Talkin' 'bout girls, talkin' bout trucks
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."

Germanwings Crash
March 28, 2015
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A spokesman for Lufthansa, Germanwings' parent company, told NBC News on Saturday that the airline will distribute initial payments to families of up to $54,450 per victim in the tragic Tuesday crash of Flight 9525.

"This is to offer the families immediate support to help them in this major change in life," Boris Ogursky said. "They shouldn't have to face a financial problem, and they need not worry about paying it back."

Family members have been flying into France from more than a dozen countries; Lufthansa is also covering transportation and living accommodations for those affected. German investigators believe co-pilot Andreas Lubitz intentionally crashed the Germanwings plane into the French Alps on Tuesday, killing all 150 people on board. He appears to have hidden the fact that he had been receiving psychiatric treatment for more than a year from the airline; investigators searching his home found a ripped-up doctor's note authorizing Lubitz to take time off from work due to an illness.

Foreign affairs
March 28, 2015
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Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi directly blamed the Islamic Republic on Saturday for his country's current chaos, calling the Shiite rebels who have forced him to flee Yemen "puppets of Iran," The Associated Press reports

"You have destroyed Yemen with your political adolescence and by manufacturing domestic and regional crises," Hadi said, speaking directly to the rebels and their backers.

Hadi fled the country and made his way to Saudi Arabia earlier this week, after the rebels, known as Houthis, pushed farther toward the southern Yemen city of Aden, where he had been staying. An Arab summit on Saturday addressed the Houthi advances, with one Gulf diplomat warning that Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen could continue for months. And while other leaders did not mention Iran by name, they criticized the Shiite power indirectly, which they claim is supporting the Houthi rebels in their advances on the Sunni nation.

Really? Really.
March 28, 2015
Facebook.com/Get Hard

It's a good thing Michigan State's men's basketball team pulled off a 62-58 win over Oklahoma on Friday night, or Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart might have been hearing from Tom Izzo.

The Spartans' coach joked with MLive.com that the team's slow start in the Sweet 16 game was probably due to his allowing the players to go see a movie earlier in the afternoon. And Izzo picked Get Hard, because, "I didn't want anything too deep," that might throw the team off mentally.

"This wasn't too deep," he added.

The No. 7 Spartans survived to take on Louisville Sunday, so a suggestion for Izzo if he needs another movie to keep his team occupied before warmups: Pick something else. Literally, anything else. 

hmmm
March 28, 2015
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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) may be readying an official start to his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Reuters reports.

The Tampa Bay Times reported on Friday that Rubio has reserved the Freedom Tower, in downtown Miami, for an "undisclosed event" on April 13. While Rubio staffers declined to comment on the reservation, the Tampa paper notes that the Freedom Tower was used to assist Cuban refugees who fled after Fidel Castro took over the country in 1959; and that Rubio could consider the Miami landmark to be "an ideal, postcard setting to kick off a presidential campaign promoting the promise and greatness of America by the son of Cuban immigrants."

Ebola
March 28, 2015
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Health officials got some rare good news in the fight against Ebola this week, thanks to new research published on Thursday in the journal Science. Virologists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found that the current outbreak has not given rise to an even more virulent and contagious form of the virus, despite "extensive and prolonged human-to-human transmission," the researchers note.

The Los Angeles Times reports that earlier research suggested the virus was mutating at nearly double the rate as in past outbreaks; if that were the case, it could evolve past experimental tests and vaccines in progress. But researchers genetically sequenced samples of Ebola taken from patients in October and November of 2014, and found that the virus had not significantly mutated.

"Whereas from a public health perspective, the current Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa continues to be an extremely pressing emergency, it is doubtful that either virulence or transmissibility has increased," the researchers added.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 10,000 people and infected another 24,907, according to the World Health Organization.

Live Long and Prosper
March 28, 2015
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Saying he wanted to create "a tribute to my dad and Spock," Adam Nimoy told Variety on Friday that he plans to produce and direct a documentary about the iconic Star Trek character, played by his father Leonard Nimoy.

The elder Nimoy died in February at the age of 83; he had been suffering for nearly a year from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. But Adam Nimoy said he and his father had discussed the documentary, which will be entitled For the Love of Spock, at length.

The project will reportedly highlight the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, which premiered on Sept. 8, 1966. Zachary Quinto, who has played Spock in two recent film takes on the franchise, will narrate, and William Shatner, who played James T. Kirk in the original series, plans to appear in the documentary.

Foreign affairs
March 28, 2015

Millions of Nigerians arrived at polling stations across the country on Saturday, ready to cast their votes in a tight presidential election, The Associated Press reports.

The race between incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari is the first election since Nigeria's independence from Britain in 1960 that has even a chance of favoring an opposition candidate over a sitting president.

That may be in large part due to the continuing Boko Haram insurgency in the country; Buhari has criticized Jonathan for his failure to force the militants out of Nigeria. The election was originally scheduled to take place in February, but it was postponed due to security fears. Jonathan's opposition has suggested the move allowed the sitting president more time to garner support.

Saturday's election has not run perfectly, AP notes: Local officials have reported at least two car-bomb explosions; Boko Haram militants waving guns have turned some villagers away from polling sites; and some polling stations have reported technical difficulties with biometric voting cards, meant to discourage fraud at the polls.

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