yankovic's Lame Claim to Fame is the seventh song to be released off the jokester's new album, Mandatory Fun. And though the song doesn't parody a well-known pop tune, it still offers a witty commentary on our celeb-obsessed culture, with the narrator remarking on all his unimpressively tangential relations to famous folks.

The Vicar of Yanks is releasing a video per day, for eight days, to mark the release of his 14th studio album. Jon Terbush

2:49 a.m. ET
CC by: Breezy Baldwin/Flickr

For 15 years, Trey Pearson has been the lead singer of Everyday Sunday, a popular Christian rock band that has sold about 250,000 records, toured the U.S. and the world, and scored the top Christian rock hit of 2007. On Tuesday, he announced that he is gay. "I have tried not to be gay for more than 20 years of my life," the 35-year-old told his fans in a letter. "I've tried my whole life to be straight. I married a girl, and I even have two beautiful little kids," he wrote, explaining that his wife is now a good friend, and "if I keep trying to push this down it will end up hurting her even more."

Coming out as gay may be career suicide for Pearson, notes Jonathan Merritt at Religion News Service. Several Christian artists have revealed themselves to be gay or lesbian in the past few years, he says, and "these musicians paid a hefty price. Since Christian music fans tend to be conservative and believe that homosexual acts are sinful, you won't hear these artists' music played in most churches or on Christian radio these days." Pearson hopes that his fans will stick with him, and that he can be a role model for other gay Christians, especially those, like him, raised in "a very conservative Christian home."

But Pearson says that regardless of his music career, he isn't losing his religion. His study of the Bible has led him to believe that the few verses that address homosexuality don't condemn today's loving, committed gay relationships, he told Merritt. "There is absolutely no conflict with accepting who I am and following Jesus," he said. "God wants me to be healthy, authentic, whole, integrated, and my truest self." You can read more about Pearson at RNS, or the 12-page cover story about him in (614) Magazine. Peter Weber

2:00 a.m. ET
Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

Syrian forces backed by the United States launched an offensive on Tuesday to capture what one U.S. official called the Islamic State's "last remaining funnel" to Europe, Reuters reports.

The area of northern Syria known as the Manbij pocket has been used by ISIS to move foreign fighters back and forth to Europe, and a goal of the operation is to isolate ISIS and cut off the supply line to its de facto capital, Raqqa. Thousands of fighters have been preparing for the offensive for weeks, U.S. officials told Reuters, and while some U.S. special operations forces will serve as advisers and offer support on the ground, they will not engage in direct combat. The operation will also involve airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition and firing positions from the ground in Turkey.

The forces are mostly composed of Syrian Arabs, with about one-sixth of them members of the Kurdish YPG militia, officials said. Turkey views Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters as terrorists, and opposed the idea of the militia taking control of the Manbij pocket, Reuters reports. Catherine Garcia

1:20 a.m. ET

An Oklahoma insurance executive and one-time volunteer sheriff's deputy who said he confused his handgun for his stun gun during a sting, resulting in the fatal shooting of a suspect, was sentenced to four years in prison on Tuesday, the maximum penalty recommended by jurors.

Robert Bates, 74, was found guilty last month of second-degree manslaughter. He fatally shot Eric Harris while working with Tulsa County sheriff's deputies in an illegal gun sales sting. Harris, who was unarmed, had run from deputies, and Bates shot him after he was already restrained. The incident was caught on video, and during the course of an investigation, an internal memo was uncovered that questioned Bates' qualifications as a volunteer deputy, The Associated Press reports. The memo also mentioned that Bates was a close friend with the sheriff at the time, and had donated thousands of dollars in cash, cars, and equipment to the department.

Bates was given credit for time served since his conviction, and upon his release, he has to serve nine months of probation. Catherine Garcia

12:36 a.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In a press conference on Tuesday, Donald Trump took umbrage at reporters asking him to account for the $6 million he said he raised for veterans charities back in January, resorting to name-calling and other invectives when reporters questioned his attitude to being questioned. "Instead of being like, 'Thank you very much, Mr. Trump,' or 'Trump did a good job,' everyone's saying: 'Who got it? Who got it? Who got it?'" Trump groused. "I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job."

Trump read off 41 organizations that had received $5.6 million from his January fundraiser, including $1 million of his own money. "Most of the money went out quite a while ago," Trump said on Tuesday. "Some of it went out more recently. But all of this has gone out." The Associated Press called each of the 41 organizations, 30 responded, and about half said they only got checks from Trump last week, with the biggest batch going out on or around May 24 — the same day Trump finally spoke with The Washington Post, which had been publicly digging around to account for his donations. Trump's $1 million check went out May 24, too

Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said the timing was coincidental. "Mr. Trump's team worked very hard to complete this lengthy process prior to Memorial Day weekend," she said. Trump's likely Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, saw things differently. "The problem here is the difference between what Donald Trump says and what Donald Trump does," she said. "He's bragged for months about raising $6 million for vets and donating $1 million himself, but it took a reporter to shame him into actually making the contribution." That's one way to raise questions about Trump's judgment for cutting checks on the same day he was nailed by reporters for failing to fulfill a public promise. Here's another:

On the other hand, Trump's only been running for president for a year. Peter Weber

12:21 a.m. ET

General Mills is recalling 10 million pounds of flour "out of an abundance of caution," due to an E. coli scare.

State and federal officials say flour is likely the link between 38 illnesses across 20 states, NBC News reports; many of the people who became sick say they ate raw flour. In a statement, General Mills said it is working with health officials to investigate a possible E. coli 0121 contamination, and has issued a voluntary recall of Gold Medal flour, Wondra flour, and Signature Kitchens flour, sold in Albertsons, Vons, Jewel, Shaws, Safeway, United, Randalls, and Acme stores.

E. coli 0121 is one of the few forms of the bacteria that can cause illness, and the last outbreak was in 2014, linked to clover sprouts. General Mills said that during the course of the investigation, "E. coli 0121 has not been found in any General Mills flour products or in the flour manufacturing facility, and the company has not been contacted directly by any consumer reporting confirmed illnesses related to these products." Catherine Garcia

May 31, 2016
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On Tuesday, the U.S. government sued to keep the family of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook from receiving $275,000 from life insurance policies he took out in 2012 and 2013.

Prosecutors say while planning a terrorist attack, Farook obtained a $25,000 life insurance policy in 2012 and a $250,000 policy in 2013. His mother, Rafia Farook, is the beneficiary for both policies. "Terrorists must not be permitted to provide for their designated beneficiaries through their crimes," U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said in a statement. "My office intends to explore every legal option available to us to ensure these funds are made available to the victims of this horrific crime. We will continue to use every tool available to seek justice on behalf of the victims of the San Bernardino terrorist attacks."

On Dec. 2, 2015, Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, shot and killed 14 people and injured 22 others after storming into a training session attended by Farook's San Bernardino County co-workers. Catherine Garcia

May 31, 2016
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More than 50 years after its release, Mary Poppins is getting a sequel.

Mary Poppins Returns will hit theaters on Dec. 25, 2018, starring Emily Blunt as the magical nanny with the bottomless carpet bag and Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack the lamplighter, a new character. The 1964 Disney classic starred Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, and won five Academy Awards.

Mary Poppins Returns will be set in Depression-era London, with Jane and Michael Banks now adults, The Hollywood Reporter says. Michael is a father of three, and they are visited by their beloved nanny after the family is hit by tragedy. The movie will be directed by Rob Marshall. Catherine Garcia

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