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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Republicans Prepare For U.S. Election In November 2012

Mitt Romney speaking in Washington D.C on February 11, 2011.
Mitt Romney speaking in Washington D.C on February 11, 2011. Image: Gage Skidmore
There are two main political parties in the United States: the Republicans and the Democrats.
Right now, the Republicans have to choose someone to run for president against Democrat Barack Obama, in time for the presidential election on Nov. 6.
To pick a Republican candidate, every state in the U.S. holds an early election called a primary.
The front-runner in the Republican race is Mitt Romney, who was the Governor of Massachusetts and is now in business.
He won the first two primaries – in Idaho and New Hampshire.
The South Carolina primary is next; it may be more difficult for Romney to win. People in South Carolina tend to have very traditional views on religion, crime, and schooling. Some people think Romney is too soft on these kinds of issues to appeal to the people there.
Barack Obama waiting to give a speech in Washington D.C. in 2007
Current American President, Barack Obama, prior to giving a speech in Washington D.C. in 2007. Image: realjamesco16
How people are elected
In a U.S. election, people vote directly for the president. They vote separately for members of the Senate and the House of Representatives. These two parts make up the Congress. If President Barack Obama wants to pass a law, he has to get both parts to agree with him.
In Canada, the government also has two parts; the Senate which is appointed by the Governor General and the House of Commons, made up of people who have been voted in.
But in Canada, people don’t vote directly for the prime minister. They vote for one person in the area they live in. These people represent a political party and the party with the most votes wins. The leader of that party becomes prime minister

Cruise Ship Runs Aground In Italy

Italian cruise ship sinking
The cruise ship, the Costa Concordia, sinks after running aground: Image Rvongher
It began like any other cruise, with more than 4,200 people aboard the Costa Concordia.
However, the scene became tragic on Saturday as the massive ship ran aground a few hundred metres off the tiny island of Giglio near Tuscany, Italy.
Rocks tore a 50-metre gash down one side of the hull and the ship took on water.
By Sunday morning five people were dead and 10 unaccounted for. Two of the victims were French and one was from Peru. Another 30 people were hurt; two people were seriously injured.
Others on board were from Italy, Germany, France and Britain. There were 1,000 crew members on board.
Twelve Canadians who had been on board were all accounted for and in good condition.
The scene reminded people of the Titanic, in which a giant oceanliner sank after hitting an iceberg. That happened in 1912.
Any similarity with the Titanic ended when passengers, trying desperately to flee the sinking Concordia, noticed the Concordia’s captain wrapped in blankets and sitting in a lifeboat.
There is a saying that, “the captain always goes down with his ship.” It implies that the captain must wait until everyone is safely off a sinking vessel before abandoning the ship himself.
However, in this case, Captain Francesco Schettino left the ship and was on the dock before everyone was off. He could face up to 12 years in jail for doing that, according to Italian naval laws.
The captain told reporters he did everything he could and didn’t leave before everyone was off. But that wasn’t true, because at least one crew member and two passengers were being rescued from the ship on Sunday, after the captain was on shore talking to the media. On Sunday Shettino was arrested and may be accused of crimes including murder. The ship’s first officer, Ciro Ambrosio, was also held by police on Sunday.
A couple from Canada said they had been watching a magic show in the ship’s theatre on Saturday when they felt a lurch, as though the ship was making a hard turn. And then there was a shudder, they said.
At first, passengers were told there was a problem with the electricity. However, that didn’t explain why the ship was starting to tilt, one passenger said.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Stephen Hawking Turns 70

Stephen Hawking (1980s)
Stephen Hawking turned 70 on Jan. 8.
Cosmologists – scientists like Hawking who study the origins of the universe – gathered in Cambridge, UK, to pay tribute to him.
Hawking was a mathematics professor at the University of Cambridge for 30 years. He retired from that job in 2009. He still works for Cambridge, in cosmology research.
Hawking is a mathematical genius, who changed the way scientists think about the universe.
One of the things he figured out is that black holes should emit radiation. His theory is known as Hawking radiation. He made many other breakthroughs in science as well. Some people say he is the best-known living scientist today.
Hawking was always interested in science. In university, his marks were sometimes not stellar. It was due to poor study habits, however, and not any lack of intelligence. Once, when he was talking to some of his professors during an exam, the professors realized “they were talking to someone far more clever than most of themselves.”*
At the gathering to celebrate his birthday this month, one of Hawking’s own students said this about him:
“Some people are very clever and you see their work and you think, well, if I work really hard on that project maybe I could have done that myself. Then there are people like Stephen and you see his breakthroughs and you think, there’s no way I would have thought of that if I’d spent all my life thinking on that project. That’s the definition of a genius. There are very few people like that.”
Hawking has a disease that has gotten worse over the years. Today, he is almost completely paralysed and unable to speak. He “speaks” using a computer-generated voice.
When he was diagnosed with the disease when he was 21, he was only expected to live a few years longer. Not only has he lived a long time, but he has a lifetime of outstanding achievements that have changed the field of cosmology.

The Euro’s Tenth Birthday Not A Happy One

euro banknotes
This year, the “euro” celebrates its tenth anniversary.
The euro is a unit of money (or “currency”) that is used by 17 countries in Europe.
It wasn’t always that way. Before the euro, every country had its own currency. For instance, France had the franc, Italy had the lira, Germany had the Deutschmark and so on.
The euro was created in 2002 when a group of European politicians and financial leaders decided it would be helpful if they had the same type of money.
The idea of the euro was to make it easier for countries to buy and sell more easily between themselves, because they would all be using the same currency. Although many countries in Europe adopted the euro, England and Sweden refused to make the switch because they were afraid it would weaken their own financial situations.
Now the euro is in trouble. Several countries, like Greece, Portugal and Ireland borrowed a lot of money when times were good but soon found they were unable to pay it back. Some of their banks also got into trouble. The governments of these countries had to ask richer countries in Europe and even the International Monetary Fund to help them pay their debt.
Because of the debt, the value of the euro has gone down, affecting countries all around the world that had purchased it as an investment. A weak currency makes it more expensive for a country to buy the supplies it needs from other countries that do not use the same units of money.
Originally, there were six founding members in the euro zone (the area where the euro is used). In 2004, 10 new countries were admitted, mostly from Eastern Europe. Just last month, Croatia became the latest country to sign the treaty to become a member of the European Union.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research in the UK recently predicted that countries may start switching away from the euro this year. They said this may be the year that the euro “breaks up.”
They also predict that at least one country will leave the European Union. (The European Union is a bigger group of European countries that work together, though not all of them use the euro as currency.)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cairo’s “Taxis Of Knowledge”

Knowledge TaxiThis article was originally published on TKN in Nov. 2011.
Cairo, the capital city of Egypt, has a lot of traffic. Commuters often find themselves stuck in a traffic jam, unable to move.
One book store came up with an ingenious program to help the people who take taxis in the city. They call it, “The Taxi of Knowledge.”
Alef Books gives taxi drivers five free books, which they can place in the back seat of their cab.
Passengers can read a good book while they’re stuck in traffic.
The taxi driver gets to choose which books he wants. He can also trade them in whenever he wants, for different books.
Alef started the program to get more books into the hands of the general public, a spokesman for the bookstore said.
More than 10,000 books have been donated for the project, by authors and other donors.
Not only are passengers enjoying the books, but the taxi drivers are, too. Alef offers a cash reward for taxi drivers who are particularly knowledgeable about the books in their cab. That is proving to be a great incentive for taxi drivers to take the books home and read them with their families.
The Taxi of Knowledge project is a success. In June, 200 cabs were involved in the program. Alef hope to have books in 10 times that many taxis by the end of the year.