2014 Olympics, mascots, politics:
Allegations of plagiarism, high-level political meddling and sheer poor taste on Sunday marred Russia’s choice of three furry mascots to represent the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
Russians chose three mascots — a cute-looking snow leopard, polar bear and hare — by popular vote in a seemingly innocent television show late Saturday that aimed to choose a people’s mascot.
Eyebrows were first raised when the initial favourite to win the most votes — a portrayal of Russian Father Christmas Ded Moroz — was rather undemocratically ditched from the competition by the organisers.
Then it just so happened that the mascot which strongman Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had declared his favourite — the “strong, fast and beautiful” snow leopard — polled easily the most votes.
Middle East Uprising/Awakening, Al Qaeda: Interesting …
For nearly two decades, the leaders of Al Qaeda have denounced the Arab world’s dictators as heretics and puppets of the West and called for their downfall. Now, people in country after country have risen to topple their leaders — and Al Qaeda has played absolutely no role.
In fact, the motley opposition movements that have appeared so suddenly and proved so powerful have shunned the two central tenets of the Qaeda credo: murderous violence and religious fanaticism. The demonstrators have used force defensively, treated Islam as an afterthought and embraced democracy, which is anathema to Osama bin Laden and his followers.
So for Al Qaeda — and perhaps no less for the American policies that have been built around the threat it poses — the democratic revolutions that have gripped the world’s attention present a crossroads. Will the terrorist network shrivel slowly to irrelevance? Or will it find a way to exploit the chaos produced by political upheaval and the disappointment that will inevitably follow hopes now raised so high?
Facebook, apps: I think status is ridiculous …
Facebook Breakup Notifier, a new app for the site, is super simple — and will probably be super popular.
It lets users pick certain friends whose relationship status they’d like to monitor. If one of those relationships changes, the user gets notified by e-mail.
Theoretically, the app could be used by friends who just want to keep up with the love lives of their buddies so they can be there with a pint of ice cream and a shoulder to cry on when things go sour.
As of last week, there could be more relationship statuses changing than usual. Facebook added “in a civil union” and “in a domestic partnership” to its list of options.
history, WWI, RIP: Rest in peace, Mr. Buckles … last surviving U.S. veteran of World War I
He was repeatedly rejected by military recruiters and got into uniform at 16 after lying about his age. But Frank Buckles would later become the last surviving U.S. veteran of World War I.
Buckles, who also survived being a civilian POW in the Philippines in World War II, died of natural causes Sunday at his home in Charles Town, biographer and family spokesman David DeJonge said in a statement. He was 110.
Buckles had been advocating for a national memorial honoring veterans of the Great War in the nation’s capital.
natural disasters, NC, OBX: So what is the right answer?
Rising seas probably played a role in the erosion gnawing at much of the East Coast over the past century, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says. As the seas start to rise faster, it warns, erosion will only get worse.A state science panel expects sea level on the N.C. coast to rise 1 meter by 2100. The low, flat northeastern shore, including the Outer Banks, is among the nations most vulnerable places.
State legislators took up the fight last week, with a bill that critics say would upset the uneasy balance between development and nature.
The bill would allow terminal groins, which jut into the sea like fingers, trapping sand along inlets. Groins could stabilize the eroding ends of barrier islands, including the tony enclaves of Bald Head Island and private Figure Eight Island near Wilmington.
But while groins stop erosion on one side, they can magnify it on the other. North Carolina and Oregon are the only two states that forbid hard structures such as seawalls and groins, which may protect property at the expense of a natural beach. State policy holds beaches in trust for public use.
technology, changes, RIP: Rest in peace, e-mail?
Teens’ taste for texting also reflects their affinity for communication efficiency. For instance, text messaging with friends is a convenient way to check in, while they might pick up the phone for an in-depth conversation or send a more formal e-mail to a teacher.
“There’s a utility in the way that teens choose to interact with each other,” Lenhart told Discovery News. “They pick the method that works best for them at the moment, and teens are just more likely than older adults to choose a wider variety of tools to use, and that’s what’s really different.”
At the same time, younger people haven’t quite mastered a cohesive e-communication etiquette, which can present challenges in the classroom and elsewhere with text messaging or social networking on the sly.
globalization, energy v. food: Conundrum …
World ethanol production increased fivefold between 2000 and 2010 but would have to rise a lot further to meet all the targets. The FAO reckons that, if this were to happen (which seems unlikely), it would divert a tenth of the world’s cereal output from food to fuels. Alternatively, if food-crop production were to remain stable, a huge amount of extra land would be needed for the fuels, or food prices would rise by anything from 15-40%, which would have dreadful consequences.
natural disasters, earthquake, New Zealand: Prayers …
New Zealand police are evacuating 60 properties in exclusive Christchurch suburbs after cracks appeared in cliffs above the houses.
Middle East Uprising/Awakening, Oman:
Oman, the normally quiet sultanate along the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, joined the wave of two-month-old political protests shaking the Arab world on Sunday, as hundreds of demonstrators clashed with the riot police in the northeast port city of Sohar. Oman’s state news agency, ONA, said two protesters were killed.
Shortly after the violence, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who has led oil-rich Oman for the past 40 years, gave orders to create 50,000 jobs, ONA reported. He also ordered that the equivalent of $386 a month be given every job seeker.
Governments in several gulf countries have announced reforms and financial assistance in recent days in an attempt to curb public anger. Calls for huge demonstrations on March 4 went out on social networking sites, calling on people to take to the streets in Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Jordan, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.
travel, coffee shops, lists: I am a Starbucks girl (which flies in the face of my love for local eateries) . Surprise, surprise, Seattle was #1 … but Savannah was #7 …
Like a lot of people, Novak loves seeking out coffee places when he’s traveling. A good coffee place can be like a life raft: familiar offerings, comfortable chairs, and maybe even free Wi-Fi. “I prefer the local, non-chain shops because of the variety,” Novak says, “but I just want a place to relax and get a feel for the local atmosphere, away from the tourist zones.”
No doubt, charming places like Steps of Rome helped San Francisco land in the top 3 of America’s best coffee cities, according to this year’s America’s Favorite Cities survey from Travel + Leisure.
Granted, when Starbucks and other chains reign in so many shopping centers and office-building lobbies, it may be hard to imagine how one city’s coffee scene is much better or different than any other anymore. But when we looked at the survey’s top 20 results, we found several towns with great historic districts that still offer a unique café culture.
Other winners boast plenty of independent coffeehouses—such as Portland, OR, which took the silver medal position. “Portland has more neighborhood places to get really good coffee than almost anywhere in the country,” says Matt Lounsbury, the director of operations for Portland-based Stumptown Coffee.
New York City and San Francisco were also in the Top 10, though their coffee cultures can be a little more fast-paced. These days you’re likely to find new coffee places that are truly bars: stools up against a counter, great for espresso lovers who just want a quick shot before they move on.
Even for coffee snobs, though, good coffee is an affordable luxury. “It’s a rare surprise to find a shop that makes a passable espresso,” says Novak. “But that’s the fun of finding new shops—to occasionally find that gem that makes me want to return.”
Gov. Mitch Daniels R-Ind. is known as a strong fiscal conservative, a top selling point for a potential presidential run. But before he was governor, Daniels was the first budget director for President Bush during a time when the country went from a budget surplus to a budget deficit, and it’s likely that he’ll have to explain how that fits with the philosophy he touts should he decide to jump into the Republican field in 2012.
autos, China, Great Recession: Next bubble?
When Stefan Jacoby, the chief executive of Volvo, turned up in China on Friday, it was yet another sign of where the action is in the auto industry these days. But some people are starting to wonder whether there is a little too much action.
Mr. Jacoby was in Beijing to announce plans to build a new factory in China, with the goal of selling 200,000 vehicles there by 2015 — an ambitious target, considering that Volvo sold only 374,000 cars worldwide last year.
Volvo’s plans are a logical step for a company, formerly owned by Ford, that is now in Chinese hands. But they are also part of an industrywide rush for a share of the exploding Chinese market. Even General Motors now sells more cars in China than in the United States.
China is also helping to drive the development of electric cars and giving car companies more confidence that they can invest in the new technology and find a market.
With pollution already a grave problem in some cities, carmakers expect the Chinese authorities to put restrictions on gasoline vehicles that would not apply to cars that produced no tailpipe emissions. The European manufacturers also fear that Chinese companies like BYD will get a big lead in battery technology.
Academy Awards, Cher, fashion, lists: Who still remembers this lovely Cher costume?
Cher Turns the Oscars Into a Costume Party, 1986