Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category
Yas Waterworld, just next to Ferrari World, in Abu Dhabi
Those countries in the Middle East that have been spared political upheaval find themselves enmeshed in a different sort of battle of late. As Qatar, the UAE and Jordan split what’s left of the region’s tourists, each is fighting to pull in the lion’s share. Their weapon of choice? Theme parks.
Currently, Abu Dhabi and its scrappier sibling, Al Ain, are duking it out with Doha for the rights to build the region’s first Angry Birds theme park.
Not surprisingly, the Middle Eastern version of Angry Bird Land (there are already outlets in Finland, Singapore and the UK) would also be the world’s largest.
“[The competition] is getting quiet fierce,” says Nigel Cann, director of operations and development at Gebal Group, the local agents for Lappset, who first developed the brand’s entertainment complex.
“They all want to find a space for it, and to do it as soon as they can. They all want to be first.”
As one of the most downloaded apps of all times (the game has amassed 1.7 billion downloads since launching in 2010), Angry Birds’ name recognition is almost unbeatable.
Though it is a global phenomenon, it’s proved particularly popular in the region. Over a fifth of all downloads come from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Rovio Entertainment, the developers of the game, are even toying with the idea of creating a localized version of the game…
Just a reminder that often portions of the world with too much money, little or no democracy, even less good taste, will spend enormous sums of money to impress the neighbors and visitors. Sound like someplace in your neck of the prairie?
A Seattle woman is to abandon her controversial attempt to live on light on Wednesday after 47 days of surviving on water and tea.
Naveena Shine, 65, had been attempting to go without food for 100 days. She said the “overt” reason for ending what she described as an “experiment” was financial – she claimed she will lose the trailer she has been staying in on Wednesday – but said she believed her monetary woes were “a simple a message from the universe that it is time to stop”.
“After 47 days…I still feel really good, weight loss is slowing and all seems well. However, I still have no evidence that I am actually living on light and it could well be slow starvation,” Shine wrote on her Facebook page…
A touch of sanity, after all.
“Plants have what are called choroplasts that contain chlorophyll and they have the ability to capture energy from sunlight,” said Dr Ronald Hoffman medical director of the Hoffman Center and host of a weekly health podcast.
“Humans don’t have cholorphyll or chloroplasts. No humans do. It is impossible for a human to have that…
But Shine appeared to acknowledge the risk to her health, at one point saying “I have no idea if I could” complete the 100 days…”Personally, do I think it’s possible? For me it’s still a question. I see much more evidence to show that yes it’s possible, but I also see that it has to come out from the inside. I’m not willing to risk either my life or other people’s lives,” Shine said.
Challenging the facts of material reality are neurotic at best, possibly delusional. Knowing little more than the specific gravity of a human being I see no need to try to walk on water or attempt to fly after jumping off a skyscraper.
One of the delights of being a species with intellect, enabling, recording ongoing experimentation, is that we invent stuff over time. So, we have boats and airplanes. Leave the walking on water and ascension into heaven to the True Believers.
And, please, stop electing them to government.
As parents and students struggle to keep up with rising college tuition and take on greater burdens of debt, universities are being challenged to justify the ballooning athletic fees they tack on to the bill.
In the 2010-11 academic year, the 227 public institutions in Division 1 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association collected more than $2 billion in athletic fees from their students — or an average of more than $500 per enrollee — according to research by Jeff Smith at the University of South Carolina Upstate.
These fees, which can exceed $1,000 a year, are often itemized as a “student activity” or “general” expense. That may explain why separate research, by David Ridpath of Ohio University, found that students were only dimly aware of the extent of the fees, and weren’t pleased once they found out how much they were paying.
Worse yet, institutions with high proportions of poorer students carrying substantial education debt appeared to be charging the highest fees. While all students must pay the costs of maintaining athletic programs, few actually benefit from the services they subsidize. In this sense, the fees are comparable to a regressive tax — and one that is more onerous for lower-income students than for the more affluent, who are able to attend schools where athletic fees are lower…
Moreover, the schools in low-athletic-fee conferences typically had better academic reputations, mostly in the top one-third in Forbes magazine’s ranking of 650 colleges and universities; the high-fee conferences schools were typically below average in those rankings…None of this would matter as much if students were affluent, enthusiastic about collegiate athletics and willing to pay for high-quality sporting entertainment…
For starters, about 41 percent of respondents either didn’t know, or were highly uncertain about, whether they paid the fees. The students said they might be willing to pay more for services such as student centers and health care, though, on average, they favored sharp reductions in the cost of intercollegiate athletics. The vast majority of students, 72 percent, said athletics had an “extremely unimportant” or “unimportant” part in their school choice or as a priority for their student fees; less than 10 percent ranked the athletic programs as “important” or “extremely important…”
University trustees, who are often alumni themselves, seem to view intercollegiate athletics as a way to generate school pride. Funding these programs with fees may please influential sports fans, but it often ignores the wishes of the students themselves. And more spending on sports doesn’t necessarily confer greater prestige. The University of Chicago, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Emory University and Washington University in St. Louis are doing just fine.
One of my all time pet peeves. While I think there should be PT departments involving students in lifetime sports – the kind of thing that will keep them healthy the rest of their lives – typical athletic departments in an American University are money pits. Often, creative bookkeeping is used to hide the real costs of the “amateur” sports participation, e.g., the cost of electricity for stadiums is billed directly to the cost of physical plant, stunts like that are common.
Spending the same money on quality education just might be meaningful to individuals seeking beneficial skills for the rest of their lives.
A grandmother in Liverpool was sent to prison Friday…for helping her sons launder the proceeds from their heroin trafficking business.
Christine Fitzgibbon, 60, was given a two-year sentence at a hearing in Crown Court in Manchester, The Liverpool Echo reported. Her son, Jason, 40, got 16 years and his younger brother, Ian, 39, 14 years and six months.
The brothers were arrested in 2011 when police foiled a plan to import a large quantity of heroin from Turkey. Investigators said the drugs had a street value of 7 million pounds.
“The drug dealing involved huge quantities of both heroin and ecstasy,” Paul Mitchell, the prosecuting lawyer said. “It involved the importation of multi-kilogram quantities of the drugs into this country and then the onward supply of those drugs. The scope of the enterprise was truly breathtaking.”
Mitchell said investigators seized large amounts of cash, some of it found in Christine Fitzgibbon’s home, and described her as the family “banker.” The Department of Work and Pensions said she was collecting benefits while enjoying a large income from her sons’ business.
As the slogan so aptly states, “A family that preys together stays together”.
Beppe Grillo, the fiery comic whose populist 5-Star Movement stunned Italy by winning a quarter of the votes in February’s election, is facing his biggest test since the vote with rebellion brewing among his novice lawmakers.
Publicly blamed by one of his own senators for the party’s poor showing in local elections earlier this week, in which it won only two towns out of more than 500, Grillo faces the threat of a mutiny that could blow the party apart.
As many as 30 parliamentarians are said to be ready to quit the party for various reasons…Some have balked at being asked to hand back daily parliamentary allowances as part of the movement’s rejection of political privilege.
Others chafe at Grillo’s deep intolerance of dissent in a grassroots movement where everyone is supposed to have a say…
“What has emerged is his limits as a leader. Any politician knows that managing things in such an absolutist, authoritarian manner is impossible,” said Leonardo Morlino, a professor of political science at LUISS university in Rome.
Grillo’s success was built in equal measure on his own charisma and skill in articulating boiling frustration at a discredited elite, and on widespread public hopes for a new way of doing politics built on youthful energy and the power of the Internet…
His popular blog attracts thousands of comments from young people sick of being shut out of decisions and turned off by a television system divided between Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset empire and state broadcasting carved up between the main political parties.
Play-school imitations of dissent always appeal to the disaffected. And achieve little if anything. Now that his tantrums have taken the “movement” past a couple of expressions of independence – his anarchistic bullying is becoming best known as Sound and Fury, signifying nothing. If there’s nothing to be achieved – there’s no reason to follow.
Warning: don’t read this if you’re eating, prone to sudden bouts of queasiness or unable to even think about Un Chien Andalou without simultaneously bursting into tears and dry-heaving. Believe me, I’m speaking from experience here.
Because this is an article about oculolinctus, an eye-licking fetish that is currently sweeping across the schools of Japan like, well, like a great big dirty bacteria-coated tongue sweeping across a horrific number of adolescent eyeballs.
Sometimes known as “worming” – which somehow makes this whole thing worse – oculolinctus is being blamed for a significant rise in Japanese cases of conjunctivitis and eye-chlamydia, which is actually a thing. It’s apparently seen as a new second-base; the thing you graduate to when kissing gets boring.
The craze is thought to stem from a music video by Japanese emo band Born (there’s a chance that the eyeball-licking scene was only included to distract everyone from the fact that the song sounds like it belongs on a menu screen for an EA Sports game about snowboarding from a decade ago, but at this point that’s just speculation)…
However, the dangers of oculolinctus are very real. As well as spreading pink-eye like nobody’s business, there’s also a risk of corneal scratching, which can lead to ulcers and blindness. Plus, there’s a strong chance that you’ll have to go to school the next day in an eye patch. At least with lovebites you could just throw on a poloneck jumper and be done with it.
Hopefully oculolinctus won’t catch on here and will remain one of those peculiarly Japanese fads such as bagelheading (injecting saline into your forehead until it swells out of all proportion, yaeba (undergoing dental surgery to give you crooked teeth) and shippo (wearing a neurologically controlled tail that reveals your moods). Because frankly, if oculolinctus does ever make it to these shores, I’m never going to be able to look at a lychee again.
Iran was on the brink of an extraordinary political transformation on Saturday night after the moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani sensationally secured enough votes to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Rouhani’s victory delighted reformers who have been desperate for a return to the forefront of politics after eight acrimonious years under Ahmadinejad.
It will also lift the spirit of a nation suffering from its worst financial crisis for at least two decades as a result of the sanctions imposed by western powers in the dispute over its nuclear programme.
Rouhani, who favours a policy of political openness, as well as re-establishing relations with the west, is likely to soothe international tension. He has been described by western officials as an “experienced diplomat and politician” and “fair to deal with”.
Iran’s interior minister, Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, announced on state television on Saturday night that 72% of 50 million eligible Iranians had voted, and Rohani had won just over the 50% of the vote required to avoid a runoff.
Rouhani, a PhD graduate from Glasgow Caledonian University and a former nuclear negotiator, has pledged to find a way out of the current stalemate over Iran’s nuclear programme, which is the cause of the sanctions crushing the economy.
Minutes after he was announced as the winner, thousands of jubilant campaigners and people across Iran poured into streets to celebrate. “Ahmadi Bye Bye”, chanted a large group in central Tehran, according to witnesses, in a reference to Ahmadinejad. Car horns were honking in larger streets in Tehran and Rouhani supporters chanted.
The Iranian currency, the rial, recovered in value against the dollar by at least 6% on Saturday. Later on Saturday night, Rouhani issued a statement on television, saying “a new season of solidarity” had begun following a result that brought “rationality and moderation” as well as “peace, stability and hope”…
The turnout for Friday’s vote was so high that polling stations stayed open for five hours longer than planned.
Speaking after casting his vote in Tehran, Khamenei had urged a mass turnout to rebut suggestions by American officials that the election enjoyed little legitimacy.
“I recently heard that someone at the US national security council said, ‘We do not accept this election in Iran’,” he said. “We don’t give a damn.”
All of the papier-mâché lovers of democracy from the UK to the US, from Cameron to Obama, have lined up to give advice. The best thing they could do – for a change – is keep their sticky fingers out of the pot of oil and natural gas that belongs to Iran and shut up for a change.
All prior blather about negotiating in good faith with Iran never came to pass. Just election-speak. Fact remains that even under the strictures of the Iranian theocracy, the turnout for the election was greater than anything Uncle Sugar has turned out in decades. A multi-party, multi-choice election unlike anything allowed in the United States.
A Nigerian man has survived for two-and-a-half days trapped 30 meters deep in freezing seawater.
Harrison Okene, 29, was on board the tug boat Jascon-4 when it capsized in heavy swells…It sank to the seabed, upside down, but Mr Harrison was trapped in an air pocket and able to breathe.
Of the other 12 people on board, 10 bodies have already been found and Mr Harrison is assumed to be the only survivor.
Mr Harrison told Reuters journalist Joe Brock that he could hear fish eating the dead bodies of his fellow crew members.
The Jascon-4 capsized on 26 May, about 32km off the coast of Nigeria, while it was stabilising an oil tanker at a Chevron platform…Mr Harrison was working there as a cook, according to the ship’s owners, West African Ventures.
Mr Harrison told Reuters he was in the toilet when he realised that the boat was beginning to turn over, and as the vessel sank, he managed to find his way to an area with an air pocket.
“I was there in the water in total darkness just thinking it’s the end. I kept thinking the water was going to fill up the room but it did not,” he said…”I was so hungry but mostly so, so thirsty. The salt water took the skin off my tongue.”
“I could perceive the dead bodies of my crew were nearby. I could smell them. The fish came in and began eating the bodies. I could hear the sound.”
But after 60 hours, Mr Harrison heard the sound of knocking.
A team from the DCN global diving company had come to investigate – sent by Chevron and West African Ventures…”We expected it to be a body recovery job,” DCN spokesperson Jed Chamberlain told the BBC’s Impact programme.
Mr Harrison “actually grabbed the second diver who went past him,” Mr Chamberlain said, adding that the diver concerned got quite a fright…”This changed the whole nature of the operation to a rescue operation…”
Having been at such depth for so many hours, he needed time in a decompression chamber to normalise his body pressure.
Christine Cridge, a medical director at the Diving Diseases Research Centre (DDRC), advised the rescue team during this process…
“After a certain amount of time at pressure, nitrogen will dissolve into the tissues. If he’d ascended directly from 30m to the sea surface….. it’s likely he’d have had a cardiac arrest, or at best, serious neurological issues…
Mr. Harrison will have nightmares for quite a while. His good fortune still ain’t quite enough to counter everything he survived.
Come to think of it, that diver who was grabbed by Mr. Harrison probably won’t forget it either.
Members of the Southern Baptist Convention at their annual meeting have voted to support families who leave the Boy Scouts due to the group’s plans to accept gay Scouts, urged the removal of Boy Scout leaders who championed accepting gays and encouraged former Boy Scouts to join a Southern Baptist youth group instead.
“Homosexuality is directly opposed to everything that Scouting stands for. I am disappointed in Scouting,” said the Rev. Wes Taylor in speaking for the resolution endorsed by the convention. “They are moving away from the principles that it was founded upon. This is an attempt to open the door to broaden the acceptance of homosexuality in that organization. It is an environment that would prove just fertile for young boys to be exposed to something that is ungodly and unacceptable…”
History repeats more often than not among the truly bigoted and religious. You could take this Reverend’s statement and stuff it into a time warp back to the passage of the civil rights act of 1964 – substitute the word “negro” for “gay” – and have the same thing.
Before Wednesday’s vote, some Baptist pastors spoke in favor of the Boy Scouts in proceedings that have been streaming live online.
“The Boy Scouts have said they are against sexual activity of any boy. I don’t think they are condoning homosexuality,” said the Rev. Charlie Dale of Indian Springs First Baptist Church in Indian Springs, Ala., adding that he didn’t think the vote “will help the cause of Christ…”
“Say it now, say it clearly, and say it in love. The SBC in no way should ever shake or bend to our biblical convictions. We should always say as we always have that homosexuality is wrong or sinful,” said the Rev. Mike Janz of First Baptist Church of Rosamond, in Rosamond, Calif.
Separately, a Maryland pastor proposed a motion Tuesday that the convention investigate the Boy Scouts’ decision to lift the ban on gay youth and report back with options for families this fall. That proposal was still being considered…
Secession is a Southern Baptist habit. They did their best to shut down public school systems when the civil rights bill passed and schools were required to be integrated. They built private schools throughout the Confederacy and beyond.
Now, they use opportunist political flunkies, the Romneys and Perrys of the Republican Party, to fight for taxpayers to reimburse the expenses of running their church schools through so-called vouchers. Contemptible.
I don’t doubt in the least they will dedicate time and effort to building youth groups that compete with the boy scouts and preserve their Christian purity. Over time, they will fail.
Casinos in several states are forbidding gamblers from wearing Google Glass, the tiny eyeglasses-mounted device capable of shooting photos, filming video and surfing the Internet.
Regulators say the gadgets could be used to cheat at card games.
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement issued a directive on Monday ordering Atlantic City’s 12 casinos to bar casino patrons from using the device…
Similar bans are in place at casinos in Las Vegas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Connecticut, among other places.
…It would be difficult to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the glasses were actually being used to cheat, David Rebuck wrote. For that and other reasons, he decided to ban the glasses on the casino floor and anywhere else gambling is taking place.
‘‘Even if the glasses had not been used for cheating … their presence at a gaming table would lead to the perception that something untoward could be occurring, thereby undermining public confidence in the integrity of gaming,’’ he wrote in the directive.
Perish the thought someone doesn’t trust the Lords of Chance.
In Las Vegas, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts have directed their security workers to ask patrons to remove the devices before beginning to gamble…
The edict will also be applied at casinos in Cincinnati and Cleveland.
In Pennsylvania, state regulators plan to advise its 11 casinos that an existing regulation prohibiting gamblers from using electronic devices at a table game also applies to the Google Glass…
Mohegan Sun in Connecticut also bans the devices on the casino floor.
Presented as a public service to geeks who think they just came up with a new way to rake in tons of money at casinos. Too late!