Stats of our lives
July 11, 2012

Percent of fourth-graders who say math class is often or always "too easy"

Percent of fourth-graders who say math class is sometimes too easy

Percent of fourth-graders who were deemed "proficient" on the nation's standardized math test  

Source: USA Today

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

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

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.

blame canada
January 29, 2015

For Joel Ifergan, seven seconds might as well be an eternity.

The Canadian man purchased two tickets for the lottery in 2008, and one printed out seven seconds after the cutoff time. That one had the winning numbers for the $27 million jackpot, and Ifergan said that since he purchased the ticket before the deadline, he was entitled to his portion of the money. He sued Quebec's lottery, and his case was rejected in provincial courts, the BBC reports.

On Thursday, Canada's Supreme Court also said it would not hear his case, leaving Ifergan out of options. He's said to have spent $100,000 in legal fees, and still stands by his assertion that Quebec's slow machines are to blame for his status as a non-millionaire. "I'm really disappointed in the decision, and it's not because it's just about the money," Ifergan told CTV News. "Had those tickets been bought anywhere else in Canada, I would have been a millionaire seven years ago."

Foreign affairs
January 29, 2015
Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

In Israel, four women have won their suit against the city of Beit Shemesh, which would not take down signs calling for women to wear "modest" clothing on the streets.

The signs are illegal, but this is the first time a court has ruled against one, The Guardian reports. Judge David Gidoni said the signs were "hurtful, degrading, and discriminatory," and "delivered a mortal blow to the rights of women in the city." The municipality must pay each woman 15,000 shekels, or $3,813. The city says that the signs were put up without permission, but they are afraid violence will break out if they remove them.

The population of Beit Shemesh is 45 percent ultra-Orthodox Jewish, and signs call for women to stay out of certain buildings and walk on the other side of the street. One billboard stated it was "forbidden to walk on our streets in immodest dress, including slutty clothing worn in a religious style." Plaintiff Miriam Zussman said she has been spit on and called names while wearing skirts below the knee, long-sleeved shirts, and covered hair. "It is quite shocking," she told The Guardian.

placebo effect
January 29, 2015
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The placebo effect is well known, but researchers from the University of Cincinnati decided to test the theory that patients would respond better to a placebo that they thought had an enormous price tag.

A meta-analysis found that placebos used in clinical trials of Parkinson's treatments improved symptoms by an average of 16 percent, the Los Angeles Times reports, and the University of Cincinnati team decided to study 12 patients with "moderately advanced" Parkinson's in a clinical trial of "a new injectable dopamine agonist." With Parkinson's, patients lose brain cells that make dopamine, something this drug could combat.

The participants were told that they were taking two versions of experimental drugs that worked the same but were made differently, with one costing 15 times more than the other. They were actually given the same exact saline solution. The results showed that both versions of the placebo improved motor function compared with a base line test, but the subjects who took the $1,500 dose had an improvement that was 9 percent greater than the $100-per-dose placebo. "Patients' expectations have an important role in the efficacy of medical therapies," the researchers wrote. The results were published Wednesday in the journal Neurology.

greek life
January 29, 2015
Jay Paul/Getty Images

University of Virginia sorority sisters were ordered by their national chapters to stay away from fraternity parties this weekend, The Washington Post reports. The mandate comes after a now-discredited Rolling Stone article on sexual assault in Greek life prompted a close look the school's safety and culture.

Saturday is fraternity Bid Night. Different sorority chapters told members they'd risk suspension, fines, and other penalties for attending parties that night. Some chapters were told to avoid fraternity gatherings in general, not just Bid Night parties.

An online petition against the mandate started earlier this week read:

Instead of addressing rape and sexual assault at UVa, this mandate perpetuates the idea that women are inferior, sexual objects. It is degrading to Greek women, as it appears that the [National Panhellenic Conference] views us as defenseless and UVa's new fraternal policies as invalid. Allowing the NPC to prevent us from celebrating (what used to be) a tight-knit community, sends the message that we are weak. []

Some sororities are planning mandatory in-house retreats Saturday to avoid violating the rule, The Post reports.

This just in
January 29, 2015

In simultaneous attacks on Thursday, militants hit more than a dozen army and police targets in the Sinai Peninsula, killing at least 25 soldiers and one policeman and wounding more than 60.

At least one car bomb went off outside a military base at the same time mortars were fired, bringing down buildings and burying soldiers underneath the debris, The Associated Press reports. The attacks took place in the Northern Sinai provincial capital el-Arish, the town of Sheik Zuwayid, and the town of Rafah, bordering Gaza. An Army spokesman blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, but the Islamic State affiliate in Egypt took responsibility on Twitter, the SITE Intelligence Group reports.

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