Photo: Luxury luggage in China

Visitors walk through the Louis Vuitton "Voyages" exhibition at the National Museum of China on Tuesday. The French luxury brand is celebrating its 20th anniversary in mainland China with this handbags and luggage-focused exhibition, which is the first partnership between the museum and a brand. Photo: AP/Ng Han Guan

Trending secret sneaker lust, and other uses of Google Correlate

One of many styles of the Retro Jordan and a screenshot of the Google Correlate application in action

Phlegm. Temperature. Sneezing. Apparently sick people are predictable. Before consulting a physician or shopping for DayQuil, we Google our symptoms – or, at least, we do so consistently enough to provide statistically valuable information.

Google researchers recognized this after comparing search query data to confirmed influenza data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and released Google Flu Trends in 2008 to much acclaim – and some alarm. The tool allows Regular Joes to view global flu trends, as illustrated by the frequency of these searches, geographically, and in near real-time.

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Blagojevich chokes up as he turns into human balloon

(’s Mashed is a new feature wherein Need to Know brings you two stories simultaneously, sparing you the extra time required to read them individually. Since most of us are reading multiple stories at the same time anyway, we believe this could be a big step forward in news consumption and may make news more accessible to a younger demographic. If, in the course of mashing, we happen to stumble across some universal truths, ’s even better.)

Flickr/amboo who? and AP/Paul Beaty

WELLINGTON, Ill. – “I used to be your governor, and I’m here today to tell you the truth,” former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois said in his federal corruption retrial Thursday.

In testimony that will continue Friday, Mr. Blagojevich denied having done anything illegal, gave his own versions of events that prosecutors have said were attempts to solicit bribes, and fell onto the fitting of a compressed air hose that pierced his buttock and forced air into his body at 100 pounds a square inch. Read All »

More Americans saying ‘I don’t’

For the first time, married couples make up less than half of American households, according to recently released Census data. In 2010, 48 percent of American households were married couples, a slight drop from 2000. In 1950, 78 percent of American households were married couples.

At the same time, 27 percent of American households now consist of only one person, more than double the amount in 1960. Because life expectancies have risen, the amount of elderly Americans living alone has also increased.

The data signifies a shift in what constitutes the American “traditional family,” defined as married couples with children. These constituted just 20 percent of American households in 2010, down from 25 percent in 2000 and 43 percent in 1950.

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Photo: Dracula emerges

The orchid Dracula chestertonii. Photo: Flickr/Quimbaya

On this day in 1897, Bram Stoker’s vampire novel Dracula first appeared on bookshelves in London. In case you have not had the chance to read it, you can download it for free to the reading device of your choice as the work has been in the public domain in the United States since it’s publication. If you still prefer to read an actual, printed book, you will have no trouble finding a copy, as the book has never been out of print.

If blood-sucking vampires are old news to you, thanks to the many movies, books and television shows that have flooded the landscape in recent years, then enjoy this lovely orchid instead. It is one of 118 species of orchid in the genus Dracula, which means “little dragon” in Latin. They mimic the smell of mushrooms, which tricks pollinating insects into paying them a visit. Like vampires, they prefer to spend their days in the shade.

Between a rock and a hot seat

(‘s Mashed is a new feature wherein Need to Know brings you two stories simultaneously, sparing you the extra time required to read them individually. Since most of us are reading multiple stories at the same time anyway, we believe this could be a big step forward in news consumption and may make news more accessible to a younger demographic. If, in the course of mashing, we happen to stumble across some universal truths, ‘s even better.)

Photos: NASA and AP/Seth Wenig

LOS ANGELES, N.C. — After a two-year investigation into whether former presidential candidate John Edwards illegally used money from some of his political backers to cover up his extramarital affair, NASA is going to send a spacecraft to an asteroid and bring back samples to Earth.
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Photo: Tornado’s dark path

A cross stands atop a church Monday that was severely damaged by a tornado in Joplin, Mo. Photo: AP/Charlie Riedel

A tornado ripped through the city of Joplin, Mo., Sunday evening, killing at least 89 people and destroying approximately a quarter of the buildings in the city of 50,500 people. Homes, businesses, schools and hospitals were torn apart in the storm, which reportedly grew to as much as three-quarters of a mile wide and left a 4-mile path of destruction.

Search and recovery efforts were hampered by a new round of severe weather, including gusty winds, heavy rain and hail, that rolled into the city Monday morning.

Christine Lagarde favored for IMF top job

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde arrives for a Eurogroup meeting at the EU Council in Brussels on May 16. Photo: AP/Geert Vanden Wijngaert

Christine Lagarde, French finance minister — and “complete bad ass” — has emerged as the leading favorite to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the managing director of the International Monetary Fund. Strauss-Kahn, once a leading Socialist candidate for the French presidency, resigned from the IMF top spot last week and is currently under house arrest while awaiting trial for attempted rape in New York City.

Lagarde, 55, made headlines when she took office in 2007 after she advised her famously contemplative compatriots to “think less and work more.” During her tenure, she has shown herself to be a formidable champion of controversial reforms to France’s celebrated social security safety net, including the raising of the minimum age for retirement from 60 to 62 last fall.
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Photo: Meat, no matter what

Two-year-old Bengal tiger Akasha dives into her pool after a chunk of meat at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California, earlier this month. Unlike many cats, tigers enjoy water and can often be seen lounging in it on hot days. Photo: AP/Six Flags Discovery Kingdom