Only in America
September 13, 2012

The United Nations has denied it has plans to invade Texas. Lubbock County Judge Tom Head recently charged in a TV interview that if President Obama won re-election, he would "hand over sovereignty of the U.S. to the U.N.," and send in "U.N. troops with the little blue beanies." A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon denied there's any takeover plot, adding, "Not even the United Nations would mess with Texas."

 

Really?
1:23pm ET
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If you've got good digestive health, you could be making an easy $13,000 a year.

People infected with the bacteria C. difficile need fecal transplants to help their gut. Without constant antibiotics, sufferers may undergo "extreme gastrointestinal distress" and may even become housebound, The Washington Post reports. To help these patients, a company called OpenBiome delivers frozen stool transplants to those in need.

The healthy fecal transplants can be transferred to those with the C. difficile bacteria through endoscopy, nasal tubes, or swallowed capsules. According to the Post, OpenBiome has already shipped roughly 2,000 treatments to 185 hospitals nationwide. And it pays: Donors get $40 per sample, with an extra $50 for those who come in five days a week. So for a year's worth of donations, you could be looking at $13,000.

Don't get too excited, though: The donations have to be made on-site in Medford, Massachusetts, and only about four percent of prospective donors pass the "extensive medical questioning and stool testing," the Post notes. But if you make the cut, you'll be helping others in addition to making some fast cash.

"Everyone thinks it's great that they're making money doing such an easy thing," OpenBiome co-founder Carolyn Edelstein told the Post. "But they also love to hear us say, 'Look, your poop just helped this lady who's been sick for nine years go to her daughter's graduation.'"

binge-watching
1:02pm ET
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Turn off Friends and step away from your laptop. A new University of Texas study says binge-watching shouldn't be considered a "harmless addiction."

People who experience depression and loneliness are more likely to binge-watch TV than others. Predictably, the same goes for people with low levels of self-control.

"When binge-watching becomes rampant, viewers may start to neglect their work and their relationships with others," said researcher Yoon Hi Sung. "Even though people know they should not, they have difficulty resisting the desire to watch episodes continuously."

In other words, if you want a healthy social life, you might just have to stop trying to keep up with the Kardashians.

big spender
12:05pm ET

In early January, Vice President Joe Biden interrupted his vacation on the Caribbean island of St. Croix to make a one-day trip to Brazil for the inauguration of the country's president, Dilma Rousseff. Hotel and vehicle costs alone for the veep's single day visit totaled $421,000

About $191,000 of that went to hotel costs, which is more than the median price of a house in the United States. While Biden clearly knows how to travel in style — his vehicle requirements included 22 cars, 28 vans, three trucks, one bus, and one SUV — maybe next time he could just use Skype?

Really? Really.
11:52am ET

The City University of New York (CUNY), a public college system that includes 23 institutions, has forbidden faculty members of its Graduate Center from using salutations like "Mr." or "Ms."

In a memo from Provost Louise Lennihan, the school announced that as of this semester, professors should "eliminate the use of gendered salutations and references in correspondence to students, prospective students, and third parties. Accordingly, Mr. and Ms. should be omitted from salutations." Professors are encouraged to instead address people by their full first and last names.

While the school attributes the new policy to the legal requirements of Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in education, this interpretation of the law's requirements is highly unusual, to say the least.

Ruble trouble
11:35am ET
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Weeks after hiking interest rates to an 11-year high, Russia unexpectedly cut them again, Bloomberg News reports.

The central bank lowered the benchmark rate from 17 percent to 15 percent. That sparked ruble sales, driving it down 4 percent against the dollar.

In 2014, the central bank raised the rate six times. Officials and business leaders have warned the economy will crash unless rates come down. Earlier in January, an aide to President Vladimir Putin called doing business "impossible" at the current interest rate.

This just in
10:59am ET
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In an 11 a.m. call with senior donors, Mitt Romney announced that despite heavy speculation that he would step into the 2016 race, he will not consider a presidential run. "After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I've decided it is best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee," Romney said.

snowpocalypse
10:38am ET
T.J. Kirkpatrick/Stringer/Getty Images

The city of Boston fined Secretary of State John Kerry $50 this week when he didn't shovel the snow in front of his Beacon Hill home. Kerry was in Saudi Arabia for the funeral of King Abdullah, but that apparently wasn't a good enough reason to avoid being fined.

The Boston Globe reports that a snow removal company saw Kerry's house blocked off by yellow hazard tape, which was to warn pedestrians about falling snow and ice from the building's roof. But the company thought it wa police tape and didn't clear the walk. When they understood that they were indeed allowed to enter the area, the company cleared Kerry's sidewalk late Thursday morning.

"Diplomats — they're just like us," Kerry's spokesman Glen Johnson said to the Globe." The snow has all been shoveled now, the secretary will gladly pay the ticket, and let's hope this is the last blizzard of the year."

Dino Discovery
10:31am ET
Screenshot/CNN

There's a new species of dinosaur, and it resembles a mythical Chinese dragon. Local farmers in Qijiang city, China, originally found its fossils back in 2006 and dubbed the dinosaur Qijianglong, meaning "dragon of Qijiang," CNN reports.

In findings published this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, University of Alberta researchers say the dinosaur, a species unique to Asia, was 50 feet long, with its neck taking up half its body.

"The new dinosaur tells us that these extreme species thrived in isolation from the rest of the world,"  researcher Tetsuto Miyashita told CNN.

They found a vertebrae, skull, and tail, which will all end up at the city's new dinosaur museum when construction wraps up.

Climate change
9:57am ET
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A new poll from The New York Times found that a majority of Americans, including almost half of Republicans, support government action to stop climate change. Seventy-seven percent of Americans said the federal government "should be doing a substantial amount to combat climate change," according to the Times.

The Times conducted the poll in conjunction with Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future. The poll, which surveyed 1,006 adults from Jan. 7-22, could affect 2016 presidential campaigns — two-thirds of Americans said they were more likely to vote for candidates whose campaign platforms included fighting climate change.

Climate change wasn't a deciding factor in the respondents' votes, but it does influence their decision, according to the Times. Sixty-seven percent of respondents, including 48 percent of Republicans, said they were less likely to vote for candidates who denied that humans are the cause of climate change.

Around the world
9:47am ET
Twitter/The Telegraph

South African apartheid death-squad leader Eugene de Kock, also known as "Prime Evil," was granted parole Friday, The Guardian reports. The ex-cop will be released from prison fter serving more than 20 years for the torture and murder of black South African activists in the 1980s and early 1990s.

South Africa justice minister Michael Masutha said in a news conference de Kock was released "in the interests of nation-building and reconciliation." Masutha also mentioned de Kock has expressed remorse and helped authorities recover remains of some of his victims.

De Kock is said to have been responsible for more atrocities than any other man in an attempt to preserve white rule, according to The Guardian. Many South Africans believe he should die behind bars.

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