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May 15, 2014

If you're sick of what has become of America's music, you're not alone. Country music star Collin Raye is speaking out about it on Fox News. Here's an excerpt:

There appears to be not even the slightest attempt to "say" anything other than to repeat the tired, overused mantra of redneck party boy in his truck, partying in said truck, hoping to get lucky in the cab of said truck, and his greatest possible achievement in life is to continue to be physically and emotionally attached to the aforementioned truck as all things in life should and must take place in his, you guessed it... truck.

Like Raye, I'm not inherently opposed to this strain of country music, but it has become dominant and ubiquitous. "I didn't mind the first two or three hundred versions of these gems," said Raye, "but I think we can all agree by now that everything's been said about a redneck and his truck, that can possibly be said."

The beauty of country music is that it is honest and authentic. It tells us stories we can identify with. That doesn't mean it can't sometimes also be fun and silly — and occasionally employ an obvious double entendre, or two. Johnny Cash managed to do it all pretty darn well.

But at some point, modern country became a parody of itself, often reinforcing or overemphasizing country stereotypes. The pendulum has swung too far to the silly "bro" side of things. When it comes to today's country, "They sound tired, but they don't sound Haggard" — or, as my colleague Eric Keefeld lamented, at some point, "modern country became Cheap Trick with trucker hats." Matt K. Lewis

1:47 p.m. ET
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The numbers of tourists heading to Spain, Portugal, and other sunny European nations have increased up to 30 per­cent this year compared with 2015, CNN reports. Experts say travelers are eager to avoid destinations seen as potential terrorist targets. France, the world's top destination for international travelers, has seen visitor spending falling for the last year, perhaps due to the rash of terrorist attacks it experienced in recent months. Egypt has experienced a nearly 50 per­cent drop in visitors this year. The Week Staff

12:28 p.m. ET
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Donald Trump on Monday commended Huma Abedin for choosing to leave her husband, former New York congressman Anthony Weiner. And given Abedin is a top aide to Hillary Clinton, Trump also used the opportunity to slam a longtime enemy.

"Huma is making a very wise decision. I know Anthony Weiner well, and she will be far better off without him," Trump said in his statement. He then added: "I only worry for the country in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information. Who knows what he learned and who he told? It's just another example of Hillary Clinton’s bad judgment. It is possible that our country and its security have been greatly compromised by this."

Trump has in the past called Weiner a "pervert sleaze," a "perv," and the "greatest sleazebag of our time" on Twitter and in speeches. Weiner "will send anything that he has out over Twitter, or any other form of getting it out," Trump has warned in the past.

Weiner responded to the insults before, calling Trump "F---face Von Clownstick" on his now-deleted Twitter. Jeva Lange

12:08 p.m. ET
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The 2016 U.S. Open begins Monday with Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic as top seeds going into the tournament.

With 12 Grand Slam titles already under his belt, Djokovic has had a bit of a rough summer, losing in the third round of Wimbledon and the first round in the Rio Olympics. He'll be challenged by Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, and Juan Martin del Porto in Queens.

The women's competition will also be tight, with the unseeded Monica Puig — who won gold at the Rio Olympics — poised to make a run. Venus Williams, a two-time champion and the No. 6 seed, could also break into the finals. Still, FiveThirtyEight gives Serena Williams with a 55 percent chance of winning the tournament, which would be her 23rd Grand Slam victory and make her the winningest Grand Slam player in Open-era history. (The record is currently held by Steffi Graf, who won 22 Grand Slam titles.)

For more U.S. Open predictions, read The New York Times' dark-horse picks or brush up on the major storylines of the tournament at Sports Illustrated. Jeva Lange

12:04 p.m. ET

At the MTV VMAs on Sunday night, Beyoncé performed a lengthy, show-stopping medley of songs from her hit visual album, Lemonade. But somewhere between coordinating adorable mother-daughter outfits and unabashedly laying out the raw emotions of marital infidelity, the songstress also found time to thoroughly make Chance the Rapper's day:

Amazing moment between #Beyonce and #ChanceTheRapper backstage at the #VMAS

A video posted by BG The King (@byrongraffiti) on

As BuzzFeed notes, this wasn't the first time the Chicago-born rapper met Beyoncé. And even if it's worse than looking crazy, I have to admit: I'm pretty jealous of Chance the Rapper right now. Kimberly Alters

11:41 a.m. ET
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More than 20,000 donors have contributed almost $350,000 to a Donald Trump super PAC that has spent $0 on Donald Trump, Politico reports. The PAC, operated by 25-year-old Ian Hawes, offers an opportunity to win "Dinner with Donald Trump" but the fine print clarifies that despite appearances, the website isn't run by the Trump campaign and the dinner is actually the PAC buying two tickets "at a Sponsor-selected fundraising evening event held with Donald Trump and other attendees." Donors are encouraged to spend money to increase their chances of winning, but the fine print again says "contributing will not improve chances of winning."

Hawes took advantage of a vacuum left by a skeletal Trump operation that had failed to activate supporters online and protect its digital turf; Hawes noted he bought Facebook ads and solicited money via email before Trump ever did, and created the dinner contest first.

He noted Trump's campaign has never contacted them to request they stop using his name, even though the campaign did so to the FEC last fall about some other groups. The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment for this story. [Politico]

Most of the money from donors went to CartSoft LLC, an online payment platform founded and owned by Hawes, which received about $133,000 from the arrangement. Hawes didn't say what his personal cut of that pot was, but added, "I don't want to say the number is zero because that's not true."

"This is robbery," Indiana donor Mary Pat Kulina told Politico upon hearing her donation of $265 did not go directly to the Trump campaign. "I want my money back and I want them to add up what they stole from people and give it to Donald Trump." Read the full report — including how to get your money back if you donated — at Politico. Jeva Lange

11:30 a.m. ET
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Huma Abedin announced her separation from husband and former New York congressman Anthony Weiner on Monday, following a report by the New York Post that Weiner sent sexual texts and photos to another woman. "After long and painful consideration and work on my marriage, I have made the decision to separate from my husband," Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Clinton, said in a statement. "Anthony and I remain devoted to doing what is best for our son, who is the light of our life."

Weiner resigned from the House of Representatives in 2011 after accidentally posting sexual images to Twitter and admitting to sending sexual texts and images to "about six women." He later lost the 2013 New York City mayoral race after another woman claimed he'd sent her explicit photos. He has been married to Abedin since 2010, and together they have a 4-year-old son. Jeva Lange

10:57 a.m. ET

You may have heard: Hillary Clinton is old, sick, shrill, bigoted, dishonest, murderous. But! Lest you run out of unflattering adjectives for the presidential hopeful, Donald Trump wants to throw one more on the pile: dumb.

That what he implied Monday, at least, by unleashing two tweets that were clearly aimed at Clinton's intelligence — or apparent lack thereof:

For the record, Clinton did indeed fail the bar exam in Washington, D.C., though she passed in Arkansas. She counts Wellesley College (ranked the fourth-best liberal arts college in the nation by U.S. News and World Report) as her undergraduate alma mater and attended Yale Law School — which means she has the same Ivy League chops as Trump, who graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. Kimberly Alters

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