Foreign affairs
March 11, 2014

Russia's Kremlin-financed cable news channel RT America has faced some dramatic blowback over its coverage of Russia's military occupation of Ukraine's Crimea province. But RT isn't the only government-run broadcaster putting its own stamp on the Crimea situation. Here's how Iran's state-owned English news service Press TV is covering Ukraine:

If you're wondering, the American guest who advocates impeaching President Obama before he nukes Russia to avert America's financial collapse is Mike Billington, an author and longtime active member of the Lyndon LaRouche movement who served 12 years in prison for what he claims were politically motivated reasons (prosecutors say he bilked old people out of $1.24 million).

Iran is a Russian ally. But even head-scarfed newscaster Kaneez Fatima seems uncomfortable with Billington's commentary.

culture of death
4:29am ET

On Thursday night, Robert Ladd was put to death by lethal injection at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville. Ladd, convicted of beating Vicki Ann Garner to death with a hammer in 1996, had an IQ of just 67, prompting a legal challenge on the grounds that Ladd was intellectually disabled. The Supreme Court declined to grant a last-minute stay of execution. —Peter Weber

RIP
4:00am ET
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Before Rod McKuen essentially stopped publishing his poems and recording albums in 1981, he was a pop culture juggernaut, a sort of middlebrow Renaissance man, selling more than 60 million of his poetry books and tens of millions of copies of his 200 music and spoken-word albums. At the peak of his career, in the 1960s and '70s, McKuen was "the unofficial poet laureate of America," according to the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. He died on Thursday in Beverly Hills, after a battle with pneumonia, at age 81.

McKuen collaborated with Belgian songwriter Jacques Brel on a string of well-known songs, including "If You Go Away" and "Seasons in the Sun," and Frank Sinatra commissioned and recorded an album of his songs, A Man Alone (1969). He was nominated for Academy Awards for the title songs to A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969) and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), and won a Grammy for his spoken-word album Lonesome Cities (1968). He acted in TV shows and movies. As a budding poet in the 1950s, McKuen read his work alongside Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and other Beat poets.

His prolific work made him wealthy and famous, but the critics were not particularly kind. As to why he took a long break starting in the '80s, "I was tired," he told the Chicago Tribune in 2001. "I peaked. I left when I was on top." Below, you can watch McKuen sing "Seasons in the Sun," his translation of Brel's "Le Moribond" and a hit for Terry Jacks in 1974. —Peter Weber

if you say so
2:22am ET
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The next time you find yourself enjoying a Frappuccino at Starbucks, be sure to silently thank the icy beverage’s inspiration: Kenny G.

In an interview with Bloomberg, the smooth jazz virtuoso said that as an early investor in Starbucks, he convinced chairman and CEO Howard Schultz to rip off another company's drink. "At the beginning, Starbucks didn’t have anything but coffee, and there was another company, Coffee Bean, that had something called 'blended' that was a sweet drink, and people were lined up around the block," he said. "I would always call Howard and say, 'Howard, there's this thing that they do there that's like a milkshake or whatever.'"

Kenny G admits that he's never been a coffee aficionado, and became interested in Starbucks after talking with his uncle, one of the company's first investors. He was quickly impressed by Schultz, he said, and the rest is caffeinated history.

Deflategate
1:46am ET

Lots of people take responsibility for crimes they didn't commit, Jimmy Kimmel said on Thursday night's Jimmy Kimmel Live, citing the Lindbergh baby kidnapping as an example. The same holds true of (much) lesser crimes, like the Patriots' (alleged) deflating of their game footballs in the AFC championship game. That's the setup for a bunch of Patriots fans (with strong Boston accents) pleading guilty to deflating the balls of their idol, quarterback Tom Brady — without his knowledge, of course. You'll recognize a lot of the personalities (we'll list them below the video). And yes, the Kimmel–Matt Damon feud lives on.

(Along with Damon, watch for Ben Affleck, John Krasinski, Steven Tyler, Chris Evans, Eli Roth, Dicky Barrett, and Bill Simmons.)

Health
1:45am ET
iStock

Put down that glass: A new study released Thursday says that people in their 50s and 60s who drink more than two alcoholic beverages every day have a 34 percent higher risk of stroke compared to those who don't drink as much.

The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, also states that consuming more than two drinks daily can increase a middle-aged person's risk of stroke more than usual traits like high blood pressure and diabetes, NBC News reports. Researchers tracked about 11,000 sets of Swedish twins for 43 years, and came to their conclusion after looking at the lifestyle choices and health of the participants.

Dr. Shazam Hussain with the Cleveland Clinic's stroke program was not part of the study, but said along with high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity, alcohol consumption might become another stroke risk factor to look at. "We are seeing more and more people who are having strokes at younger ages and we don't necessarily appreciate how much alcohol use may be contributing to that," he told NBC News. "We know that the more you drink, the worse off you're going to be. Whether no alcohol versus a little bit of alcohol is any different, that's tough to say."

Super Bowling
1:11am ET

An avid soccer fan, John Oliver told David Letterman on Thursday's Late Show that he's been "brainwashed" into embracing American football's Super Bowl. "I'm on a green card, and if I don't watch the Super Bowl, I get ejected," he joked, added that he actually loves the big game, "because it's peak America, isn't it? It's when America Americanized itself to the full American extent."

After listing off all the ways America's pro football championship game embodies the American spirit, Oliver went global. "You've got to understand how intimidating the Super Bowl is to the rest of the world," he told Letterman. "Because when you beam that around the world, everyone else is thinking, 'If they are capable of this, what else can they do?'" You hear that, State Department? Peace through football? Walk softly and carry a big ball? —Peter Weber

really bad ideas
1:07am ET
Facebook.com/TexansForMolly

Muslim visitors to Texas state Rep. Molly White's (R) office were greeted by an Israeli flag and a staff that was told to ask them to pledge allegiance to the United States.

Thursday was Texas Muslim Capitol Day, an event organized by the Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations that lets Muslims meet lawmakers and learn about the political process. White wasn't in the office, but wrote on her Facebook page that she "did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws. We will see how long they stay in my office."

That spirit spilled outside, where about two dozen protesters held signs that said "Go Home & Take Obama With You" and chanted "Islam is a lie" to the 100 Muslims, mostly children, at the event, the Texas Tribune reports. On her Facebook page, White says she continues to stand by her actions, and has ignored comments asking why she would request people swear allegiance to the U.S. when she has an Israeli flag on display and if she asks that white visitors denounce the KKK.

This just in
January 29, 2015
Chad Buchanan/Getty Images

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department says former rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight ran over two men in a parking lot on Thursday afternoon, killing one of them, after a confrontation on the set of the NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton. They are investigating the hit-and-run as a homicide, and Knight's lawyer, James Blatt, tells NBC News that his client is making arrangements to surrender after what he calls a "tragic accident."

L.A. Sheriff's Capt. John Corina told reporters Thursday night that after fighting with two crew members on the set, Knight followed them to Tam's Burgers 20 minutes later, backed over them in the parking lot, then ran over them again before driving away. Knight co-founded Death Row Records with Dr. Dre in 1991, and has a history of battery and hitting people with cars, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Update: Blatt told The Associated Press that Knight ran over his friends accidentally while fleeing attackers. "He was in the process of being physically assaulted by two men, and in an effort to escape he unfortunately hit two (other) individuals," Blatt said. "We are confident that once the investigation is completed, he will be totally exonerated."

the gift of life
January 29, 2015
iStock

A new analysis has determined that organs donated in the United States have added more than 2 million years to the lives of recipients.

Researchers looked at data collected between Sept. 1, 1987, and Dec. 31, 2012, and found that 533,329 people received a donated organ (including kidneys, hearts, livers, and intestines), while 579,506 on the waiting list did not. After comparing the outcomes for patients in both groups, they determined that 2,270,859 extra years were added — a "stellar accomplishment," the study authors said. That number will continue to increase as transplant recipients remain living.

The team determined that heart transplants were the most successful, giving patients an extra 4.9 years on average, while kidney recipients averaged 4.4 extra years and liver recipients 4.3 extra years. There is some bad news: Only 48 percent of patients who make it to the waiting list get new organs, and "the critical shortage of donors continues to hamper this field," the researchers wrote. They would like more potential donors to realize they have "tremendous potential to do even more good for humankind in the future."

that's some deep meditation
January 29, 2015

After 200 years of peace and solitude, the mummified remains of a meditating Buddhist monk have been found in Mongolia.

The ash-colored man was found in the lotus position with no visible decay, the New York Daily News reports, and early estimates say he could be at least two centuries old. The remains, which were found covered in cattle skin at an undisclosed location in the Songinokhairkhan province, have been taken to the Ulaanbataar National Center of Forensic Expertise for more study.

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