Only in America
June 12, 2013

A building superintendent in Brooklyn alerted the cops to what he thought was a "marijuana farm" on the roof of his building, only to have the police confirm that the 15 cups filled with soil were actually tomato plants. "I don't know much about plants. I'm not good with that," the superintendent said.

this is awful
12:55 a.m. ET

Veterinarians from around the world have come together to save Magnus, a lion cub who was born into captivity at a circus in Spain and horribly mistreated for the first few months of his life.

Magnus was separated from his mother when he was only days old, and purposely starved so he wouldn't grow and could appear in photos with visitors who paid 20 euros each, ABC Los Angeles reports. He was fed just yogurt and bread, and when he became extremely ill the circus owner took him to a vet and asked that he euthanize the cub. Spanish officials found out what happened and gave Magnus to an animal sanctuary, where it was discovered that his bones and muscles were stunted and his esophagus was so narrow he was unable to eat solid food.

This horrible story has a better ending: Once the four-month-old cub's plight was shared, vets from around the globe offered to help, and donations came pouring in for his treatment. Magnus underwent a necessary surgery, one of many he will need, and is now eating chicken cut into small pieces. His veterinarian said that unfortunately, the cub will be chronically ill for the rest of his life and will never be able to live on his on in the wild. Remember that the next time you go to the circus.

February 26, 2015

Every year, millions of tons of Saharan dust flies 3,000 miles across the Atlantic to the Amazon basin, where it settles in and helps plants grow.

Since 2007, NASA's Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) has been monitoring the particles as they travel from Africa to South America, and the plumes can be spotted from space. On average, 182 million tons of dust leaves Africa annually, and of that amount about 27 million tons make it to the Amazon. Once there, it replenishes phosphorous lost from surface runoff and flooding. "Using satellites to get a clear picture of dust is important for understand and eventually using computers to model where that dust will go now and in future climate scenarios," NASA research scientist Hongbin Yu said. —Catherine Garcia

Eye of the beholder
February 26, 2015

More than any Supreme Pontiff in the modern era (at least), Pope Francis is comfortable speaking off the cuff in public. That verbal spontaneity has earned the pope fans, "but going off-script has its pitfalls," BBC News says in its 60-second roundup of Franciscan "gaffes." If you follow the pope, you've probably heard about a few of these statements, and one or two of them should probably have remained inside Pope Francis' head ("strawberries on the cake"?). But seriously, who could hold it against a man for sticking up for his mother? —Peter Weber

Foreign affairs
February 26, 2015

The Afghan refugee who became famous after her photograph was put on the cover of National Geographic is getting attention again for another picture taken 30 years later.

Sharbat Gula was photographed in 1984 at the Pakistani refugee camp she lived in, and she continues to reside in Pakistan. She grabbed headlines on Tuesday when national media published her computerized national identity card (CNIC), a document that she should not have as a refugee. CNICs allow Afghans to purchase property and open bank accounts, and usually can be procured through bribes, The Guardian reports. A spokesman for the National Database and Registration Authority said that Gula’s card was discovered and banned in August, and four officials have been suspended for their involvement. He also said the authority has found 22,000 other illegal cards.

Millions of Afghans have crossed into Pakistan since the Soviets invaded in 1979, and more than 2.5 million are thought to still be in the country. As evidenced by the anger over Gula having a CNIC, many Pakistanis are ready for them to return to Afghanistan. "We need them to leave Pakistan because we are badly suffering," Hamid-ul-Huq, who represents Peshawar, told The Guardian. "All our streets, mosques, schools are overloaded because of them. It is time for them to leave Pakistan honorably." Human Rights Watch asked the government this week to stop pressuring refugees to leave the country, and a former commissioner for Afghan refugees said that Afghanistan could not handle such a large influx of refugees coming back all at once.

the saga continues
February 26, 2015

Nope, Kanye West's Twitter account wasn't hacked on Thursday: He really did apologize to Beck for the whole jumping-onstage-and-later-talking-serious-smack debacle at the Grammys.

After saying he was sorry to Beck, West decided to make amends with Bruno Mars:

Since the Grammys, West has been making the rounds trying to soften his image, and admitted to a radio station host last week that Beck's Morning Phase, which he didn't listen to before the show, was "kind of good." Now that the Kanye West Apology Tour 2015 is over, can a Yeezus/Beck/Mars collaboration be far off?

justice is (finally) served
February 26, 2015

Out of the more than 7,000 Virginians who were involuntarily sterilized by the state between 1924 and 1979, only 11 are still alive. On Thursday, the Virginia General Assembly agreed to give each survivor $25,000.

The Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act aimed to "improve the genetic composition of humankind by preventing those considered 'defective' from reproducing," The Associated Press reports. The legislation served as a model for other states and Nazi Germany, and across the country, 65,000 Americans were sterilized in 33 states. Virginia's eugenics law was upheld in the 1927 Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell, with Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. writing for the majority, "Three generations of imbeciles are enough."

In Virginia, six state institutions conducted the sterilizations. Lewis Reynolds, 87, was sterilized at the Virginia Colony for the Epileptic and Feeble Minded when he was 13; they thought he had epilepsy, but he just had temporary symptoms after being hit in the head with a rock. The retired Marine didn't discover he had been sterilized until he was married and trying to start a family with his first wife, who ended up leaving him once she found out he couldn't have children. "I think they done me wrong," he told AP. "I couldn't have a family like everybody else does. They took my rights away."

have you seen this dress?
February 26, 2015

Someone call the fashion police: The pearl-covered dress worn by actress Lupita Nyong'o to Sunday's Academy Awards was stolen from a hotel on Wednesday.

The Calvin Klein-designed dress is said to be covered with 6,000 real pearls, and is worth a hefty $150,000. The gown was reported missing at 11:23 p.m. Wednesday, and police believe it was taken between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. that day. Detectives are dusting for fingerprints, talking to staff, and looking at surveillance footage from L.A.'s London Hotel for clues. "At this point, we don't have any idea who did it," Lt. William Nash of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department told NBC News.

your health
February 26, 2015

The Centers for Disease Control is worried about an increase in the number of people contracting the potentially deadly bacteria C. difficile.

C. difficile is usually found in hospitals, but a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine said that 150,000 people who had not been in a hospital came down with C. diff in 2011, and 82 percent had visited a doctor's or dentist's office in the 12 weeks before becoming ill, CNN reports. Nearly half a million Americans are infected every year, with 15,000 deaths attributed to the bacteria. Researchers say the best way to avoid getting it is by washing hands with soap and water after visiting a doctor's office.

In 2013, researchers found C. diff in six out of seven outpatient clinics tested in Ohio, on chairs and exam tables. The CDC plans to do another study to see just why the numbers are so high outside of hospitals and to determine how many people arrive at the doctor's office already with the bacteria. "This is really an important issue," Dr. Cliff McDonald, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC, told CNN. "We need to understand better how people are getting C. diff."

Shutdown showdown
February 26, 2015
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate appears poised for a vote Friday on a bill that would approve funding for the Department of Homeland Security without blocking President Obama's immigration order. That would give the House — which passed a DHS funding bill last month that included provisions thwarting Obama's immigration action — less than a day to respond; funding for DHS runs out Saturday.

Confronted with a restive conservative wing that wants him to keep fighting and spurn the bipartisan Senate deal, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has yet to say how he will respond once the Senate acts.

Snowball Fights
February 26, 2015

During a speech on climate change, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) employed some very questionable science to prove that global warming is a hoax.

"Do you know what this is?" he asked. "It's a snowball. It's just from outside here, so it's very very cold out," Inhofe said before tossing the snowball.

"Here, Mr. President, catch."

His staff confirmed that the snowball was caught by a Senate page. —Marshall Bright

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