Only in America

Only in America: Crank it up to 11

February 9, 2013

A Washington state motorist was required to explain the meaning of his vanity license plate, after a mistaken complaint claimed it was obscene. Tony Cava's plate, GOES211, is a reference to his favorite movie, Spinal Tap, but a complainant demanded the state's license-plate committee revoke it, saying the plate insinuates that "his penis grows to 11 inches in length." Cava won his case, a state official said, after proving "the complaint was, pardon my pun, a stretch."

Om nom nom

Air Force Academy cadets actually want to eat their vegetables

4:47pm ET

Michelle Obama would be proud: Cadets at the military's largest dining hall can't get enough fresh broccoli and asparagus.

Mitchell Hall, the Air Force Academy's legendary dining facility, remains the "Defense Department's reigning champion of the military meal," according to Stars and Stripes, and the meals are getting a makeover.

"We are seeing an increase in cadets wanting healthy foods," said Shelly Morales, the dietitian who plans the school's menus weeks in advance.

A focus group of cadets is used to test new recipes. Classic comfort food favorites like mac and cheese and chicken fingers are still being served, but items like fresh salmon and veggies have been added to the lineup, options which Morales says the cadets look forward to.

The menus are prescribed by the Pentagon to provide between 3,200 and 4,000 calories to sustain cadets through the demanding training they face on a daily basis.

2016 Watch

Koch brothers plan to spend $889 million on 2016 election

4:37pm ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A political network overseen by the billionaire Koch brothers plans to spend a staggering $889 million on the 2016 election.

Announced Monday during an annual winter meeting hosted by Freedom Partners, the total would more than double the $404 million the Republican National Committee spent on the 2012 presidential contest. The nearly $1 billion outlay would be financed by a staple of wealthy donors and the brothers themselves.

This just in

Ex-CIA officer convicted of leaking classified Iranian intel

4:08pm ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling on Monday was convicted of leaking to a New York Times reporter classified information about a plan to undermine Iran's nuclear program.

In a victory for the Obama administration, which aggressively pursued the leak case, a jury convicted Sterling of all nine espionage counts filed against him. In a 2006 book, journalist James Risen published details of a covert CIA plot against Iran. Prosecutors for years sought to compel Risen to give up his source, though they never called him to testify when it became clear he would no do so.

Black and Blue Mamba

Kobe Bryant is done for the season to undergo shoulder surgery

3:41pm ET
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will undergo surgery on Wednesday to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

The team will announce a timetable for Bryant's rehab after the surgery, but the veteran is expected to sit out the remainder of the season. The Lakers are mired near the bottom of the standings, so there's no reason to rush Bryant back to action.

The 36-year-old Bryant is under contract for one more year in L.A. Before his injury, he was struggling through one of the worst seasons of his career.

This just in

FBI charges 3 Russian spies in New York

3:36pm ET

The FBI announced Monday that it has charged three people in connection to a Russian spy ring. Authorities said that the defendants tried to recruit New Yorkers as intelligence sources.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, and FBI officials announced the case on Monday. According to the report, one of the defendents was a trade representative for the Russian Federation in New York. Another defendant, meanwhile, posed as an employee at a Russian bank in Manhattan.

The FBI arrested the bank employee, Evgeny Buryakov, in the Bronx on Monday. The other two suspects are still at large but are no longer in the U.S.

"The arrest of Evgeny Buryakov and the charges against him and his co-defendants make clear that — more than two decades after the presumptive end of the Cold War — Russian spies continue to seek to operate in our midst under cover of secrecy," Bharara said in a statement.

Fit for a king

The Department of Defense is sponsoring a writing contest in honor of late Saudi King

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Handout/Getty Images

Students at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. have the opportunity to participate in an essay competition to honor Saudi Arabia's controversial King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz, who died last Friday at the age of 90.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey established the contest. In a Defense Department press release, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey says the contest is a "fitting tribute to the life and leadership of the Saudi Arabian monarch" who was "a lifetime supporter of his country's allegiance with the United States."

"I found the king to be a man of remarkable character and courage," Dempsey said.

Abdullah's legacy, however, is far from pure. National Review points out that under the Saudi king's rule, Christianity and other religions were outlawed nationwide, women remained repressed, public executions were rampant, and homosexuals and victims of rape were punished, as were those who insulted Islam.

This just in

Mattel CEO fired amid declining profits

2:59pm ET
Joerg Koch/Getty Images

Mattel's CEO, Bryan Stockton, was fired on Monday after the company reported a 59 percent drop in profits. Stockton was Mattel's chairman and chief executive for the past three years.

The company's overall earnings have declined, but the drop in Barbie sales has been the most discussed among analysts. In 2009, more than 25 percent of dolls purchased in the U.S. were Barbies, but in 2013, Barbie accounted for only 19.6 percent of doll sales.

Christopher Sinclair, who has served on the Mattel board since 1996, has been named the brand's interim chair and CEO. Sinclair said in a statement that the company needs "new leadership to maximize its potential."


Uber caps its blizzard surge pricing in New York

2:37pm ET
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Uber announced Monday that it would cap its surge prices in New York for this week's blizzard.

"Due to the State of Emergency declared in New York City, prices will not exceed 2.8x the normal fare," Uber said in an email. "Anytime a disaster or state of emergency strikes, dynamic pricing is capped, and all Uber proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross to support relief efforts."

Ridesharing service Lyft is also capping its surge prices for the storm at twice the price of a normal fare. Both companies increase their fares with demand-based pricing during emergencies or holidays such as New Year's, in which there aren't enough cars to handle requests.

This just in

CBO: Federal deficit will drop to lowest level since Obama took office

2:14pm ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Congressional Budget Office said Monday that the budget deficit should this year shrink to its lowest level as a percentage of the economy since 2007.

The nonpartisan agency said the deficit for the fiscal year, which ends in September, will be $468 billion, down a tick from last year's $483 billion mark. In addition, the CBO said there were 19 million fewer uninsured Americans this year compared to the year before thanks to changes implemented under ObamaCare.

This doesn't look good

Sam Smith will pay Tom Petty songwriting royalties for 'Stay with Me'

2:05pm ET
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Sam Smith's 2014 hit "Stay with Me" bore striking similarity to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' 1989 hit "I Won't Back Down," and now Smith is paying the price.

Smith's rep told Rolling Stone that "the likeness was a complete coincidence." He added that the "Stay with Me" writers were "not previously familiar" with Petty's hit, but when they heard it, they "acknowledged the similarity."

Smith agreed to pay Petty royalties for the song, and Petty and singer-composer Jeff Lynne will get a 12.5 percent songwriting credit.

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