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May 21, 2014

Members of the long-since-disbanded California band Spirit, plus the estate of late Spirit guitarist Randy California, are suing Led Zeppelin for a songwriting credit on "Stairway to Heaven." Spirit's 1968 song "Taurus" (listen below) has a guitar riff that's pretty similar to Jimmy Page's iconic opening melody on 1971's "Stairway" and Spirit bass player Mark Andes and California's trust are threatening to block the June re-release of Led Zeppelin IV until California gets credit on the album.

Credit means cash. As I noted Tuesday, credited songwriters get royalties every time one of their songs is played on the radio or in a public place like a bar or roller rink, streamed online, or appears in a film or ad or TV show. "Stairway to Heaven" has already earned at least $562 million in record sales and royalties, according to Portfolio estimates, and California could be eligible for a cut of that. Andes said Page would have heard "Taurus" when Zeppelin performed with Sprit in 1968 and '69.

Zeppelin has settled with a handful of other songwriters for lifting their songs, adding songwriting credits to albums and sharing royalties. Whether California's estate and Andes get any money will be up to lawyer Francis Alexander Malofiy and a U.S. court. In the meantime, you can listen to "Taurus" yourself, or play Bloomberg Businessweek's "Is it Led Zeppelin or Spirit?" game. --Peter Weber

11:29 a.m. ET
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Historians have dedicated lifetimes of study to the Silk Road trade route, which connected Ancient China and the Roman Empire. But new skeletons unearthed in a London cemetery now have researches questioning exactly the extent of the partnership between the two great civilizations.

In a Roman cemetery in London, archaeologists found two pairs of remains belonging to people of Asian ancestry. Analysis indicates it is highly likely the people were Chinese, meaning they would have had to travel around 5,000 miles to get to England. "Many people traveled, often vast distances, for trade or because of their occupation, for example in the military, or their social status, for example if they were enslaved," Dr. Rebecca Redfern explained in The Journal of Archaeological Science.

The bones date back to sometime between the 2nd and 4th century A.D. Up until now, only one other person of Asian ancestry had ever been discovered from a site dating back to the Roman Empire, NextShark reports.

While nothing is conclusive yet, researchers can begin to speculate about what kinds of lives the people lived; perhaps the pair were immigrants who had come to Europe to set up their own business. Other skeletons in the area have been linked to African and Mediterranean peoples, suggesting the neighborhood was perhaps home to a diverse community of immigrants that shared the same social or economic status as the other locals. Jeva Lange

11:27 a.m. ET
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On Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey announced the agency will soon release a database that will track police use of deadly force. Comey told members of Congress during an ongoing oversight hearing that the database will be "up and running within two years," and that it will keep a tally of how many deaths are caused nationwide by police, The Associated Press reported.

Many, including Comey, have long been critical of the lack of such a database, as the information is increasingly in demand following numerous controversial cases of police violence over the last two years. Last October, Comey called it "embarrassing and ridiculous" that officials were not able to determine whether two high-profile police shootings were "isolated events or part of an alarming trend," The Washington Post reported. "It is unacceptable," Comey said, that media outlets like The Washington Post and The Guardian are the "lead source of information about violent encounters between police and civilians."

Comey is hopeful the database will allow future conversations about police violence to be shaped by the facts. "Everybody gets why it matters," he said Wednesday. Becca Stanek

10:40 a.m. ET
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Disney has been slowly reworking many of its animated classics into live-action films, and the next to get the treatment is going to be The Lion King. Disney announced Wednesday it is reteaming with live-action Jungle Book director Jon Favreau for the film.

"The Lion King builds on Disney's success of reimagining its classics for a contemporary audience with films like Maleficent, Cinderella, and The Jungle Book,” the company said in a statement. "The upcoming Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson as Belle, is already one of the most anticipated movies of 2017. Like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King will include songs from the animated film."

The 1994 animated Lion King was the highest grossing animated film for 16 years; it has also been adapted for Broadway. Jeva Lange

10:23 a.m. ET
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It's that time of year again, friends: The infamous pumpkin spice latte is back. And as Starbucks stores nationwide swell with people trying to get their hands on the chain's iconic seasonal beverage, grocery stores and restaurants are bathing themselves in orange, cinnamon-y goodness in a desperate attempt to get a piece of the pumpkin action.

Starbucks has sold more than 200 million pumpkin spice lattes since introducing the autumnal beverage in 2003, and Forbes estimates the company made around $100 million in revenue from pumpkin spice lattes just last fall. So it's not surprising that the drink's popularity has inspired a boom in pumpkin spice products — from vodka to hummus to pumpkin spice Cheerios. This year, Trader Joe's will stock more than 70 pumpkin items during the fall season.

Between the nostalgia factor, the desire to celebrate fall's return, and the allure of the limited-time offer, pumpkin spice anything is a safe bet for boosting fall sales, says The Washington Post. While 72 percent of customers only buy one Starbucks pumpkin spice latte a year, those who come in for such seasonal products spend more on average when they do visit.

Why fight it? Just enjoy all the unnecessarily pumpkin-flavored things your little heart secretly desires. Kelly Gonsalves

10:13 a.m. ET
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Hillary Clinton brought former Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado into the electoral limelight at the presidential debate on Monday, accusing Donald Trump of once having called Machado "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping." While in the moment Clinton's evocation worked to destabilize Trump, Machado is now under fire for comments she made about Trump's wife, Melania:

Though Melania, like her, is an immigrant and former model, Machado waves off the comparison immediately. As the wife of a political figure, Melania's job is "to help everybody around you," she said. "It's not to make yourself rich or more powerful." Melania made an appearance at the presidential debate but has largely ducked out of the spotlight since the RNC, where she was accused of plagiarizing parts of Michelle Obama’s speech in her own address. "I think I speak more English than her," Machado said. "I don't see anything about this girl. She's a doll. She's a decoration. That is how I see her." [Cosmopolitan]

Rumors have also come to the surface about Machado's alleged involvement in a murder plot; while admitting she has a past, she has called such stories "speculation." Jeva Lange

9:42 a.m. ET
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During one of the most memorable moments of Monday's presidential debate, Hillary Clinton evoked former Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado to illustrate Donald Trump's misogynistic and racist way of speaking about women. But even as Trump has doubled-down on criticizing Machado's weight, rumors have arisen of the Venezuelan beauty queen's alleged involvement in a murder plot in her home country. Given a chance to respond to the allegations Tuesday, Machado told Anderson Cooper, "You know, I have my past. Of course, everybody has a past. I'm not a saint girl. But that is not the point now."

Cooper had brought up the 1998 incident in which Machado was accused of driving a getaway car for a murder, but was never charged. "The judge in the case also said you threatened to kill him after he indicted your boyfriend for the attempted murder. I just want to give you a chance to address these reports that the Trump surrogates are talking about," Cooper said.

Machado said that the reports "are not the point now." "That moment in Venezuela was wrong, was another speculation about my life because I am a really famous person in my country," she said.

"[Trump] can say whatever he wants to say," Machado added. "I don't care." Jeva Lange

9:41 a.m. ET
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Donald Trump is down a state director in Georgia. On Tuesday, the Trump campaign's Georgia state director Brandon Phillips resigned after local news station Channel 2 Action News uncovered that in 2008, Phillips was arrested and pled guilty to charges of criminal trespassing and battery for destroying a laptop and slashing someone's tires. Phillips was slapped with a $1,500 fine and three years probation, though he was released from probation after a year.

Then, shortly after being released from probation in 2009, Phillips was reportedly arrested for "an alleged altercation involving a gun," Talking Points Memo reported. The charges were later dropped after he completed a "pretrial diversion program."

Phillips played a role in securing Trump's victory in the Georgia presidential primary and he also worked to "wrangle skeptical Peach State Republican delegates to support Trump's nomination at the party's July convention," The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.

Billy Kirkland, a senior adviser for Trump in Georgia, will reportedly take over Phillips' role. Becca Stanek

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