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What it’s like decorating a Tournament of Roses Parade float

Sports fans watching the 2018 Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 will be eager to see if No. 3 Georgia can get past No. 2 Oklahoma when the teams meet at the College Football Playoff semifinal in Pasadena, Calif.

One local florist will be watching the preceding Tournament of Roses Parade with a trained and appreciative eye.

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“It was one of the most fantastic things I’ve ever done,” said K. Mike Whittle, who helped decorate a parade float years ago. “You learn so much.”

As operator of K. Mike Whittle Unique Floral Designs just off the Marietta Square, he doesn’t have a lot of free time at any point in the year. Certainly not during the holiday season. But with the University of Georgia heading to the Rose Bowl for just the second time ever, he let us tag along the other day while he set up for a party at the the Hilton Atlanta Marietta Hotel & Conference Center so we could press him for intel.

The main takeway: you just cannot believe how many flowers go into all those floats.

“We used 35,000 roses,” he said, his voice still full of awe at the memory. “I was a kid in a candy store with all those flowers. They didn’t know me from Adam’s house cat but they turned me loose.”

A Marietta native who got his start as an entrepreneurial kid who would dig cattails from a ditch and sell them to an area flower shop, Whittle was working in Carrollton when he got the call to go west.

“It really steamed up my career,” he said. He didn’t love getting up on scaffolding to attend to the top of the float, but otherwise enjoyed learning floral problem-solving skills on that big a stage. “We worked 29 hours straight. It just showed me yeah, it can be done.”

The annual parade, older than the football contest, dates back to Jan. 1, 1890. That first year, horse-drawn buggies festooned with blooms were meant to echo a festival of roses in Nice, France. Two years later, winter weather threatened the supply of roses and nearly turned the event into the “Orange Tournament,” but the fledgling tradition held.

Automobiles showed up in 1901 and were shoved to the back of the parade, so they wouldn’t spook the horses. The following year saw the first merger of flora and football, when the University of Michigan rolled over Stanford University, 49-0. One year, 1913, organizers thought a camel vs. elephant road race would be fun. The elephant won, and the species’ record remains unbroken as there have been no similar matchups since.

Famed zookeeper Jack Hanna rode on the float Whittle worked on in 2002, accompanied by giant botanical tigers, monkeys and exotic birds. If your Rose Bowl party plans call for slightly less elaborate floral decor, Whittle likes roses (of course) as well as red ginger and anthurium.

“Carnations are not bad, either. It’s a sturdy football kind of rose,” said Whittle, who has created displays incorporating football helmets.

Proper hydration is key – he’ll give newly arrived blooms a couple of days to drink up before placing them in arrangements – and he uses a sharp knife, not scissors, to ensure a clean, angled cut.

Then again, he mused, there’s one major flub people make when setting out to arrange flowers.

“That is the mistake,” he said with a twinkle, “doing it yourself.”

US Marine helicopter window falls from sky, injures child

A 20-pound window of a US Marine Corps helicopter fell off in mid-flight onto a school playing field Tuesday, slightly injuring a child on the Japanese island of Okinawa, CNN reported. 

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US Forces Japan said in a statement that the window of a CH-53 transport helicopter fell onto a sports field at an elementary school outside Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

"We take this report extremely seriously and are investigating the cause of this incident in close coordination with local authorities," the statement said. "This is a regrettable incident and we apologize for any anxiety it has caused the community."

The child was not seriously injured, CNN reported.

Three sisters, three Ivy League colleges

Community college probably won’t cut the mustard when two sisters get accepted into the Ivy Leagues.

Xaviera Rowan found out this week where she was going to school and it was met with cheers from her fellow classmates from Democracy Prep Harlem High School, WNBC reported.

Xaviera’s oldest sister, Chris, was accepted to Dartmouth College two years ago. Last year it was Ella and Yale. 

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This year, Xaviera found out she is going to be a freshman at Harvard University, WNBC reported.

The family’s story is a true American Dream tale.

They immigrated from Cameroon and didn’t speak much English when they arrived in the United States, except for phrases they picked up watching television.

“We started learning English, going to the library, reading books and using dictionaries,” Xaviera told WNBC.

“We essentially had to learn English within a period of six months before standardized exams,” Chris said.

The girls said their parents made education a priority at all times and credit the school Democracy Prep for their success, WNBC reported.

In 1998, ‘The Simpsons’ predicted Disney would buy Fox

Doh! Another prediction comes true on the long-running “The Simpsons” animated sitcom.

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In 1998, the sitcom predicted that The Walt Disney Company would buy 21st Century Fox. In other episodes, the show also has forecasted the presidency of Donald Trump and a Super Bowl halftime show featuring Lady Gaga. NBC News reported. 

Here’s a rundown:

Disney buys 21st Century Fox

This prediction came from the episode “When You Dish Upon a Star,” from the fifth episode of Season 10, NBC News reported. In this 1998 show, Homer Simpson pitches a script to Hollywood producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. In one scene, a sign outside a studio lot reads “20th Century Fox, A Division of Walt Disney Co.”

Donald Trump as president 

In “Bart to the Future” from Season 11, Episode 17 in 2000, Lisa Simpson is the new president of the United States. Her task is to dig the country out of a financial mess created by her predecessor , Donald Trump. 

Lady Gaga lands in the Super Bowl

In 2012, "Lisa Goes Gaga" appeared in Episode 22 of Season 23.. Lady Gaga visits the Simpsons’ hometown of Springfield and performs in concert. She descends to the stage from a helicopter in a harness. And that’s what she did this past Feb. 5 at Super Bowl LI at Houston’s NRG Stadium.

After Trump won the presidential election in November 2016, the show featured a flashback to its 2000 prediction, The Huffington Post reported. In the opening credits, Bart Simpson is shown writing on a chalkboard the phrase “Being right sucks.”

Family awarded $48 million in lawsuit over child's torture death

A jury awarded $48 million to the family of an 8-year-old girl who was tortured and killed in 2013 in a negligence lawsuit filed against the doctor who treated her, The Chicago Tribune reported.

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Jurors deliberated for two hours Wednesday before finding that child-abuse pediatrician Norell Rosado was medically negligent in his treatment of Gizzell Ford, the Tribune reported.

Rosado treated the child for several weeks before she was found strangled, starved and beaten inside her grandmother’s Chicago apartment. 

Helen Ford, the girl’s paternal grandmother, is serving a life sentence for the slaying, the Tribune reported. The girl’s father also was charged, but died in jail in August 2014 while awaiting trial, WLS reported.

Rosado denied the allegations in the lawsuit, testifying at trial that he only found "nonspecific" and "non-suspicious" abrasions on the child.

“We just wanted justice for Gizzell, and in our eyes we got it,” said the child’s mother, Sandra Mercado. “I just hope this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

The lawsuit filed by the girl’s family accused Rosado of failing to immediately alert authorities to possible signs of abuse, failing to ask basic questions about the injuries he uncovered in an exam and failing to properly document his findings, the Tribune reported. He examined Gizzell as part of a molestation investigation initiated by the Fords against her mother’s boyfriend.

Police use Taser on Florida middle school student

A school resource officer in Florida used a Taser on a middle school student while trying to break up a fight between her and another female student on Thursday, The Tampa Bay Times reported.

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The fight occurred after school in the bus circle at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School, the Pinellas Park Police Department said.

The officer tried to break up the fight but one of the students ignored him and resisted, police said. She then "verbally threatened the officer, and then attempted to run,” police said.

The officer then used his Taser to stun the student, the Times reported. She was treated for minor injuries, police said.

The other student involved in the fight boarded her school bus and left campus. School officials will determine what disciplinary action or charges that student could face, the Times reported.

Eighth planet found orbiting distant star

An eighth planet has been discovered orbiting a star 2,545 light-years from Earth, NASA announced Thursday.

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The star, called Kepler-90, is located in the Draco constellation. It is the first known star to have as many planets orbiting it as our solar system does, NASA said.

NASA scientists had known about seven planets orbiting Kepler-90. The eighth planet -- dubbed Kepler-90i -- is a hot, rocky planet that orbits its star once every 14.4 days, NASA said. By contrast, in our solar system, Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, has an orbit of 88 days.

Kepler-90i was found using machine learning from Google Artificial Intelligence. In this case, computers learned to identify planets by finding in Kepler data instances where the telescope recorded signals from planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets, NASA said. 

Christopher Shallue, senior software engineer at Google AI in California, told CNN that, “Machine learning really shines in situations where there is so much data that humans can't search it for themselves.”

Watch: He’s going to Harvard, and Louisiana student’s reaction is priceless

It has been quite a week for two Louisiana brothers. Both were accepted into big-name colleges, and separate videos of their reactions have gone viral.

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On Tuesday, 16-year-old Ayrton Little and his classmates at T.M. Landry College Preparatory waited as he opened his email to see if he had been accepted into Harvard University’s 2019-2020 class, WAFB reported. The junior’s reaction is priceless when he gets the good news.

His classmates shout “three-peat,” as it is the third consecutive year that a T.M. Landry student has been accepted to Harvard, WAFB reported. 

Ayrton said he plans to major in applied math and computer science.

His celebration came on the heels of a joyous day for his older brother, Alexander Little. On Friday, Alexander got the news that he had been accepted into Stanford University.

Alexander said he plans to major in physics with a minor in computer science.

Police: Georgia shopper beaten, shot at in Kroger parking lot

A shopper was robbed, beaten and shot at in the parking lot of a Georgia grocery store, police said.

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His assailants also told the man to “stop moving or (I’m going to have to) kill you,” according to the report.

The incident happened about midnight Wednesday, which is one hour before closing time at the Kroger on Old National Highway, according to a new police report.

The customer, described as a 47-year-old College Park resident, was putting groceries in his car when two armed robbers walked up to him, demanded his wallet and cellphone, and pistol-whipped him, Fulton police said.

“I’m just minding my own business,” the victim told the robbers. “I’m trying to go home. Just leave me alone.”

The encounter started when one of the men asked the victim for his car keys and he refused, according to the report.

“Give me your wallet instead,” the robber said.

At that point, the victim started resisting.

“Stop moving or (I’m going to have to) kill you,” one of the robbers told him.

The robber then snatched at the victim’s wallet, causing it to fall. An accomplice picked it up and one of the men cocked a firearm, according to the report.

“Open your car,” one of the men said. “We going to ride together. I should kill you right now for resisting.”

The robber hit the victim on the left side of his head, police said.

The victim started walking quickly toward the grocery store, and that’s when he heard at least one gunshot and saw a store window shatter, according to the police report.

Fulton County police Officer Sherton Hutchins, who was in the area doing a business check, heard the shot. 

The officer then saw two men in gray clothes sprint across Old National Highway. Hutchins ran toward the victim while others searched the area for the two robbers, police said.

They have not been found.

Detectives are now looking at surveillance video for clues into who the robbers are. Kroger spokesman Felix Turner said that store officials were “in full cooperation with local authorities to provide any information as they investigate the incident.”

In a statement, he said Kroger is committed to providing a secure environment for all customers.

“As part of this commitment,” Turner said, “Kroger has invested in several measures at the Old National Highway location, including in-store security, security patrol in the parking lot, surveillance equipment and associate training. “

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