The Tragedy of German Wings

Adreas Lubitz is a name we have all been seeing in the news lately. He was a seemingly normal guy who had many friends, a girlfriend, and made it into flight school with Lufthansa. Many remember him as a “friendly, if very reserved, person.” Andreas often competed in long distance races, such as half-marathons, often placing very high. He was what most people would consider a typical, and even successful, young 27-year-old. Shockingly, last week Andreas took his own life and those of 149 others in the worst Lufthansa airline crash in twenty-two years.

Andreas Lubitz running the Lufthansa Half-Marathon

On March 24th, German Wings Flight 4U 9525 smashed into the French Alps, killing everyone on board (German Wings is a smaller airline owned by Lufthansa). What was thought at first to be an accident was later found out to be intentional by the Co-Pilot Andreas Lubitz. As the plane’s black box made clear, at around 10:30 am the pilot stepped out of the cockpit to go to the restroom, leaving Lubitz alone to man the controls. The door to the cockpit was manually locked when the pilot left, which could only have been done intentionally by Lubitz. On the cockpit’s recording that was recovered, the sound of the pilot softly knocking on the door can be heard. There is no answer. The knocking gets louder until it sounds as if the pilot is trying to knock the door down. The autopilot controls were manipulated, keeping the plane on track, but the altitude was changed from 38,000 feet to 96 feet. Once set, the aircraft started descending at around 1,000 feet per minute. The pilot was joined by others as he was helplessly knocking on the door. At 10:40 am the plane struck the side of a mountain obliterating flight 4U 9525 into thousands of pieces.

Damaged recording data of the cockpit

The motive for Lubitz’s actions is unknown. He was treated for depression before the incident occurred, but is that all it takes to take all 150 lives on board? In my opinion, much more had to have happened to drive a man to commit such a crime. Investigators have searched his house for clues as to why he might have done this. They found a torn-up doctor’s note that excused him from working on that fateful Tuesday morning. It is not yet known what the doctor’s note was in treatment for, but why did he choose to go to work that day? These questions may never be answered, but it makes me wonder, should these airlines require stricter standards to pass their psychological screening? I think that in many cases, when it comes to an employer knowing a worker’s personal medical history, it should be kept private. However, in the case of a pilot or any other kind of worker who could directly endanger the public, it is vital to know if they are mentally stable.

I think an additional precaution might have prevented the incident as well. German flights do not always require two people in the cockpit like American flights do. When a pilot steps out to go to the bathroom on a U.S. flight, a flight attendant must join the other pilot for reasons like this. The doors on the cockpits are unable to be opened from the outside due to changes after 9/11, which is understandable, so having a second person in the cockpit might have been the only solution.

A brief description of how the cockpit manual lock works

It is impossible to predict if a pilot will commit such a crime if he is mentally unstable, but we can increase the odds of being safe by making the medical records known in such cases and by encouraging foreign airlines to have two people in the cockpit at all times.

Ultimately, I know we all try and figure out ways to keep things like this from happening, but sometimes it’s only clear in hindsight. I hope for the sake of all the victims, as well as the Lubitz family and friends, that more information is uncovered that will shed light on what exactly led to that tragic Tuesday morning.

 

Up Helly Aa: A Scottish Tradition and a town on fire

 

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Photo cred: uphellyaa.org

 Picture this: It’s late January in Scotland and from your hotel window you see what appears to be thousands of men march past in varying degrees of viking garb carrying weapons and chanting in unison. The sleepy town of Lerwick once darkened by the night sky, now lit orange and yellow with the glow of fire. A large wooden galley in the shape of a dragon sits on a lake, built solely for the purpose of the evening’s festivities. Eventually, the marching stops and all of the heavily costumed men or guizers led by a man in an ornate raven-feathered helmet, chants above them all in a rousing call and response as voices rise higher and higher.

 All at once, the town is flooded with silence. The Jarl, the leader of the group elected by fellow guizers (donning the raven-feathered helmet) makes a signal and a bugle horn is sounded- thousands of torches are thrown onto the dragon boat. This is Up Helly Aa.

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Lerwick,Scotland-The burning of the boat. Photo cred: David Gifford photography

 Up Helly Aa, despite being a fairly modern holiday, has a rich history. Celebrated in the Shetland region of Scotland with its origins dating back to the early 1800’s, it is celebrated in a total of nine Shetland towns, the largest celebration being held in Lerwick. Up helly aa was at first a week long event with very little organization and plenty of drinking, chanting, dancing and merriment. In older times, non-participating villagers would open up their homes for the drunken men to sleep or eat food and recharge for another round of revelry. The holiday is celebrated on the last Tuesday of January in order to commemorate the end of the yule season.

 Up Helly Aa consists of 3 main events; The burning of the boat, the procession, and the grand feasts and performances in town halls. For four months, thousands of townspeople combine resources, time and skill to build the ornate dragon galley that gets burned down by torch fire at the beginning of the festivities.

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 Photo cred: uphellyaa.org

 The procession begins thereafter where all men sporting the custom uniform of the year carry lighted torches around the town parading to the song of Up Helly Aa whose chorus goes:

“Grand old Vikings ruled upon the ocean vast,

Their brave battle-songs still thunder on the blast;

Their wild war-cry comes a-ringing from the past;

We answer it “A-oi”!

Roll their glory down the ages,

Sons of warriors and sages,

When the fight for Freedom rages,

Be bold and strong as they!”

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Lerwick town hall where the Jarl Guizer is granted “freedom of the town for 24 hours. Photo cred: David Gifford Photography

 Town halls open up for themed parties in which members of different guizers (cleverly named for their viking disguises) perform their skits for rowdy crowds. Most of these hall parties are pretty exclusive with a few exceptions. Some halls are open to the public for those who purchase a ticket to participate in the festivities. Here, eating, drinking and dancing takes place-and it is the goal of each guizer to dance with at least one lady in the hall.

 The next morning, those in a state of hangover and exhaustion from the night prior get an entire day to recover-the Wednesday after is the actual Up Helly Aa day where school, work and most shops are closed for the holiday. On Thursday, everything returns to normal; the ferocious viking men of Up Helly Aa go back to their day jobs, the pungent odor of soot eventually wafts from the air, and preparation for the next year’s Up Helly Aa begin in Autumn.

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(The Town of Lerwick) Photo cred: Redbubble.com

Learning French through Ballet

From age four through seventeen, my world revolved around ballet. Through it, I developed my interest in the French language and my appreciation for culture expressed through performed art. Interestingly, much of the terminology for ballet is rooted in common French verbs. For example, tendu, French for stretched, is arguably the most basic of ballet steps and involves the dancer stretching the foot and leg to a pointed position. Below, I have provided a short glossary of both common and unique ballet terminology. Several of the terms are quite literal; are there any that you’ve heard outside of the ballet context?

Assemblé: assembled – This is a jump that lands on two feet.

Sketch of dancer in croisé position via michaelminn.net

Sketch of dancer in croisé position via michaelminn.net

Croisé: cross – Instead of facing the audience directly, the dancer will turn slightly toward the corner of the stage.

Battement: beat – A step involving a beating action of the extended leg such as stretching, lifting or striking.

Changement: change – A dancer jumps, landing with the opposite foot in front.

Croisé: cross – Instead of facing the audience directly, the dancer will turn slightly toward the corner of the stage.

Développé: developed – The toe is drawn up the standing leg before bringing the working leg out to the front, side or behind the dancer.

Moving through the steps of a developpé via ballethub.org

Moving through the steps of a developpé via ballethub.org

Échappé: escaped – A dancer moves both feet from a closed to an open position.

Pas: step. A movement where a dancer transfers weight. In ballet terminology, there are several pas…

Pas de deux: dance for two – A duet between two dancers.

Pas de chat: step of the cat – Named for the similarity of the dance step to a cat’s leap.

Plié via pixshark.com

Plié via pixshark.com

Pas de poisson: step of the fish (a lot more graceful than it sounds).

Plié: bent – Known as the mother step of ballet, a dancer simply bends her knees.

Port de bras: way of the arms – Made by passing the arms through various positions.

Relevé: raised – A dancer lifts her body from a standing position to putting all weight on either the toes or ball of the foot.

Sauté: sprung – The same meaning as carried by the popular cooking technique. In ballet terminology, this means simply a jump.

Tombé: fell – Normally not taken literally. The dancer will step from a straight-legged position to a bent position on one leg. This step is generally done as a link between other steps.

Sauté via abt.org

Sauté via abt.org

Till Lindemann: Frontman, Pyromaniac, Poet

I enter the gym and prepare to stretch. I can’t work out without music, and since the MU Rec Center’s choice of tunes troubles me (Katy Perry? Really?), I opt for my own. The sound of clanking weights and the exaggerated grunts of meatheads are suddenly drowned out. An a capella enclosed harmony begins, followed by an ominous voice: “Wer wartet mit Bessonenheit, der wird belohnt zur rechten Zeit. Nun das Warten hat ein Ende, leiht eure Ohr einer Legende.”* (Whoever waits patiently will be rewarded when the time is right. Now the waiting has an end, lend your ears to a legend.) The Teutonic, wrath-inspired music I’m listening to is Rammstein, whose style would not be possible without its lead singer, Till Lindemann.

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Source: http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m9lmd7s8t01ra1hkmo1_500.jpg

 

Chances are you’ve at least heard of Rammstein. You may even know their most famous song, Du Hast (You have). The band produces a unique blend of contemporary progressions, contrasted with hard, industrial rock. Rammstein began as a collection of former East Germans, singing in their recently re-unified country. The band now sells out concerts from Perth to Tokyo, New York to Mexico City, and countless locations in Europe. Their success is undeniably the result of their unique style in music, which of course would not be possible without the voice of Till Lindemann. Keep in mind that in the original German, Rammstein’s texts rhyme and are poetic. Translations of their songs rarely grasp the full meaning of the lyrics, especially since Lindemann writes in a complicated fashion that often makes use of puns and riddles.

Lindemann’s contribution to Rammstein is two-fold: he almost exclusively authors the lyrics to Rammstein’s songs, and is the lead actor in its live performances. His singing style combines guttural articulations and more proper traditional singing. This combination is enhanced by Lindemann’s baritone-bass vocal range. It is also complicated by the content of the lyrics.

Lindemann writes about subjects such as politics, sadomasochism, love, heaven, violence, incest, hate, sex, mourning, disaster, homosexuality, cannibalism, and more. These topics often result in controversy. The band seems to relish such controversy, or they wouldn’t continue to base their self-described art on controversial topics. I would argue that their style of music is the product of being former East German citizens. Their style is rebellious, and the more people are offended by them, the better.

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Source: http://www.jurnalrock.ro/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Till-3.jpg

 

A perfect example of this is the song Bück Dich (Bend Down), which explicitly deals with gay sex. When this song was released in the mid-90s, I suspect the Internet was lacking in accurate translations of the song’s meaning. As a result, non-German speaking listeners wouldn’t have known that what they were listening to was a graphic depiction of gay sex. Only when seeing it performed live were audiences able to ascertain what the song was about. Lindemann, leading the band’s keyboardist onstage bound and gagged (bondage itself is not a topic in the song lyrics), then later simulating sex with him, provided a performance that didn’t need a translation.

Another aspect of Rammstein’s performances are their use of pyrotechnics. Fire doesn’t need a translation. Lindemann often ascends the stage in a specially designed coat that is set aflame. Or he uses a flamethrower. Or he shoots arrows from a flaming crossbow. This is something that Lindemann loves because he is uncomfortable about being on stage and having nothing to do. Rammstein’s fireworks are a huge factor in the band’s concert success. Without it, I doubt that non-German speaking audiences would be as inclined to attend a Rammstein show.

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Source: http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m7rhrqK1iU1qi4zlto5_1280.jpg

 

Another facet of Lindemann’s style is his engagement with the crowd. The admittedly shy Lindemann often finds support from the crowd, who will sing the choruses to popular songs or shout key phrases on Lindemann’s command. This is not unique to German crowds, but occurs with foreign audiences as well. In Spanish speaking countries, Lindemann doesn’t need to sing Te Quiero Puta (I love you whore): the audience does it for him. Additionally, during songs such as Ich Will (I want), Lindemann will ask the crowd: “Can you hear me? Can you see me? Can you feel me?” Each question receives a resounding response from the crowd: “We hear you! We see you! We feel you!”

As the author of the band’s texts, Lindemann has demonstrated a poetic side. With Du Hast (You have), Lindemann states that “You have me,” however the lyrics are not quite so simple. In German, du hast does mean “you have,” however when spoken, du hast sounds exactly like du hasst. The latter, with two s’s, actually means “you hate.” Thus, when Lindemann speaks the words, “du hast mich,” the listener can interpret the song either way. During live performances Lindemann doesn’t try to dispel the confusion of his words. Distraught, he recites wedding vows gone awry, making it clear that no, he does not want to be faithful for the rest of his days. Du Hast is what made Rammstein famous worldwide, as is evidenced by this Glee inspired a capella rendition found here.

Since Rammstein has often been accused of being a Nazi band, Lindemann wrote a song detailing the band’s political stance in Links 234 (Left 234). During live performances Lindemann will march onstage in military fashion, though he makes it clear when singing: “They want my heart to beat on the right, but I look down and see it beating on the left.” Lindemann’s commentary is also unrelenting when it comes to geographic location. He sings about America, Mexico, Paris, and Moscow. He refers to the Russian capitol as a “harlot”, which is the “most beautiful city in the world,” but will only provide you with a good time if you pay her.

Lindemann can also show his softer side. Casting away the guttural barking, Lindemann hints at his own relationship woes in Ohne Dich (Without you), a depressing song accompanied by a string interlude: “Ohne dich kann ich nicht sein, ohne dich. Mit dir bin ich auch allein, ohne dich. Ohne dich zähl’ ich die Stunden, ohne dich. Mit dir stehen die Sekunden, lohne nicht.” (Without you I cannot be, without you. With you I’m also alone, without you. Without you I count the hours, without you. With you the seconds stand still, no reward.) Another example of love-angst would be Seemann (Sailor), where Lindemann bids a female companion to seek salvation through him. Lindemann even lent his talents to the band Apocalytica, singing the German version to David Bowie’s Heroes. It is interesting to hear the lyrics to this song in German, given the fact that Bowie’s version of Hereos was written in a divided Berlin. Lindemann singing about standing by the Berlin Wall, all the while kissing his lover, is touching given his history in Communist Germany.

Lindemann has now embarked on a solo project, leaving fans wondering what his new work will be. Lindemann admits to having a tortured soul, which comes to light in Haifisch (Shark): “And the shark has tears, and they run down his face. But the shark lives in water, so you can’t see his tears.” The chorus to Haifisch is a play on Bertolt Brecht’s lyrics in Mack the Knife. I suspect that Lindemann’s solo work will produce similar ideas. Torment can be productive, and in Lindemann’s case, he channels that torment into poetry and performing. Whether he can produce the same type of live shows on his own is another question. His writing style, however, is likely to remain complicated and controversial.

Rammstein

Source: http://www.rammstein.us/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Rammstein.jpg

 

*Though I speak German, I would like to give credit for song translations to: Herzeleid.com & Affenknecht.

Sprang Break!!!

Spring Break is a right of passage for college kids around the world. Every year in the U.S. sometime around mid-march, thousands of students perform the grand migration down south for some grand relaxation after mid-terms.

For Mizzou, there is a pretty set schedule of what each year will entail. For freshman, this means Panama City Beach, or PCB. Specifically the Holiday Inn if you’re doing it correctly. All of Mizzou freshman gather packed into small rooms on about 15 floors, and head down to the beachfront every morning, Gatorade jugs full, and then things get somewhat out of control. I have heard stories that would make Chuck Norris cringe. My roommate got peed on in an elevator.

Sophomore year means Gulf Shores, Alabama. Everyone is a little more mature. And everything is a little more laid back. Two miles of rental beach houses fill up, and people get a little weird with their housemates. I am currently writing this from the kitchen of one such house, while everyone else is on the patio partying.

Junior year people tend to either take the break to work on internships or go to a slew of other places. Such as Padre Island or Colorado. Finally Junior year everyone has their last hoorah down in Mexico. Usually either Cabo or Cancun. Obviously it’s much harder for me to elaborate on these last two not having been yet.

I was curious how Spring Break here in the states compared to breaks for other places in the world. Obviously anywhere in Mexico would be a major place to be for Spring Break, just because so many other places congregate there. Coupled with a lack of government enforcement, Mexico easily gets the craziest.

After some research online. It seems like nowhere in Europe does spring break quite the same. This is largely because there is so much variation in the times that each school has their different breaks. The education system being different in those countries has a large impact as well.

Enjoy your Spring Break everyone!

Greek Comfort Food: Lahanodolmades me Avgolemono

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My mother will forever reign supreme in the culinary arts. She has the ability to recreate almost any dish, and if she isn’t satisfied enough, she will alter the recipe to fit her taste. Growing up in a Taiwanese family, where dinnertime is the main event to promote togetherness, my mother graced us with her talents, creating dishes from traditional Taiwanese food like dan bing to Chicago’s deep dish pizza.

One cold evening in 2012, my mother pulled out a trick she had been keeping since her trip to Europe earlier that year. She created a deliciously warm cabbage roll with egg-lemon sauce that I would later find out to be a dish called Lahanodolmades me Avgolemono (pronounced: la-hah-no-dole-ma-thes, ahv-goh-lem-uh-no).

For the longest time I (embarrassingly) believed that the dish was French because my mother’s French friend was the one who originally made it for her. I quickly found out this wasn’t the case, especially as I recalled the distinctly Mediterranean egg-lemon sauce. I consulted Google, and found a result almost immediately, even with my vague description.

Lahanodolmades me Avgolemono (Greek: λαχανοντολμαδες με αυγολεμονο) is actually a popular Greek comfort food that will warm you right up, perfect for some of Greece’s colder winter months. Lahanodolmades are cabbage (lahana = cabbage) pieces wrapped tightly around a meatball. Avgolemono is a combination of egg, lemon juice and broth that has roots extending back to the time of Alexander the Great.

Unfortunately, I did not inherit my mother’s superpower. I can’t do much with food other than follow exact directions. So, I am sharing my mother’s recipe, who has made a few alternations from the traditional Greek recipes you might find that have been passed down from generation to generation here or here.

Note: This recipe is not for those craving a quick meal. The bloggers at Lemon & Olives describes this dish as a “labor of love,” meaning that it does take some time. In the end, it took me three hours to make, but it was definitely worth it.

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Ingredients

This recipe yields 6 to 9 lahanodolmades

Lahanodolmades
• 1 pound of ground beef
• 1 pound of ground pork (substitute: veal or lamb)
• 6 to 9 leaves of cabbage
• ½ onion (substitute: 1 large shallot)
• 2 cloves of garlic
• ½ teaspoon of curry (substitute: cumin)
• ½ teaspoon of Sichuan pepper flakes
• 1 tablespoon of rice
• Salt and Pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon each)

Avgolemono
• One egg yolk
• Lemon juice from one lemon
• Broth from the lahanodolmades to taste

Preparing the Lahanodolmades:

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First, we begin by preparing the cabbage. Boil a wide pot of water and add a pinch of salt. One by one add a leaf of cabbage into the water until soft enough to fold. Leave the cabbage to the side to cool while you make the meat mixture.
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Chop the onions until they are to your liking. They should be pretty small, and you can use a food processor for this step if you wish. Then chop up the garlic and mush them a bit.

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Unfortunately, I did not have any Sichuan pepper flakes on hand, and I only had the Sichuan peppercorn instead. No worries! Just grind down the peppercorn.

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Next, just dump everything for the lahanodolmades into a large bowl (except for the cabbage) and mix them together in one direction. This allows for a smoother texture. Do this until you are certain that the ingredients are fully incorporated.

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Now, section off the meat accordingly to how many cabbage leaves you have. Honestly, I just added however much meat would fit into each individual leaf. Then, fold each leaf tightly like the diagram above. I stress the “tightly” because the meat may fall out if you don’t. Don’t make my mistake.

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Once you’re finished folding your lahanodolmades, place them in a large pot and fill the pot with water until there is at least one inch of water above the rolls. Place a lid over the pot and cook it until boiled then reduce the heat to low. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour.

Preparing the Avgolemono Sauce:

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While the lahanodolmades are cooking, begin the sauce. (You can wait until you’re about halfway through the 45 minutes.)

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Separate the egg yolk from the egg white. Then beat the egg yolk. Squeeze in the lemon juice of one lemon. Mix until fully incorporated.

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About 15 minutes before your lahanodolmades have finished, open the pot and taste the broth. Add salt to taste and mix.

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Once the lahanodolmades have finally reached the 45-minute mark, take out about a cup of the broth. Using about a tablespoon of broth at a time, slowly pour into the egg-lemon mixture and mix. Do not let the soup cook up (curdle) the yolk. Do this to your taste (about a cup for me). The color should be a pale yellow.

Note: Villy of For the Love of Feeding said that Greek women often made kissing noises while pouring the broth into the lemon sauce to prevent the sauce from curdling. Ba-dum-tssh.

Preparing the Plate:

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Finally, add however many lahanodolmades to your plate as you wish. Pour the avgolemono on the top of the roll. Add as much as you like, but make sure there is a little bit of soup at the bottom.

And that’s it!

Qǐng màn yòng. Bon appétit. Kali Orexi.

All photos in this post were taken by me.

Gumball 3000: 3000 miles, 7 days road trip all over the world.

 

2015 Gumball 3000 Announcement, Stockholm to Sin City

May 23rd in Stockholm, Sweden, 2015 gumball 3000 rally would be held with 50 multinational combination of teams, 2 drivers per car, starting to go through Oslo, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and then fight over the Atlantic Ocean to America, heading from San Francisco to Las Vegas. How does it sound? If you love a car, I bet you’re going to love the Gumball 3000. Fifty super-fast cars and rich people are driving over the world from a continent to another continent, which will begin soon.

 

2014 Gumball 3000 Route

2011 Gumball 3000 Route

Have you ever heard about Gumball 3000 rally? A car is the best toy of human being. For someone, it can be dream or energy. Yeah, the Gumball 3000 rally is an infamous rally of super-fast cars and fun people, so I’m sure that the Gumball 3000 is one of the exiting car event for everyone, not event for professional drivers. This is 3000 miles long road trip, held during 7 days, attending hundred twenty numbers of driver and approximately fifty numbers of exotic car. Party is held all over the cities they stop by because this event is not only focused on driving a car, but also emphasized for sharing unique life style and aspirational vision with multicultural background attendees. Music, a car, entertainment are core key words, influenced by the pop culture. The gumball 3000 is not about racing. It is about fun, passion, and people relating with a car.

Gumball 3000 Founder, Maximillion Cooper

Maxi million Cooper, former racing driver and British entrepreneur, is the founder of the Gumball 3000, who create this exclusively unique rally by having a road trip with 50 of his influential and celebrity friends in 1999, crossing over Europe countries. His passion toward a car, music, fashion, and pop culture starts to attract many people to get involved in this rally every years.

In this rally, your eyes and ears get thrilled by exotic cars, which are much better than the car list of motor show. Bentley, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Bugatti, and Mc Laruen are common brands. In previous years, Mercedes Benz G63 AMG 6×6, Batmobile, Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR Sterling Moss, Morgan Aero SuperSports, and Rebellion R2K were attended. People could enjoy to watch these cars were running around them in the public road.

<Photos by Gumball 3000 Facebook>

Young, powerful, and fun images are most features, so energetic sponsors like Youtube and Nixon worked to help this event. To make sure rally schedule and attendees’ convenience, five-rated hotel, jet air-plain, train, and ship are exclusively provided by the Gumball 3000 operation team.  A lot of celebrities, such as famous rapper Xzibit are also participated in this rally each years.

Attending in the Gumball 3000 rally costs very expensive, £40,000 (about $67,000), that does not allow many attendees, but most gumballers would like to pay even more for the cost of this priceless experience. Moreover, their passion about this rally is connected with huge charity either. Big profits from attending this rally helps youths via the Gumball 3000 foundation. Many fans of Gumball 3000 are also waiting for the next journey and new exotic cars as they hope to watch this world fabulous public road rally.

You can’t still imagine that? Let’s feel the Gumball 3000 via the video.

2015 Gumball 3000 rally is coming up soon!

8,000 Feet Above Sea Level

I always thought flying in an airplane was the closest thing to being up in the clouds. I was wrong. I traveled to Peru in December of 2013 with my dad and my sister, Olivia. I did not know much about Peru – I really did not know why my dad wanted to travel there, so I did some research and soon realized what the hype was all about. Two words: Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu, also known as “The Lost City of the Incas” is located at an altitude of 7,972 feet above sea level. Machu Picchu is believed to have been a sacred and religious site for Inca leaders up until the 16th century when Spanish invaders swept out all civilization. For hundreds of years, no one knew that Machu Picchu existed until an archaeologist named Hiram Bingham discovered this beautiful, historical site in 1911. In 2007, Machu Picchu was designated as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Since then, hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world hike up one of the world’s most famous manmade wonders.

My family and I took a three-hour train ride from Cusco, Peru to Machu Picchu, and as we learned, this is the most common way to arrive at the base of Machu Picchu. Before our big day of hiking, we made sure to hydrate ourselves with mate de coca, also known as coca tea. We were advised not to drink alcohol or eat meat when we first landed to prevent altitude sickness. Peruvians believe coca tea, a herbal tea made from the leaves of a coca plant, is the best remedy to cure the sickness. When we finally arrived at the base of Machu Picchu, we were escorted to our hotel, Inkaterra Pueblo Hotel. Inkaterra is located in the cloud forest below the Incan ruins, so everything about this hotel was beautiful. Eager to start our hike the next morning, we nestled into our cottage and went to sleep.

Wake-up call was 4:30am, which provided us enough time to see the sunrise. Not very well-rested, we put on our hiking clothes, lathered on sunscreen (later we learned we did not put enough on), we set out to stand in line at the bus stop; the only way to get up to Machu Picchu. After a few minutes of waiting outside, we all crammed into a bus that took us up to the top, which surprisingly took longer than I anticipated – roughly forty-five minutes. By this time, it was close to 7:00am, and we did not want to waste any time. After standing in a line to get into the gates of Machu Picchu, we finally arrived! A tour guide assisted us, which is recommended because they explain everything from the history of Machu Picchu to the limestone that the Incans used to build their territorial grounds.

The first stop is Temple of the Sun. From this point, tourists can continue to hike up the hill or walk back down. Keep in mind we walked past hundreds of people hiking Machu Picchu. Along the way, we were lucky enough to see a man propose to his girlfriend, now fiancé, on top of Machu Picchu (gentlemen, take note). We encountered about fifteen alpaca that were free to leisurely walk around this main area. We learned that the Incans would carry hundreds of pounds of limestone over twenty miles just to create the barriers to protect Machu Picchu. The tour guide had a smile on his face the entire time he was with us. After three hours with him, we were certain he told us everything we needed to know about Machu Picchu.

After our tour was over, my sister and I insisted on hiking further up to see Inti Punku, more commonly known as, Sun Gate. My dad decided he had enough hiking and sun for the day so he opted out and went back to our hotel. From Temple of the Sun, Sun Gate is about an hour and a half hike uphill and it is not meant for everyone. It is a very strenuous walk, and I bashfully admit that I had to stop numerous times to catch my breath. No matter how long it takes you to get to the top of Inti Punku, you will be sure that it was well worth the hike. Reaching the top of Sun Gate was like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I could not tell if I was sweating profusely down my face or crying tears of joy once we finally made it to the top. The view was jaw dropping and hands down the most phenomenal view in the world. After catching our breaths, Olivia and I took a couple dozen of pictures to prove that we made it to Sun Gate. We realized that the hour and a half hike up the hill also meant hiking an hour and a half down the hill. Machu Picchu does not allow anyone to bring any food or drinks into the park, so we were becoming very dehydrated, especially from the high altitude! Once we made our way back down Sun Gate to the Temple of the Sun, we were exhausted. By 3:30pm, we decided that we did more than enough hiking at Machu Picchu and made our way back to Inkaterra.

Being the most popular hike in South America, I am extremely lucky to have been able to experience Machu Picchu. If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would say yes in a heartbeat. If I had more days visiting Machu Picchu, I would have done things a little differently. First, I would have allowed my body to become acclimated to the high altitude. High altitude sickness involves anything from a headache to vomiting and is only treated with time. I also would have tried out different restaurants at the base of Machu Picchu. We were pressed for time, so we only ate at Inkaterra and on the train while visiting. I also would have taken another day or two to hike up Wayna Picchu, or Huayna Picchu. This is a very steep mountain towering the south end of Machu Picchu. According to our tour guide, this is where high Incan priests would reside. The path uphill is even more strenuous than Sun Gate. That being said, Wayna Picchu is restricted to four hundred visitors per day and tickets must be purchased in advance. Maybe one day I will get to go back and discover the beauty at Wayna Picchu.

Until then, I will drink my coca tea and reminisce through the pictures I was able to take during my time at Machu Picchu. I can now cross off my bucket list that I went to one of the Seven Wonders of the World and only hope that I can continue to travel the world to discover more phenomenal manmade wonders.

[portfolio_slideshow id=23937]

English-ifying the World

english

Group post by Carolin Lehmann, Angie Pi, Connie Liou, Sara Bechtold, and Sam Roth

Communication is one of the most fundamental tools of human existence, and stretching back to the days of Babel, humanity has struggled to fully understand the ideas and intentions of the fellow man. In today’s globalized community, many are experiencing heavy Western influences, particularly the spread of the English language throughout the world. Along with more people learning the language, English words are finding their way into foreign languages. Among those under this “English-ification”, countries in Europe and Asia have expressed strong reactions to the spread of the language.

English is sneaking into the German language, and the criticism is hard to ignore. Many Germans are set on protecting their language, and are not impressed by English words like “cool” being thrown into the mix. New “German” words are even being made up, based off English words. For example, the English word “austerity” has been turned into “austerität” – a completely made up word. The correct German term would be “haushaltskonsolidierung.” To take the issue even farther, Germans like Matthias Nöllke find these English words being said in an American accent even more horrendous. According to Nöllke, Germans who throw an English word with a strong American accent into a sentence want to sound worldly, but really just sound pretentious and laughable. German words are notoriously long, but that may soon be a thing of the past. Words are becoming faster, shorter and more English. “Kontaktieren” has turned into “kontakten.” The infusion of the English language may be thanks to America’s presence in Germany after World War II as well as the popularity of Hollywood worldwide. The American’s role in the creation of the new German government may be one cause of the resentment. The German youth want to sound like their favorite American celebrities, but the older set are still bitter. Apart from this bitterness, many place value on protecting the many different languages found around the world.

English is not the only language sneaking into the German language. In recent years, Western Europe has seen large increases in their immigrant populations, which also plays a factor in changes in the standard language. Many immigrants come from Turkey, Russia, former Soviet Bloc and Arab nations. Immigrants’ native languages play just as big a role in influencing modern German as English by mainly simplifying German grammar. It is not uncommon to also see words from an immigrant’s native language sprinkled in German too, but English words find their way into other native languages as well.

There is huge controversy and discrimination towards immigrants in Germany and other dominant Western European nations. For a long time European nations have always been pretty homogeneous: in Germany they speak German and in France they speak French. German speaking people feel that German has adopted so much English that they feel like they must also learn English to understand what’s happening in the media, advertising, economics and politics. European natives feel, with globalization and multinationalism on the rise, that the uniqueness of their nation is at risk.

The English language did not sneak into the Japanese language. It was invited inside for a drink or four and asked to stay. The Japanese language is no stranger to loanwords, or words that are borrowed from other languages. Japanese can be broken down into three categories: wago (words native to Japan), kango (words native to China), and gairaigo (words native to all other foreign countries. Although gairaigo are originated from many countries such as France and Germany, the Japanese foreign loanwords dictionary is completely dominated by English.
Prior to World War II, Japan lived in isolation. Following the war, Japan opened itself up to trade in the West and became occupied by Americans for the next seven years. Upon doing so, Japan took this as an opportunity to modernize their country, with the United States as one of their models. This sparked Japan’s love of American culture as well as a heavy influence on the Japanese language. Because of Japan’s isolation, they did not have the modern terminology simply because they did not know such things existed. The country adopted English words for compensation.

Since then, the list has spread not only to words out of compensation but words that were already wago. For example, words like “milk” has both the Japanese word gyuunyuu (牛乳) as well as the loanword miruku. The language has also evolved to include tons of loanwords that translate into something completely different from their English origins. For example, the Japanese word for “air conditioner” is kuuraa or “cooler.” This makes translation and understanding of certain words much more confusing, but it also shows that the Japanese language’s influence spread farther than necessity for the word. Some believe that because speaking English was associated with a certain prestige in Japan, using English loanword terminology brought on that same effect. Others may believe that using the loanwords for humor or to lighten the mood of certain subjects.

Although history has shown us that the Japanese very willingly adapted English into their language, today there are more people coming out to criticize the increase of English loanwords for being too overwhelming or for generating confusion. The complaints have gone from blogger digs at the usage of loanwords up to a man suing NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, for distress due to the large usage of English loanwords in their program and thus making Japan more Americanized.

A modern Japan, illustrating American influence (http://dexomega.kinja.com/cultural-diffusion-between-the-united-states-and-japan-1484640071)

A modern Japan, illustrating American influence (http://dexomega.kinja.com/cultural-diffusion-between-the-united-states-and-japan-1484640071)

Similar to Japan, South Korea also uses loanwords. They say “ai syopping”, or 아이 쇼핑, to say “eye shopping” which refers to window shopping. A popular term used by South Koreans that some non-Koreans may recognize is “paiting” or “hwaiting”, a loanword from “fighting”, which is a term South Koreans use to encourage someone as they’re going through a difficult trial. For example, that would be our way of saying, “You got this!” or “Go get ‘em!”

Not only are South Koreans using loanwords, a great number of them are learning English. On the English proficiency index, South Korea is categorized under moderate proficiency, ranked number twenty-four amongst non-English speaking countries, and number three amongst Asian countries. To put it into perspective, China is categorized under low proficiency, ranked number thirty-seven amongst non-English speaking countries, and number eleven amongst Asian countries. What this shows is that South Korea’s English proficiency is much greater than most of its neighboring countries and even those with greater economies and globalization.

So how did South Korea get to this level of English proficiency? It can be attributed to South Korea’s obsession with the attainment of education. This goes back centuries and has ties to Confucian attitudes about education. South Koreans believe that education is a means to status and power and is the most powerful way to achieve upward social mobility and economic prosperity. Being educated in the English language gives Koreans a more advanced education which they believe will have benefits later down the road, so Korean parents are emphasizing, even imposing, English education for their children.

There are people in South Korea who oppose such an emphasis on English. Those who are against it fear that Korea will lose its culture and national identity, especially with the rapidly growing, global economy of South Korea. Discussion about the use of English in Korea is tricky and surrounded by conflict and debate, but in the end, few would argue against its necessity for South Korea’s rapidly expanding economy.

What do you think? Is the English-ification of many countries an acceptance of a global community and cooperative environment, or is it a detriment to the preservation of culture and identity? Comment below.

Food: A Trip Around the Globe

Food is the power of the world. It drives the human mind and body, driving and developing the world that we live in today. Observing this universal use of food, we see astounding differences in its custom; whether it’s in the context of taste, consumption, historical or economic context. Though with the globalization of the world’s markets, especially food, why aren’t we all consuming or  accessing the same kinds of food? The affective factor: culture and its encompassing inclusion of the differences in people, and the values they hold. Reasons for these differences are especially clear when we take a closer look at the importance, value, and culture of food in the context of individual countries.

Our first trip is to Asia, taking a look at the cuisine on the other side of the world. A stop at Thailand; Thai cuisine echoes the country’s proximity to the ocean with aquatic animals playing a large role in a wide number of their dishes, and rice is paramount in the region. Beyond these, plants and herbs make a notable appearance in the common cuisine. Many Thais combine the tastes of salty, sweet, sour, and spicy into one meal. Dessert is often made using fruit or rice.

Due to the country’s Buddhist background, large cuts of meat are not typically used in cooking. Instead, meat is often shredded and combined with herbs and spices. Stewing, baking, and grilling were all traditional preparation techniques, but over time, countries including Japan, China, and Portugal have influenced preparation styles and content.

Thailand imports a vast amount of its food. In fact, it’s number 20 on the list of countries to which the U.S. exports food . At the same time, Thailand is one of the world’s leading suppliers of rice, sugar, shrimp, and pineapple.

For many Thais, eating alone is considered to be bad luck. Eating is a social occasion in Thailand, and people share the dishes they buy with the people with whom they’re eating. Thai food isn’t served in different courses as customary in western culture, and instead is served all at once. Thai culture emphasises a harmony of tastes in each dish and throughout the entire meal.

Thai Dish

Traditional Thai dish crispy pork with a fried egg atop the jasmine rice served with chili sauce. Courtesy of: 123rf.com

 

Our next visit will be to the Northeast of Asia. the food culture here is highly connected with religious perspective; both Buddhism and Confucianism, emphasizing nature-friendly cultivation. According to Chinese legend, chopsticks were invented by a Confucian philosopher in 500 B.C. because forks and knives were considered symbols of war. China, Korea, and Japan have similar religious and cultural backgrounds in cuisine, due to their history of trade.

The region’s food focuses on myriad tastes in one dish; fats, oils, and sauces are emphasized in cooking. Stir-fry has been a popular way to cook Chinese food, whereas grilling and boiling are customary in Korean food. Japanese food has been connected with deep-frying or raw foods, but modern daily meals in Northeast Asia have been influenced by globalization and western cultures.

The prices of food ingredients in our Northeast Asian countries are lower than in the U.S. and European countries, but are found to be higher than those in other Asian nations, but vary depending city and region of country. Interestingly, Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo are surprisingly high compared to the prices found in New York City. This is most probably due to the high level in food import, with China leading the world. Though, Korea and Japan both import meats and vegetables from America, China, and other Asian countries.

Japanese Dish

Nigiri shusu photo by Jerry Doughut@flickr

 

On to Europe, where we will first take a taste of German cuisine. Typically, when one thinks of Germany, it’s unlikely that food is the first cultural aspect to come to mind. Contrary to popular thoughts, Germany has a very diverse selection; ranging from the simple pork and potatoes, to a variety of seafood dishes. Cooking styles vary per region, with a particularly vast difference between the East and West.

German cuisine consists of three main foods: meat, “Grundnahrungsmittel” (a staple food typically bread or potatoes), and some vegetable (such as asparagus or cabbage). German meals are generally separated into breakfast, lunch, and dinner like in the U.S. Though, in Germany, lunch is typically the largest meal as compared to dinner in the U.S.

Meals in Germany are usually social events and drinks are served with most. The most common alcoholic beverages are beer, brandy, and schnapps. German beer is widely known as the best in the world, due to the government ruling of Deutsche Reinheitsgebot in the sixteenth century. This “law of purity” required all beers to be made with the same three ingredients: water, hops, and barley.

One of the most prominent differences between German and American food cultures is found in shopping practice. In most cases, Americans will take the one-stop-shop approach and go to large supermarkets to buy everything. In Germany, shopping is a longer process. Though Germans have supermarkets, it is normal for the average citizen to go to two or three different stores (such as bakeries or butchers) in one trip.

German Dish

Traditional German Plate: sausage, potatoes, and vegetables Courtesy of: http://afifaskana.com/

 

A quick hop on the train and we are in France. The French are widely known as the cuisine experts of the world. The culture is strong, and valued highly among its citizens. Known famously for their cheeses, breads, pastries, and wine, they hold “haute” standards for the quality and exclusiveness of their products. For example, carbonated wine is legally only allowed to be called champagne if it is produced and exported from the champagne area in the French countryside. Their ability to produce the only real champagne in the world is a staple of France’s exclusivity when it comes to production.

Their largest food exports solidify their reputation in their renowned areas of production. According to the OEC, France’s 7th largest overall export is wine, making up nearly two percent of its $532 billion in exports, securing them as the number one exporter of wine in the world. At number 13, holding the number five spot in world wheat exportation. Not far behind, at 15th is hard liquor, number two exporter in the world. Finally we land on cheese at number 20. This may be a surprise to some, as France is widely known for their cheese. But the differences in pasteurization laws (although the gap in law is closing drastically) governing French cheese have affected its ability to be exported, especially to the United States.

It is bread though, that has had the greatest affect on French cuisine. The casual veins of the French Revolution run deep into the heart of humanitarianism, but interestingly enough, bread had a provocative effect on the efforts as well. Bread was the staple of the common man’s diet, and royalty was in its control. According to Sylvia Neely’s A Concise History of the French Revolution, the average 18th-century worker spent half of his daily wage on bread. Then wheat crops failed in 1788-89, expenditure rose to 88% of the common worker’s wage. Commoners placed blame on their monarchist government, and the bread crisis served to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, igniting revolution.

To the dismay of the French people and their cuisine, its artistry and presence in the world has been declining vastly since even the ‘60s, according to the New York Times. Globalization has been tough on the classic French cuisine, though the innovation and evolution it has inspired is overshadowed by the fact that France has been McDonald’s second most profitable market. French food culture has impacted cuisines all over the world, and it is far from disappearance.

French Dish

Du vin, du frômage, du pain, Courtesy of: http://thedish.restaurant.com/

 

Flying south, we find ourselves in India, where approximately half of Indian people eat rice as their staple food. Others consume wheat, barley, maize and millet. Some of India’s foods are from thousands of years ago such as  wild grains, herbs and plants. A lot of food that is still popular in Indian culture today are from the Indus time period, including those mentioned above. The Indus valley people cooked with ginger, green peppers, oil, and turmeric root that was grounded down into an orange powder-like substance. Today, most Indian food is cooked using turmeric.

When Arayan speaking people entered India, leafy veggies, lentils, milk products and spices such as cumin and coriander were introduced. Compared to the United States, food in India is much more flavorful because of the variety of spices used. Food in India is usually made with up to twenty-five spices per meal! Their flavors are very elaborate and distinct to their culture.

Depending on their religion, Indian people will consume meat. If they are Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and Christians, then they all eat meat. However if they are a lower class Hindu, they will eat any meat but beef. Hindus of the highest class are more often than not vegetarian and rarely even consume eggs.

With most of the population living in rural areas, about 73% of people rely on farming for employment. They sell many crops in urban markets within India and mainly export tea, coffee and a spice called cardamom. However, agriculturally, India is far behind their economic potential due to lack of technology and negative government involvement of labor, land and credit markets. Overall, these impacts are causing India’s potential economic growth to suffer.

Indian Dish

Traditional Indian curry chicken Courtesy of: recipes.sparkpeople.com

 

Finally, a look at world nutrition. Many countries not only utilize and consume products differently depending on the culture, but also control these products with their own rules and regulations. Many rules and regulations typically aim to meet specific sanitation and overall health requirements. In European countries, food safety guidelines seek to use minimal processing and prefer to utilize more traditional methods for growing and preparing food.

In comparing a culture such as the United States to a culture of an Asian or European country, dietary consumption and nutritional sources seem to greatly differ. When taking a closer look at the Mediterranean diet, which is more popular in Greek and Italian culture, it becomes quite obvious how factors such as processed and genetically modified foods serve as part of the problem for obesity in the U.S. Mediterranean dietary practices mostly consist of fresh homegrown vegetables, and also consist of little to no processed foods.

Access to food is another key factor that drives what, when, and how much people in different countries eat. In the U.S. food is located on every corner and in every direction that we turn. The problem is that fast and easily accessible food too often consists of a high caloric intake and very minimal nutritional value. In most other cultures, physical activity plays a major role in transportation for access to food, seemingly fighting off obesity one step at a time.

By: Conner Slater, George Ash, hayden Huff, Thomas Hyun, Lauren Imbierowicz, Mark McCord

LGBT Issues Across Borders

From an American perspective, when we think of France, we think of them as generally being more progressive with regards to aspects of life such as trends, socializing, and relationships. We think of their trends as being “hip,” and stylish, considering Paris is the fashion capitol of the world. We also think of France’s more liberal culture of sexuality, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) rights, and gay marriage.

One would think that France would be extremely accepting of LGBT rights, especially when compared to the United States, who has jumped on board with it within the past several years. Instead, France has actually been fighting for its LGBT rights for a very long time, and even now that it’s legalized, France has still been facing some of the most violent and radically extreme of backlash and protests.

Protesters taking the streets against the same-sex marriage bill passed, photo from Google.com

Protesters taking the streets against the same-sex marriage bill passed. (Photo from Google.com)

Dating back to 1791, homosexual rights have been sought after. Supporters of LGBT rights have fought for its decriminalization, lessened the bans of sexuality, and legalized same-sex marriage in 2003. The timeline regarding LGBT rights highlights some of the milestone years that have proved to be of significance to the movement.

People who have been social justice warriors for LGBT rights, either for themselves, friends, family, or humanity in general, are still facing social segregation and discrimination, unfortunately leading to violence. One would think France has come so far and the world is adapting to be more accepting of issues like LGBT rights. France has come very far, yes, but not far enough.

gay mar

Same-sex couple delighted that marriage bill is passed. (Photo from Ms.Blog)

Less than 10 days after France legalized same-sex marriage, it was in the news again. On a Saturday and Sunday at the end of May 2013, emotions on same-sex and non-traditional marriage hit a breaking point. On France’s Mother’s Day, a generally peaceful march of well over 150,000 protesters converged in front of the Invalides.

A separate, smaller march by conservative Christians also made its voice heard. Nineteen demonstrators were arrested after climbing onto the headquarters of the Socialist Party and unfurled a banner calling for the resignation of President François Hollande’s resignation. Hollande, after all, was the one who signed the equality bill into existence earlier in the month.

Streets are flooded with demonstrations and protests. 

Demonstrators included religious leaders and followers, the conservative French (especially Roman Catholics) who thought “gay couples should have equal rights, but within an institution other than marriage” and those objecting to gay couples adopting children.

The night before the largely peaceful Sunday protests was a more volatile showing. On Saturday night, 59 people were arrested “after chaining themselves to metal barricades on the Champs-Élysées.”

After the legalization of same-sex marriage, tens of thousands gathered to protest in fron of the Invalides in Paris. (Credit Etienne Laurent/European Pressphoto Agency)

After the legalization of same-sex marriage, tens of thousands gathered to protest in fron of the Invalides in Paris. (Credit Etienne Laurent/European Pressphoto Agency)

Or at least, that was the New York Time’s report of the protests. The Independent took a much more impassioned angle.

“About 200 young people, many of them masked, pelted police lines with bottles, stones, fireworks and flares. The crowd – led bizarrely at one stage by a lone bagpiper – chased and beat up TV crews and press photographers. Police and gendarmes responded with tear gas and baton charges.”

The Independent also addresses the discrepancies in turnout Police put the turnout at 150,000. The organizers claimed 1,000,000. Other organizers estimated over 400,000, which seemed closest to the mark.”

France was the 14th country to legalize same-sex marriage, and it continues to face the longstanding obstacles that have been holding LGBT couples back for centuries.

France’s LGBT tolerance since the bill and protests. 

*Happy News*

Not only did opponents of the gay rights and LGBT parenting bill protest, but supporters of the bill also held their own demonstrations. Just two days after the largest protest against the bill happened, 125,000 people took to the streets and staged their own demonstration in favor of these human rights.  There were also more than 7,000 same-sex couples that got married in 2013 after the bill was passed.

In January of 2015, the French court validated its first Franco-Moroccan gay marriage. A ban had previously stated that a Moroccan citizen could not marry a French person of the same sex abroad or in Morocco, but “the court put an end to the discriminatory interference” and allows the two to marry.

"People take part in a demonstration for the legalisation of gay marriage and LGBT parenting, in Paris on January 27, 2013" (AFP Photo / Thomas Samson)

“People take part in a demonstration for the legalisation of gay marriage and LGBT parenting, in Paris on January 27, 2013” (AFP Photo / Thomas Samson)

*Sad News*

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma against the LGBT community in France regardless of the bill. Segregation against people who are gay is relevant and ongoing in France. Separate nursing homes for France’s elderly homosexual population has since been discussed with France’s Prime Minister for the Elderly. In the months following the first round of protests, popular Twitter hashtags were #LesGaysDoiventDispaîratreCar (#GaysMustDie) and #BrulonsLesGaysSurDu (#letsburngays).

In February of 2014, tens of thousands of people, mostly right-wing conservatives, protested once again against France’s legalization of gay marriage. Not only that, but protesters were also demanding “the scrapping of an experimental school programme aimed at combatting gender stereotypes.” Members who identify as within the LGBT community still face structural and systematic oppression.

Paris, France: February 2, 2014, thousands of protesters against same-sex couples to adopt or have children. (Photo by Kristy Sparow/Getty Images)

Paris, France: February 2, 2014, thousands of protesters against same-sex couples to adopt or have children. (Photo by Kristy Sparow/Getty Images)


LGBT rights in francophone countries and around the world.

As is evident by the continuous discussion of LGBT issues and rights (or lack of rights) in virtually every news medium, the topic is of universal interest. Though not the first country to legalize same-sex marriage, Belgium became the first francophone country, and the second country in the world to do so in 2003.

Prior to this decision, Belgium had given limited rights to same-sex couples since 1998 with a law allowing these couples to formally register for joint responsibility of their household. The law passed with minimal controversy across the traditionally socially divided country.

In 2003, Belgium officially allowed and recognized same-sex marriage, and in 2006 the government passed a law allowing partners the right to adopt children. Since then, Belgium has become known as the LGBT “paradise” to many, even though historically Belgium was outwardly conservative, Catholic and prone to xenophobia – traits that would suggest more of a struggle for those promoting LGBT rights.

 Supporters march for LGBT rights in Belgium. (Photo from flanderstoday.eu)

Supporters march for LGBT rights in Belgium. (Photo from flanderstoday.eu)

Moving forward, Luxembourg, a country smaller than Rhode Island but consisting of three official languages, became the 20th country to fully legalize same-sex marriage in mid 2014. Luxembourg’s Prime Minister, openly gay Xavier Bettel championed the bill that would allow “gay and lesbian couples to wed and to adopt children.” Previously, the country had recognized same-sex partnerships after a bill granting this registration was passed in 2004.

As is the case both economically and politically, it seems that countries in Africa have historically had a harder time progressing. In the case of LGBT issues, most countries in the continent have the same issue. In 2009, francophone country Burundi made significant steps backward, banning same-sex relationships in any form. Scholars commonly cite colonization of African countries as reasons for lack of progressiveness in African countries in general, yet during it’s years as a colonized state, Burundi had no legacy of any laws prohibiting same-sex relationships.

Although some headway has been made in progressing LGBT rights worldwide, in the grander scheme, arguably only baby steps have been made this far.

Author Team: Skyler Alderton, Hanna Jacunski, Allissa Fisher, and Julia Schaller

Russia, Right-Wing Extremism, and the Threat to European Unity

By David Campbell & C.T. Souder 

The response on the part of Europe’s extreme right-wing towards Russia’s posturing has been, well, positive. In nearly all instances, the extreme right has at the very least voiced support for Russian policy. Voices like those of Marien le Pen (France) and Viktor Orban (Hungary) have added to the narrative that Russia is involved in a culture war, both domestically and abroad.

In some cases, as with the Front National in France, political parties have courted (and received) financial support from Russian banks. Cash-strapped political parties and their receipt of financial assistance from Russia, causes concern for a larger problem. What would happen if Greece left the EU? Would they too, only on a national level, court the financial assistance of Russian banks and/or government? Though all parties involved maintain their own self-interests, it is to the benefit of those same parties combined, to sew the seeds of discord within the EU.

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been positioning his country for closer ties with Russia. Orban represents a type of Hungarian nationalism. Though Hungary is part of the European Union, Orban’s government (which until recently enjoyed a two-thirds parliamentary majority) is increasingly involved in efforts that seperate it from its EU counterparts. Orban unabashedly advocates for a Hungary free of western influence; Orban’s goal is for Hungary to be a self-sufficient state both economically and militarily. This sense of independence, even superiority, is not exactly compatible with EU ideals.

Orban: http://budapestbeacon.com/politics/viktor-orbans-speech-and-gordon-bajnais-rejoinder/

 

Whereas the EU would argue what is in the interest of one member must also be in the interest of Union, Orban would argue that what is best for the Union is not always best for Hungary. Orban does not agree with the EU’s stance towards Russia, hence his relationship with Vladimir Putin has grown closer.
Hungary’s relationship with Russia is not merely the result of an international culture war, though it certainly has an impact. More than anything, economics are what drive Orban and his party to court Russian approval. Hungary’s energy needs are largely dependent on Russia and if Orban has his way, Russian energy will continue to be the main supplier for energy needs in Hungary. Orban is actively seeking a nuclear deal with Russia, despite the disapproval of the the EU and the Hungarian opposition. Should this deal come to fruition, it will further cement Hungary’s relationship with Russia. The proposed energy deal between Hungary and Russia is an example of open defiance of the EU. It appears that when the EU is inclined to deny certain actions on the part of member-states, Russia is more than happy to assist in making such actions become reality.

In terms of right-wing goals, Orban is the only representative of such interests who posseses the ability to realize those interests at the national level. Orban’s rule as Prime Minister puts him in the unique position of being able to enact policy, in favor of or opposed to EU standards. This reality is precisely what gains him international intention, both from the west and from the east. Hungary is now situated between two ideologies: liberal democracy and authoritarian, nationalist rule. Other member-states of the EU see a Hungary that is governing in contrast to western political values. Hungary supports the sanctions against Russia, although this stance is tenuous at best. Vladimir Putin visited Hungary last month, where he received a warm welcome. Orban openly supports Putin and seeks to emulate the current style of Putin’s governance.

Other extreme right parties in Europe are positioning themselves for closer ties with Putin as well. Marien la Pen of France’s Front National (FN) is not shy about her support of Russian policy. Perhaps it is better stated that she is not shy about her lack of support for the EU. La Pen embodies the idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Thus, her party’s hard line positions, which cause revulsion among many in Europe, are cause for support in Russia. La Pen is positioned now, perhaps more than ever, to become a viable force in French politics. She knows this, as does Putin. Accordingly, La Pen does not criticize Putin’s annexation of the Crimea, nor his involvement in the broader Ukrainian Civil War. In fact, le Pen is openly critical of what she considers to be the EU’s role in creating the Ukrainian crisis. She insists that the EU forced the Ukraine to choose between the west and Russia; such a choice, in her own estimation, was bound to result in a crisis, given the ethnic and cultural connection that much of the Ukraine shares with Russia.

RASSEMBLEMENT DU FRONT NATIONAL AU PALAIS ROYAL

La Pen: https://www.cambridgelibertarians.org.uk/blog/2013/no-platform-for-marine-le-pen-a-response/

 

Marine la Pen has also supported Russia’s stance towards Syria. Russia favors the current regime of Bashar al Assad, however such support is not assisting in the fight against ISIS. La Pen and Putin also share a disdain of the EU institution as a whole. It only makes sense then, that La Pen would receive a Forty-million Euro loan from Russian banks. In desperate need of cash-flow, it is in Russia’s best interest to see a euro-skeptic, nationalist, and above all else, Russophone party achieve tangible results. The relationship is mutually beneficial. FN gains international political support and Russia plants one more, disruptive seed in the EU. Hungary and France are not however, the only targets of Putin’s influence. For Putin, even the United Kingdom is ripe for sewing discord.

A reluctant entry into the European Community (EEC), subsequent political infighting, and a national referendum characterized the first few years of the United Kingdom’s membership in a Pan-European society. The UK entered the EEC with a conservative government, led by Prime Minister Edward Heath. In 1975, the aforementioned National Referendum resulted in a totality of 17.38 million (67 percent) to 8.5 million (33 percent) votes in favor of remaining. Since that time, the political winds have changed and the minority has not remained silent.

In 1993, the European Union was formed after the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty. In that same year, a right-wing political movement was given the name UKIP (UK Independence Party). Their founding issue was to cut all ties with the EU and revert to an entirely sovereign state, mixed with traditional conservative canon (low taxes, unregulated markets, personal responsibility). Today, they espouse much of the same values.

Much of UKIP’s disagreement with the UK’s involvement in the EU stems from the issue of immigration. In mass media, UKIP representatives often refer to the open borders they share with Europe as a national security risk. This notion can be fairly widespread among right-wing causes. Echoing the voices of other right-wing parties in Europe, UKIP shares an affinity for Putin’s Russian regime. By gaining in popular elections in the UK, UKIP has become well-known in a global context. Their current leader, Nigel Farage, is an advocate for their conservative cause and holds Putin in high regard. Much of the UKIP establishment also sympathize with Putin’s authoritarian method, as this YouGov study demonstrates. This study also indicates that despite their reverence, the party’s silent majority dislikes his policy.

1409959005359_wps_21_Nigel_Farage_Leader_of_UK

Farage: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2745738/No-campaigners-plead-Farage-stay-away-Scotland-announces-plans-hold-pro-Union-rally.html

 

While it is imminently important that foreign leaders maintain relationships among the establishment of European officials, one must be wary of a pervasive effect. By meeting and discussing with European right-wing party leaders, Vladimir Putin is granting them political and international legitimacy with a powerful, historic nation like Russia. This legitimacy may lead to a public perception within each respective country that these leaders are, in part, equivalent to elected officials. It is additionally likely for these parties to then rise in popularity and win elections. In practice, Vladimir Putin is attempting to buy partners in Europe. But why?

Let’s briefly explore the economic rationale. Russia is the world’s 2nd largest producer of natural gas and has, for many years, supplied it to European countries through pipelines. The smaller nations within the EU have no natural gas infrastructure and are thus dependent upon the Russian supply line. This relationship has been strained significantly by the economic sanctions placed upon Russia by the EU. Resulting in Russia’s diversification into liquid natural gas, they will ship to Asian markets where they have already had major success. By simultaneously diversifying their natural gas customer base and supporting the election hopes of right-wing European parties, Putin’s Russia can continue to make an abundance of money, while possibly regaining his former customers in Europe.

Wallstreet Journal

Natural Gas Figures: http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-russia-china-deal-could-further-hit-natural-gas-prices-1415614816

 

 

 

À bientôt, Paris!

I was fortunate enough to start my international travel endeavors early than most in life; as a seventeen year old that had just graduated high school, I was privileged enough to go abroad to Paris, France with some of my close friends, teachers, and my mom through EF Tours. Although it was only for a week, my trip to Paris was one that shaped my college experience and aspirations, making me crave international travel and the prospect of learning about different languages and cultures so exciting. The only thing I regret about Paris is what most do: there simply isn’t enough time to cover everything it has to see, offer, or experience.

The typical landmarks, The Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, l’Opera de Palais, the Palace of Versailles, Notre Dame, the Luxembourg Gardens, and the Eiffel Tower were all covered in my weeklong trip. We were able to go with a large group of students from all over the United States through EF Tours, so there were a large number of us getting to know each other and explore the city. I am a self-proclaimed history and art buff, j’adore les musees, so seeing the city itself with its extensive history from the books and movies was surreal to say the least.

Seeing only the basic French icons wasn’t enough for me though. I want to go back. For weeks. Months. Maybe a year. Backpacking across Europe perhaps? It’s just a thought. But with this thought I have done some significant background research, and if I could spend another week in Paris, I would make it count. I’m not saying I would go wild, throwing all cares out the window. I still want to see the grand views, but not the ones that are the first that are thought of when one thinks of Paris. If I could go back, here are the places I would like to see that I missed out on before.

 

One, I would like to visit the catacombs. Yes, skeletons and bones are creepy, however this holds significant history and represents a darker time in Europe’s history. It shows how far today’s civilization has come with respects to health and vaccines. The catacombs are made up of 6 million people, known as “The World’s Largest Cemetery.”

I attempted this when I was in Paris, but ran out of time: I want to climb the stairs to the top of Notre Dame. Growing up watching so many Disney movies (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) seeing the Notre Dame Bell Tower is obviously one of my top priorities when I go back.

Pantheon de Paris.Yet again with the creepy burial sites, this is known to be the crypt to some of France’s most known contributors to science and literature: Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Marat, Emile Zola, Jean Moulin, Soufflot, Louis Braille, and Marie Curie. The Pantheon was originally built as a church. Under Louis XV there were discrepancies in construction, mainly because of different styles and financial problems, so the Pantheon has its own unique style and architecture to it.

 

A couple others that are on my list are Saint Chapelle and La Conciergerie. Just like anyone else, I’d love the chance to “see it all,” in France, the beautiful French country sides, the vineyards, small, quaint towns, ride a bike down an empty, forgotten road and explore. However, until the day I am able to embark on all of these adventures abroad, I just have to continue to plan and research for my next week to Paris.

FIFA’s Effect on the World

Since its founding in 1930, the Fifa World Cup has grown to be one of the largest recognized sporting events among the globe. After the first World Cup series, taking place in Uruguay, the event has taken place in a different country every four years, and will return to Russia in the year 2018. With preparation for the next World Cup, there is also much discussion whether the cup is completely beneficial to a country’s well-being or if it is possible that there might be more harm done than there is good to the country in the long run. We will explore the perspectives of different countries throughout the cup’s history in the aspects of cultural, economic, and political standpoints to find if hosting the 2018 World Cup is truly as great as it has been hyped up to be. 

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, otherwise known as FIFA, is the sport of soccer’s global governing body. In 1928 Uruguay’s men’s national soccer team retained their title at the summer Olympic games, causing them to be selected as the host country of the inaugural 1930 FIFA World Cup. The first World Cup included 13 teams representing 3 continents and has dramatically grown since then. Today, the World Cup tournament includes 32 teams from all corners of the world. Since the inaugural tournament, the championship has taken place every four years with the exception of the 1942 and the 1946 seasons due to World War II. The tournament has been played 20 times with only 8 different nations having won it.

Because of soccer’s worldwide popularity, FIFA doesn’t just represent a sport; the organization represents international politics, human rights, major business transactions, and many other categories. FIFA controls the media rights to an event that 1/9th of the world’s population watches and they also control the placement of the World Cup. Because of this, FIFA has a great deal of power and billions of dollars in its sway. As John Sugden puts it in his book FIFA and the Contest for World Football: Who Rules the People’s Game?, “membership of FIFA…is the clearest signal that a country’s status as a nation state has been recognized by the international community.” By simply being associated with FIFA a country automatically gains credibility. With great power comes great responsibility and that is one thing FIFA has taken a lot of criticism for over the years. Issues such as labor disputes, financial mismanagement, and corruption within the organization have all come up. Regardless of all these controversies, FIFA remains to be a global power and the leading force in soccer.

There are many economic, fiscal, and political implications that come along with a country’s hosting of super-sporting events, such as the FIFA World Cup or the Olympics. Many question what factors are looked at when deciding what countries should host such events, as well as what the long term effects the host country has.

In 2010 South Africa hosted the FIFA world cup. It has been interesting to see how their country has evolved in the years since then. One major argument for the selection of South Africa for the tournament was the social standing of so many of its citizens. Nearly 50% living in poverty, and a quarter of the population unemployed. Reports state that the South African Government spent nearly $1.48 Billion on construction and renovation of Soccer Stadiums for the tournament alone, let alone all the interior renovation done to the country. Soccer stadiums should not be a place of major political spending of the government.

Another major argument against hosting these tournaments is the wasteful construction of the stadiums. Although, five South African stadiums were able to be renovated, an additional five new stadiums had to be built in order to host the World Cup. These stadiums were built to contain between 40,000 and 64,000 people (in comparison Faurot Field holds about 71,000).The top soccer team in South Africa, the ABSA Premiership, averaged less than 8,000 people in attendance per game in the 2009-2010 season. A mere 2% of the games held that season drew more than 40,000 people. (Forbes) There was not the slightest chance of South Africa being able to put these stadiums to good use after the World Cup was done with them. This has happened to many countries in the past, and now these once state of the art stadiums now sit in ruins collecting dust.

Although there are a few countries that manage to benefit in the long term from these events, such as Sydney Australia, the general outcome is very negative. These mega-events almost resemble a virus, coming in, using the benefits of the country while they’re there, and then moving on, leaving the country to deal with the rotting remains. Meanwhile FIFA has moved on to the next country who so badly vied for the chance to host.

The FIFA World Cup is a time where cultures collide and competition is high.  Japan and South Korea instilled their culture on the world through making a mark on history, inviting everyone into their past, and exposing the world to their lifestyle.  The first cup in Asia was in 2002 when Korea and Japan merged together to co-host the World Cup.  This was the first and last time two different countries have hosted the cup.

This symbolic gesture of unity impacted all those involved.  Since the historical clash of World War II, the neighboring countries have experienced aggressive interactions.  The symbolism of Japan putting past mistreatment by the Allies behind them to unify for Asia created peace in the competition.  Although, there was concern of possible foul play or terrorist acts, the hosting of World Cup 2002 brought both cultures together successfully without hostility.  The competition included festivities and ceremonies that all coincide with the host country’s underlying strive for unity.

Japan and Korea started their festivities prior to the opening ceremony.  With the Flag Festival, “Poetry of the Winds”, they wished success upon the World Cup to promote harmony during the tournament.  Following the South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung’s public welcome, “I declare the 2002 FIFA World Cup open!” the cup began.  Japan and South Korea’s opening ceremony combined both cultures into one unified message.  According to The Journal of Sport Management, Japan and Korea came together and through the focus of a commonly respected sport, sprouted change and unity.  The 2002 World Cup proves that the tournament is constructive for world relations.

 Lastly, this idea of a unification stretches across borders in a way that most countries normally cannot. The World Cup brings countries together despite economic, diplomatic and cultural disputes and disconnections. It allows the world to come together under a common interest. As a result, the FIFA World Cup has grown into a legacy in the last seventy-five years, unmatched even by the Olympics. Its global spotlight, undeterred by international conflict, has given it such a compelling history. Despite the issues of corruption and the dropout from the short lived economic bump for the host country, this exposure of global integration allows for the progression of international relations through something as simple as a soccer tournament.

 This post was written collaboratively by Logan Drake, Tim O’Brien, Colleen Mahoney, Jake Diamond, and Jake Jost.