Under the sea
July 13, 2014

Almost 500 swimmers donned scuba gear and costumes Saturday to splash along to deep sea tunes in the 30th Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival. A local radio station broadcasted four hours of uninterrupted music, which was then played on underwater speakers in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. And yes: The playlist had a water theme.

From the Associated Press:

Good thing none of those instruments were plugged in. Jon Terbush

End of an Era
12:07 a.m. ET

After more than 40 years, a beloved fixture is saying goodbye to Sesame Street.

Sonia Manzano, who has played Maria since 1971, is retiring, she announced at the American Library Association's annual conference. Audiences know her as the owner of the Fix-It Shop along with her Sesame Street husband, Luis, but she has also won 15 Emmys for her work as a writer for the show. Her memoir, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, will be released soon, likely chock full of juicy tidbits about her time with Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Big Bird.

Sesame Street has not confirmed the news, but Manzano is responding to fans on Twitter asking about the departure, Variety reports. Catherine Garcia

Only in Monroe
July 1, 2015

Monroe, Michigan, got an unexpected jolt of star power on Wednesday when Stephen Colbert stopped by MPACT, the local public-access TV station, to host Only In Monroe, a local interest program. Why? "Since my last show ended in December, I've been itching to host a talk show again," Colbert explained, "but my new theater's not ready yet, so I decided to head over to Monroe, Michigan, look around, and give it a Michigander."

Let's be honest, the show is 41 minutes long and you're probably not going to watch all of it. About 4 minutes in, Colbert starts interviewing the show's regular hosts, Michelle Bowman and Kaye Lani Rae Rafko Wilson, and at the 22-minute mark he has on "a local Michigander who is making a name for himself in the competitive world of music," Marshall Mathers. ("We didn’t know that the guest was going to be Eminem until the day of," MPACT program director Lance Sottile tells The New York Times. "It just sort of happened and we were like, 'Oh — oh my gosh.'")

Colbert asked Emimem about his musical influences, and when the rapper said he likes Bob Seger, Colbert grilled him on Seger songs. Colbert won. The premise is that Colbert has no idea who Eminem is, or that he's famous. "I'm so confused right now," Eminem said after a bit. "I can't tell if you're serious, or..." That's sort of always the question with Colbert, but hosting a local public-access show proves he's serious about... something. Watch as much of this very special edition of Only In Monroe below. Peter Weber

Foreign affairs
July 1, 2015

At least 117 people were killed Wednesday during fighting between Egyptian army forces and Islamist militants in the northern Sinai Peninsula, Egyptian state media said.

Officials say 17 government soldiers and 100 militants are among the dead. An army spokesman said that 70 militants launched simultaneous attacks on military checkpoints in the town of Sheikh Zuwayed. An Islamic State affiliate called the Sinai Province said it was behind three suicide attacks and had fought against Egyptian forces at more than 15 sites across northern Sinai, SITE Intelligence Group reports.

Officials said that Egypt's air force sent F-16 fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters to back up ground forces, who had to deal with improvised explosive devices planted along the roadways. There is no way to know for sure how many people have been killed, The Wall Street Journal reports, because the government has placed a two-year restriction on media access to the northern Sinai. Catherine Garcia

feel the bern
July 1, 2015

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) made history on Wednesday, holding his largest rally to date in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Alliant Energy Center seats 10,231 people, and the venue was mostly full for the event. Not only was this the biggest rally to date for the progressive presidential candidate, it could be the largest out of the entire 2016 cycle, The Huffington Post reports — about 5,500 people attended Hillary Clinton's campaign launch on New York's Roosevelt Island, while Jeb Bush drew 3,000 supporters to his kickoff in Miami.

Once Sanders took to the stage, he discussed unemployment, the TPP, and income inequality. CNN's Dan Merica tweeted several of Sanders' soundbites, including, "The greed of the billionaire class has got to end and we are going to end it for them" and "Our job is...to redistribute wealth back into the hands of working families." At the end of the night, Sanders told CNN he was heartened by the huge number of supporters who turned out for the night. "It tells me that the message is resonating," he said, "not just in Wisconsin, but all over America." Catherine Garcia

censorship
July 1, 2015

In Granbury, Texas, two children's books that discuss LGBT issues are being targeted by more than 50 residents, who have sent in "challenge forms" asking that the books be removed from the Hood County Library.

Hood County Library director Courtney Kincaid said the books, My Princess Boy and This Day in June, are aimed at helping kids understand the LGBT community. "The books have color drawings and have some rhymes," she told WFAA. "Lesbians and gays are in this community, and they deserve to have some items in this collection." Some of the challenge forms say the books should not be in the children's section because they promote "perversion" and "the gay lifestyle." The Hood County Library Advisory Board voted to keep both the books in the library, and the Hood County Commissioners will address the challenge in July. Kincaid said she would move This Day in June to the non-fiction section, because the book is a "teaching tool."

Hood County is also home to clerk Katie Lang, who made news for refusing to sign off on same-sex marriage licenses. On Tuesday, the clerk's office said it would work around this by issuing licenses without involving Lang. Catherine Garcia

This just in
July 1, 2015
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Japan defeated England, 2-1, in Wednesday's Women's World Cup semifinal, and will play the United States Sunday during the final game in Vancouver. In the 92nd minute, England defender Laura Bassett accidentally sent the ball into the England net, CNN reports. Japan is the defending champion, and Sunday's game will be a rematch with the United States. In 2011, after a 2-2 tie, Japan beat the U.S. in the penalty kick shootout, 3-1. Catherine Garcia

This just in
July 1, 2015
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

At the Episcopal General Convention in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Episcopalians voted to allow religious weddings for gay couples.

Many dioceses allowed priests to perform civil same-sex weddings, but the denomination's laws were officially changed with Wednesday's vote, The Associated Press reports. Under the new rule, gender-specific language is removed from church laws on marriage, with "the couple" replacing "husband and wife." Clergy members can also decline to perform same-sex ceremonies.

On Tuesday, the House of Bishops had approved the resolution, 129-26, with five abstaining, and it was overwhelmingly passed by the House of Deputies, the voting body of lay people and clergy, on Wednesday. Rev. Brian Baker of Sacramento said the House of Bishops prayed and debated the issue for five hours before their vote. "We have learned to not only care for, but care about one another," he told AP. "That mutual care was present in the conversations we had. Some people disagreed, some people disagreed deeply, but we prayed and we listened and we came up with compromises that we believe make room and leave no one behind." The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the global Anglican Communion, and before the vote, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby had expressed concern about redefining marriage. Catherine Garcia

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