instant classics

Weird Al's 'Blurred Lines' parody will school you in grammar

July 15, 2014

Call it the most educational song of the summer. Weird Al's parody of Robin Thicke's 2013 smash hit "Blurred Lines" thankfully does not feature scantily clad models or questionable come-ons. Instead, "Word Crimes" is an entertaining romp through some of the most popular and egregious grammatical errors in the English language. "Ok now here's the deal / I'll try to educate ya / Gonna familiarize you with the nomenclature," Al sings before launching into an array of important facts, including how to correctly use the word "literally" and the difference between "who" and "whom."

Much has been said about Weird Al's place in comedy in the age of YouTube parodies, but this song once again proves his good-natured silliness will always slot him a place in popular culture. His album, Mandatory Fun, is out now, and you can watch his Pharrell-parodying video for "Tacky" here. --Samantha Rollins

Drones

Drone manufacturer disables flights over Washington after White House incident

10:55am ET

Drone manufacturer DJI is disabling all of its devices within a 15.5-mile radius of Washington, D.C.'s downtown area after this week's incident at the White House. A government employee flew a DJI drone that crashed on the White House lawn on Monday.

DJI also announced that it will issue a "mandatory update" for its drone operating system, Time reports. The update will disable the flights over D.C. and will keep drones from flying in restricted areas around 10,000 U.S. airports.

GPS can be disabled on DJI drones, but a spokesman told Gizmodo that even with the GPS disabled, the drone flight restrictions will still be in place.

happening now

AG nominee Loretta Lynch: If confirmed, the Constitution 'will be my lodestar' 

10:49am ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Loretta Lynch, President Obama's nominee to replace Attorney General Eric Holder, on Wednesday cast herself as a nonpartisan prosecutor who would focus primarily on counterterrorism should she be confirmed.

"If confirmed as Attorney General I pledge to you and to the American people that the Constitution, the bedrock of our system of justice, will be my lodestar as I exercise the power and responsibility of that position," Lynch said in the opening remarks of her confirmation hearing.

If confirmed, Lynch would be the first African-American woman to serve as attorney general. She is expected to face tough grilling from Senate Republicans, particularly over the Obama administration's move to unilaterally prioritize deportations.

ObamaCare

Poll underscores danger for Republicans should the Supreme Court gut ObamaCare

10:09am ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Nearly two-thirds of Americans want Congress to guarantee ObamaCare's subsidies should the Supreme Court strike them down over a technicality, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Wednesday.

In the case of King v. Burwell, the high court is weighing whether the Affordable Care Act was written in such a way that it only allows subsidies in states that set up their own insurance exchanges. Most states relied on the federal marketplace, and could thus be iced out.

Republicans have banked on the court gutting the law, believing that such a decision would allow them to have a "do-over," as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) put it. But as the poll shows, the GOP would face strong public pressure in that scenario to restore the subsidies, making a drastic "do-over" no easy task.

Science!

Scientists may have found a cure for peanut allergies

10:03am ET
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Researchers at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia, have developed a probiotic-protein mixture that appears to have cured peanut allergies.

The scientists gave 30 children who were allergic to peanuts a daily dose of peanut protein with increasing amounts of the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus over an 18-month period. The dose of the probiotic was the equivalent of eating 44 pounds of yogurt each day. By the end of the trial, 80 percent of the children had no reaction to eating peanuts.

Lead researcher Mimi Tang warned against trying to treat your children at home, though — the trial did sometimes cause allergic reactions in the children, and more research is needed to see whether the participants will be able to tolerate peanuts in the coming years. The researchers plan to conduct a followup study where they'll remove peanuts from the participants' diets for eight weeks to see if they are still tolerant of them.

Crime and punishment

Ex-Vanderbilt football players found guilty of rape

9:32am ET

A Tennessee jury on Tuesday found two former Vanderbilt football players guilty of raping a fellow student in 2013.

The two men, Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey, were convicted on four counts of aggravated rape, one count of attempted aggravated rape, and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. The ex-teammates were accused of brutally raping the victim, who was 21 years old at the time, and sharing cell phone images of the assault. Defense attorneys argued that the men were too drunk to know what they were doing, and faulted a campus-wide culture of drinking.

dear leader

Russia confirms North Korean leader will visit in May

9:19am ET
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Russian officials announced Wednesday that "North Korea's leader" will make his first official visit to Russia in May. He will attend a commemorative ceremony in Moscow to mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory in World War II.

South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported the news, adding that the Kremlin had invited Kim Jong Un, along with 20 other "state leaders," to attend the ceremony.

Officials in South Korea are skeptical that Kim Jong Un will make the trip, though. They suggested that North Korea may send Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the North Korean Supreme People's Assembly and the nominal head of state for foreign relations, to Russia in Kim Jong Un's place.

The Kremlin stated that "North Korea's leader" would attend the event, and while most people took that to mean Kim Jong Un would visit, South Korean officials told the Yonhap News Agency that the phrase could also refer to Kim Yong-nam.

RIP

Laser inventor Charles Townes is dead at 99

9:19am ET

Physicist Charles Townes, who shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in physics for his work inventing the laser and maser, died on Tuesday at age 99. U.C. Berkeley, where Townes had been a professor since 1967, said he had been in poor health and died on the way to the hospital. He had visited campus daily until last year.

Townes was 35 in 1951 when he conceived the idea for the maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation), an instrument that concentrated microwaves instead of optical light. He built the first maser in 1954, then developed the idea for the laser (light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation) four years later with future Nobel laureate Arthur Schawlow, his brother-in-law. Townes later pioneered the use of laser and masers in astronomy.

Along with his Nobel Prize, Towns was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities in 2005 — Mother Teresa is the only other person to win both a Nobel and Templeton prize. He is survived by his wife, Frances Hildreth Townes (whom he married in 1941), four daughters, six grandkids, and two great-grandchildren.

Quotables

Bill Gates: We must 'prepare ourselves for war' against future pandemics after Ebola

8:26am ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

In an interview with AFP, Bill Gates has warned that health officials needs to learn from the fight against Ebola — and fast. 

"A more difficult pathogen [than Ebola] could come along, a form of flu, a form of SARS or some type of virus that we haven't seen before," Gates said. "We don't know it will happen, but it's a high enough chance that one of the lessons of Ebola should be to ask ourselves: Are we as ready for that as we should be? A good comparison is that we prepare ourselves for war — we have planes and training and we practice."

During a Berlin conference of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, which delivers vaccines to poor countries, Gates said it is "reckless" not to act now," AFP reports. His plan includes having teams of volunteers who can "mobilize quickly in a public health emergency," AFP notes, in a similar fashion to how workers responded to Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

snowpocalypse

New England digs out after blizzard

7:37am ET
Kayana Szymczak/Stringer/Getty Images

Despite lackluster conditions in New York City, Boston and the surrounding parts of New England received plenty of snowfall on Tuesday — some parts of the region received almost three feet of snow.

At midnight on Wednesday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker lifted the state travel ban, and Boston's MBTA transit system has resumed service. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he hoped the city's major roads would be cleared on Wednesday morning so the snow emergency could be lifted.

After the storm, New England will still experience bitter cold, though: The low in Boston is expected to be 10 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday, with a wind chill of minus five degrees Fahrenheit. Forecasters predict Boston temperatures won't be above freezing in the next week.

ObamaCare

Indiana will expand Medicaid coverage under landmark ObamaCare deal

7:20am ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) announced that his state will accept the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid, after gaining some concessions from the Obama administration. Under the deal, all new Medicaid enrollees will have to pay for part of their monthly premium, from $1 to $26 for single adults, depending on income, and they'll lose coverage for six months if they fall behind. Beneficiaries who inappropriately overuse the emergency room will also face copays of up to $25.

The Indiana waivers are "the latest example of how the GOP is trying to broaden its reach by appealing to lower earners," as well as "a growing willingness by the Obama administration to cut deals with states in order to expand insurance coverage under the 2010 health law after the Supreme Court hampered that effort," The Wall Street Journal explains. The deal could pave the way for a handful of on-the-fence GOP-led states to expand Medicaid, too — and prompt states that already adopted the ObamaCare expansion to seek similar waivers.

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