California fights drought, but parts of LA stay green

I've been in Los Angeles for just one day, but in driving around the swanky streets of Beverly Hills and Bel Air, I haven't seen much evidence of brown lawns or shrivelled flowers.

Even the golf course outside my Burbank hotel looks deliciously green. So, how much impact is a four-year-long historic drought having on water consumption in America's most populous state?

A new poll here reveals a very human reaction: "Yes, there's clearly a water shortage but I personally can't do much more to cut back."

The poll shows an overwhelming majority of Californians say that the water shortage is extremely serious, and they also support the governor's new stronger water consumption limits. But 44% of homeowners say they will find it hard to actually reduce their usage.

Interestingly, if you happen to be an anthropologist or a behavioural economist, wealthier households, who naturally consume more water to start with, say it will be even harder to cut back.

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Lessons from a master negotiator

Senator George Mitchell is good at negotiating - except with his wife.

When it came to choosing a place to live, Maine (his choice), New York (hers), the master negotiator lost the debate. Mr Mitchell joined me earlier to discuss his new memoir and rest assured we did get beyond how to deal with your spouse.

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Elton John on Aids progress and the Dolce row

You're not often lucky enough to get Sir Elton John, a Mississippi Senator, an "Ole Miss" football helmet, pink sunglasses and a baby grand in the same place.

Today, in the impressive office of Senator Thad Cochran, I was lucky.

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Abe trip to Washington a 'big visit'

China has no need to be concerned by the new security pact between Japan and America - at least that's the optimistic view of Tom Schieffer, the former US Ambassador to Tokyo.

Mr Schieffer insists that the region is safer when Japan and the US are working closely together. He also says that people (i.e. the pesky reporters at the White House press conference today) should stop asking Prime Minister Abe to apologise for Japan's actions in WW2.

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Lessons for life on earth

So, astronaut and author Chris Hadfield swears he'd never dare sing David Bowie before he did THE Space Oddity video ... I don't know, but I still find it hard to believe!

Oh, and he changed the words too, so Major Tom makes it back safe and sound.

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US 'should remain disengaged' in Yemen

The commander of the USS Cole - the American warship bombed by al-Qaeda in Yemen in 2000 - tells me that right now the influence of the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen could be more of a problem than al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Commander Kirk Lippold warned of Iran trying to send more weapons to the Houthis and of Iran gaining influence over the two choke points of the Middle East - at the mouth of the Red Sea and in the Straits of Hormuz.

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Impediments to China's economic edge

Former US treasury secretary Hank Paulson thinks some Americans are naïve to assume that the Chinese government can do whatever it wants to grow its economy.

He believes there's more danger in exaggerating China's strength than in underestimating it, but he also concedes that America's economic prowess took a real hit in the eyes of the Chinese at the time of the 2008 crash - when Mr Paulson was running the US Treasury.

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US Senator: Compromise Iran bill a 'win'

The US Congress will only vote not to lift US sanctions against Iran, if the final deal agreed at the end of June is a "bad deal."

That's the opinion of Senator Chris Coons, Democrat from Delaware, who was key in drafting the bill that just got a stunning vote of unanimous support from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (I say stunning because when was the last time you heard of anything getting 100% bipartisan support in the US Congress?)

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Cuba opens its doors to Airbnb

So you're an American tourist and now that the US is working to normalise diplomatic relationships with Cuba, you've developed a yearning to see Havana before McDonald's gets there. The only problem is that there's nowhere to stay. There just aren't enough hotel rooms to accommodate the millions of intrepid US travellers planning a long weekend of mojitos and salsa. Well, don't panic: help is on the way, in the form of Airbnb.

The online rental sensation today announced plans to link American travellers with Cuban home owners. It's being described as the most significant development so far in terms of post-embargo US investment in the island. Netflix and Mastercard have already unblocked their services there, but because of limited and slow internet access and the fact that most credit-card issuers still don't allow transactions from Cuba, those moves are largely symbolic.

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'Tall odds' against Iran nuclear deal

President Bush's former National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley, supports a military strike against Iran if talks fail and the Islamic Republic moves towards developing a nuclear weapon.

Mr Hadley sounds sceptical that a satisfactory deal can be reached. He says this isn't the deal many had expected - too many compromises have already been made.

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