Only in America

Only in America: It's official: Potato plants lack curb-appeal

July 19, 2011

Officials have charged an Oak Park, Mich., homeowner with a crime for growing vegetables in her own front yard. Although Julie Bass' vegetable garden is tidy, city planner Kevin Rulkowski says vegetables are "not what we want to see in a front yard." The city code requires "suitable" vegetation, says Rulkowski, which he defines as a "nice, grass yard with beautiful trees and bushes and flowers."

The Donald Abides

Watch Donald Trump explain why Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush can't win in 2016

4:37am ET

Several viable 2016 Republican presidential candidates spoke over the weekend at Iowa Rep. Steve King's Iowa Freedom Summit. So did Donald Trump.

As he has for the past two presidential elections, Trump suggested that he might run next year. "I'm the one person who can make this country great again, that's all I know," he told reporters after his speech. "If I run for president, and if I win, I would totally succeed in creating jobs, defeating ISIS, and stopping the Islamic terrorists, reducing the budget deficit, securing our southern border, stopping nuclear weapons in Iran and elsewhere."

As amusing as that is, Trump really hit his stride during the speech, when he explained to the gathered Republicans why the two presumptive GOP establishment frontrunners, Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney (neither of whom attended), can't win. Watch Trump's relatively astute punditry below. —Peter Weber

This just in

Dozens of police officers killed in the Philippines after fighting rebels

4:10am ET
Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images

Military officials say that at least 30 people were killed during fighting on Sunday between police and Muslim rebels in the Philippines.

Officials in Mamasapano said 27 police officers and five rebels were killed, while seven other police officers were missing and eight had been captured by rebels, Reuters reports. An army spokesman said the goal was to arrest Zulkifli bin Hir, a bomb expert from Malaysia with a $5 million bounty on his head.

This skirmish is likely to strike a blow to an agreement that the government reached last March with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Their deal — which involved Moro giving up its weapons and the government giving the Muslim minority more economic and political power— brought to an end 45 years of conflict that left 120,000 dead and 2 million displaced.

POTUS abroad

In friendly India visit, Obama becomes first president to attend Republic Day Parade

4:09am ET

President Obama began a three-day visit to India on Sunday, and the protocol-bending hug at the airport from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the tone for a day filled with public displays of affection. The two leaders said the visit marked an era of "new trust" between the sometimes-uneasy allies, and announced a breakthrough on a long-stalled civil nuclear agreement plus partnerships on defense and curbing some greenhouse gas emissions.

Obama spent most of Sunday in talks with Modi, who said at a press conference afterward that "the chemistry that has brought Barack and me closer has also brought Washington and Delhi closer." But the big event in Obama's visit was on Monday, when he became the first U.S. president to attend India's Republic Day Parade, as the personal guest of Modi.

The parade, to celebrate the enactment of India's democratic constitution, "is part Soviet-style display of India's military hardware, part Macy's Thanksgiving Day-type parade with floats highlighting India's cultural diversity," explains The Associated Press' Julie Pace. You can get a taste of Obama's parade-watching experience in this AP video, and watch a Reuters report on the first day of Obama's visit below. —Peter Weber

royals

Australia's knighting of Prince Philip not without controversy

3:48am ET
WPA Pool/Getty Images

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott is defending his decision to make Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, an Australian knight.

"The monarchy has been an important part of Australia's life since 1788," he said. "And Prince Philip has been a great servant of Australia. He's been a great servant of all the countries of the Commonwealth. Here in this country, he's the patron of hundreds of organizations." Abbott reinstated the knights and dames division of the Order of Australia in 2014, after receiving approval from the Queen, The Associated Press reports.

In a move that angered critics, Abbott made the announcement on Monday, which happens to be Australia's national holiday. "It's a time warp where we're giving knighthoods to English royalty," Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told Fairfax Radio. "On Australia Day, we're talking about Australia, Australian identity. The government's managed to find a British royal to give a medal to, a knighthood to."

Greece votes

Euro sinks to 11-year low after Syriza victory in Greece

2:54am ET

The leftist, anti-austerity Syriza party could take control of Greece as soon as Wednesday, if Prime Minister–designate Alexis Tsipras is sworn in on Monday and his government is quickly approved by the newly elected parliament. Investors aren't thrilled with Syriza's decisive win in Sunday's snap election.

Tsipras' pledge to renegotiate Greece's sovereign debt, cancel bailout-mandated austerity measures, and perhaps eventually pull Greece out of the euro currency sent the euro tumbling to $1.1098, its lowest level since September 2003. Stock futures also dropped on news of the Syriza's big win. Some analysts say the market fears are misplaced, arguing that Tsipras is unlikely to drop the euro and other European governments have greatly reduced their exposure to Greek debt since 2012, lowering the risk of contagion.

Watch Tsipras celebrate, and outgoing Prime Minister Antonis Samaras warn him not to wreck the economy, below. —Peter Weber

everywhere you look

Full House cast reunites, sings theme song together

2:44am ET

Oh Mylanta and have mercy! The cast of Full House gave their fans a huge treat on Saturday when they sang the theme song to the '90s classic together during a performance worthy of the Smash Club.

The gang — minus the Olsen twins, Dave Coulier, the ghost of Comet, and all of the Rippers — was joined onstage by the tune's original singer, Jesse Franklin, and although they stumbled over some of the words, the enthusiasm more than made up for it. The crew was out celebrating the birthday of show creator Jeff Franklin, but let's all hope that was just a ruse, and they were actually meeting to go over the script for a sanctioned Full House reunion. — Catherine Garcia

Small Earthquakes

New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver agrees to temporarily step aside

1:32am ET
Yana Paskova/Getty Images

For the first time since 1994, Sheldon Silver won't be in the role of speaker of the New York State Assembly — if his fellow Democrats approve his new shift-of-power proposal in a meeting on Monday. Late Sunday, Silver agreed to temporarily give up his speaker duties while he fights federal corruption charges. Instead of handing over power to one person, though, he would split his duties among a handful of senior Democratic colleagues.

Silver would "not specifically step down, but step back," an unidentified person "briefed on the situation" tells The New York Times. Federal prosecutors accuse Silver, 70, of trying to disguise $4 million in payments he obtained by abusing his authority; Silver denies the charges.

Awards Show Roundup

Birdman, Eddie Redmayne, Julianne Moore receive top honors at the SAG Awards

12:47am ET
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Birdman, Eddie Redmayne, and Julianne Moore were among the big winners Sunday night at the 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Birdman's Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, and Amy Ryan shared the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture award, while Redmayne received the Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role award for his turn as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything and Moore took home the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role award for her work as Alice Howland in Still Alice.

Supporting honors went to J.K. Simmons for Whiplash and Patricia Arquette for Boyhood. On the television side, Kevin Spacey won for male actor in a drama series for House of Cards and Viola Davis won for female actor in a drama series for How to Get Away with Murder, while William H. Macy received the male actor in a comedy series award for Shameless and Uzo Aduba the female actor in a comedy series award for Orange is the New Black. For a full list of winners, visit the Los Angeles Times.

The Last Frontier

White House announces proposal to protect pristine habitat in Alaska

12:16am ET
File/Getty Images

On Sunday, the White House announced that President Obama will ask Congress to classify 12 million acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska as wilderness, which would forbid drilling for oil and gas and the construction of roads on the land.

The refuge covers 19 million acres, and is home to polar bears, gray wolves, musk oxen, and caribou. "This is a big deal," Gene Karpinski, president of The League of Conservation Voters, told The New York Times. "Big oil has long wanted to get its hands on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. ... We wholeheartedly agree and celebrate this announcement by the Obama administration."

The proposal is already receiving opposition from several Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who called the proposal "a stunning attack on our sovereignty" and vowed to "fight back with every resource at our disposal." Since the refuge was created in 1980, lawmakers in Alaska have tried to open the area for drilling and development, the Times reports.

weird science

Residents uneasy over genetically modified mosquitoes being released in Florida

January 25, 2015
iStock

Scientists say that by releasing millions of genetically modified male mosquitoes into the Florida Keys, they could slow down the spread of dengue and chikungunya, but area residents aren't very enthusiastic about the plan.

The male mosquitoes have been engineered by the British biotech firm Oxitec to produce offspring that quickly die off; if the female mating partners only produce these doomed larvae, there will be fewer mosquitos and fewer cases of the painful virusus they carry. "This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease," Michael Doyle, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, told The Associated Press.

Mosquito controllers say they are running out of ways to kill the Aedes aegypti, which has evolved to resist several insecticides. Since the Keys haven't had a dengue outbreak in years or a chikungunya case ever, however, residents aren't quick to welcome the genetically modified mosquitoes. "If I knew that this was a real risk and lives could be saved, that would make sense," Key Haven resident Marilyn Smith told AP. "But there are no problems...why are we being used as the experiment, the guinea pigs, just to see what happens?" So far, more than 130,000 people have signed a Change.org petition against the release of the mosquitoes.

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