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Dove - Evolution Commercial

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reginald Pike's Yael Staav takes us from model to billboard in under 60 seconds in this impressive new spot from Dove.


Global Food Crisis

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Food shortages and price increases spark violence and debate

by Mark Hughes

The 2008 food crisis, which has seen dramatic increases in food prices and food shortages and has sparked riots and political turmoil in a number of countries, took the world by surprise. While the debate centers on identifying the causes and finding solutions, the effects have already been all too clear and are continuing to mount.

Effects of the 2008 Food Crisis

Prices for basic foods such as rice, wheat, and corn have risen 83% since 2005. Compared to the first half of 2007, food prices in 2008 have risen even more dramatically: 130% increase for wheat and an 87% increase for soy. Between March 3rd and April 23rd, 2008, the price for a metric ton of rice rose from $460 to $1,000. This almost doubling in price caused riots in Egypt and Haiti. Other nations (Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, Yemen, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, and Italy) have experienced violent protests in reaction to the increased cost of food staples.

During the summer months, twenty-nine countries have cut back on food exports to ensure their populations have enough to eat. India, Vietnam, China, and more have limited or banned exports of rice. Pakistan and Bolivia have severely capped wheat exports. Kazakhstan has even restricted exporting sunflower seeds.

Causes of the Food Crisis

Increased demand on the food supply has caused the price of food to rise. The numerous contributors to the rise in cost and the reduction in supply include biofuels, bad weather, the historically high cost of oil and transportation, increased demand for meat and dairy, and population growth.


Plant material, or biomass, is used to produce biofuels in the form of gas or liquid fuel. Energy and environmental concerns have helped promote biofuels as a way to replace oil and natural gas. Unfortunately, biofuels seem to be exacerbating the problem of food shortage. Farmers in many industrialized nations, such as the United States, have been encouraged by their governments to switch to growing fuel crops, such as corn and soy. This reduction in domestic farming means food must be imported, which increases the overall cost of food production worldwide.

Natural Forces

Drought in Australia

Australia is normally the second largest exporter of grain, after the U.S. The continent, though, is experiencing an ongoing drought that has been described as the worst in a century. Grain yields have shrunk and many silos remain empty. Australia's drought is a major factor in global wheat stocks being at their lowest since 1979. In fact, many wheat and rice farmers are switching to crops that demand less water, such as wine grapes.


In 2008, 110 countries on every continent (excluding Antarctica) are experiencing widespread drought and desertification. Imagine the fertile, moist soil on a farm turning into the dry, blowing sand of a desert, which is what the term desertification is describing. It happens when the soil has been ruined and can no longer support life.

Overgrazing by farm and herd animals confined by fences is a big contributor to desertification. Fencing restricts the amount of land available for animals to graze, which in turn prevents the soil and plants from recovering after being trod upon and eaten. Deforestation, slash-and-burn agriculture, and the use of trees and plants as fuel have also contributed to the increasing spread
of desertification, especially in semi-arid and arid regions.

Oil and Transportation

The price of a barrel of oil exceeded $100 in 2008. Oil provides the energy needed for farmers to plant and harvest their crops. The more money it costs to grow an ear of corn translates into an increase in the cost to sell it. For instance, energy is needed to produce fertilizer, keep equipment like tractors running, and provide the fuel to transport the finished crops all over the world. Many industrialized nations no longer produce enough of their own food, which means food must be imported from elsewhere. The increase in oil and fuel prices has made the transport of food prohibitively expensive for some nations.

Meat and Dairy

Economic growth in many countries has allowed people to expand their diets, especially in China and other Southeast Asian nations. More and more people have been adding meat and dairy to the menu. Cows must eat more grain in order to supply enough meat and milk to meet demand. For instance, 700 calories of animal feed must be consumed in order to produce a 100-calorie piece of beef.

Population Growth

The human population has grown significantly in the first decade of the 21st century. As of April 2008, the global population reached 6.6 billion people, up from 6 billion in 1999. The increase in the number of people means greater competition for resources.

What is being done?

There is no simple answer to the causes of the food crisis. Biofuels are getting a lot of attention, due in part to the newness of the technology, the use of food as fuel, and whether the march toward switching energy resources over to biofuels is intensifying, if not causing, the food crisis. Rich nations are being asked to reconsider many recently passed laws and policies that promote biofuels as an alternate energy source. The United Nations is also urging rich countries to increase the amount of money they give to poorer nations for food aid. In April 2008, President Bush ordered $200 million in emergency food aid to be made available to "meet unanticipated food aid needs in Africa and elsewhere." The World Bank intends to increase its agricultural lending to Africa in 2009 to $800 million.

The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced the establishment of a task force to handle the global food crisis. One of the priorities of this task force is to close the funding gap for the UN's World Food Program (WFP) this year. By May 1st, the size of the funding gap had reached $755 million. Mr. Ban also addressed the importance of helping farmers in poor countries who have been hurt by the increasing costs of fertilizer and energy. $200 million is being made available to help farmers in the worst affected areas to boost food production, as well as $1.7 billion is going to help nations in need buy seeds.

Robert Zoellick, the head of the World Bank, worries about nations using export bans to protect their food stocks, expressing that such controls "encourage hoarding, drive up prices, and hurt the poorest people around the world." In March India banned the export of non-basmati rice, and in late April decided to tax exports of basmati rice.

26 million Latin Americans are in danger of being pushed into extreme poverty, according to the Inter-American Development Bank. The bank has implemented a $500 million credit line to increase the amount of support to help agricultural productivity and anti-poverty programs. The Mexican government has also pledged to help offset increased food costs by increasing cash subsidies to its poorest citizens.


Banned Books

Monday, August 17, 2009

The banning of books and other forms of censorship are not new. Since at least the fourth century B.C., some groups and individuals have encouraged the banning or outright destruction of reading material in the name of morality or for political or religious reasons. Here is a list of the most frequently attacked children's books in recent years and the objections to them.

Book : Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
Reason:Too depressing.

Book : Blubber, by Judy Blume
Reason: The characters curse and the mean-spirited ringleader is never punished for her cruelty.

Book : Bony-Legs, by Joanna Cole
Reason: Deals with subjects such as magic and witchraft.

Book: The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
Reason: Offensive language.

Book: Confessions of an Only Child, by Norma Klein
Reason: Use of profanity by the lead character's father.

Book: Harriet, the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh
Reason: Teaches children to lie, spy, talk back, and curse.

Book: A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich, by Alice Childress
Reason: Anti-American and immoral.

Book: The House without a Christmas Tree, by Gail Rock
Reason: Uses the word damn.

Book: In a Dark, Dark Room, and Other Scary Stories, by Alvin Schwartz
Reason: Too morbid for children.

Book: In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
Reason: Nudity; Mickey loses his pajamas during his fall in the kitchen.

Book: A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein
Reason: A suggestive illustration that might encourage kids to break dishes so they won't have to dry them.

Book: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, by William Steig
Reason: The characters are all shown as animals; the police are presented as pigs.


The Origin of Teddy Bear

Friday, August 14, 2009

In November 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt and some of his friends went on a hunting trip to Mississippi. After hours of searching, Roosevelt and his group had not come across any wild animals. Finally, the group did track down and surrounded a helpless bear. One of the guides asked the president to shoot the bear so he could win a hunting trophy. The president refused, and news reporters throughout the country spread the story of Roosevelt's kind act.

Not long after this took place, a famous cartoonist named Clifford Berryman drew a cartoon based on Roosevelt 's rescue of the bear. When a store owner in Brooklyn saw the cartoon, he decided to make toy bears to sell in his shop. He asked president Roosevelt for permission to use the name “"Teddy's Bear"” for his toys, as a reminder of the bear Roosevelt had set free. Nowadays, everyone knows these toys as Teddy Bears, but few people know that they were named after President Theodore “"Teddy"” Roosevelt.

November 14 has been designated American Teddy Bear Day.


Holy Places

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Throughout the world are places of special significance to different religious groups. Here's just a sampling of the world's sacred spots.

The Holy Land—a collective name for Israel, Jordan, and Egypt—is a place of pilgrimage for Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

The Ganges River in India is sacred to Hindus. They drink its water, bathe in it, and scatter the ashes of their dead in it.

Mount Fuji, in Japan, is sacred to the Buddhist and Shinto religions.

The Black Hills of South Dakota are a holy place for some Native American people, who travel there in quest of a vision, a moment of peace and oneness with the universe. Vision quests last four days and four nights.

Mount Fai Shan is China's sacred mountain. It is thought to be a center of living energy—a holy place for Taoists and Buddhists.

The Sacred Mosque in Mecca Saudi Arabia, is sacred to Muslims. Muslims around the world face in the direction of Mecca five times a day to pray.

Lourdes, France, is the home of a Roman Catholic shrine where the Virgin Mary was said to appear to St. Bernadette.

Kairouan, Tunisia, became one of Islam's holy cities when, according to legend, a spring opened up at the feet of a holy leader, revealing a golden chalice last seen in Mecca.


Places to See Before They Disappear

Monday, August 10, 2009

Many of the world's most wondrous and beautiful destinations are in danger of being destroyed by a combination of environmental and social factors: a warming climate, pollution, strained resources, bulging populations, and booming tourist traffic. Below are some popular locations worth visiting before they disappear.

Glaciers, Glacier National Park
United States and Canada

Glacier National Park contains some of the most beautiful, primitive wilderness in the Rocky Mountains. There are more than 200 glacier-fed lakes, high peaks, sheer precipices, large forests, waterfalls, much wildlife, and a great variety of wildflowers. However, temperature fluctuations have caused glacier growth and depletion. Ten thousand years ago, the area of Glacier National Park was covered by ice up to one mile below sea level. The latest warm period has caused the number of glaciers to decrease from 150 in 1850 to 26 today. If current global warming trends continue, there will be no glaciers left in Glacier National Park by 2030.

Venice, Italy

With as many as 40 floods per year between March and September, Venice is slowly sinking at an estimated rate of 2.5 inches every 10 ten years. Venice, a city of beauty and charm, was built as a collection of 118 separate islands, relying entirely on a canal system of about 150 canals, mostly very narrow, crossed by some 400 bridges. A severe flood in December 2008 brought renewed attention to Venice's vulnerable state and imminent fate as an underwater city.

The Dead Sea
Border between Israel and the West Bank (W) and Jordan (E)

Known as one of the saltiest water bodies in the world and the lowest dry point on earth, the Dead Sea is fed by the Jordan River and a number of small streams. Because it is located in a very hot and dry region, the Dead Sea loses much water through evaporation, causing its level to fluctuate during the year. However, inflow to the Dead Sea has been greatly reduced by the increased use of the Jordan River by Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians, who have growing populations and increased agricultural needs, resulting in falling water levels. Currently, the Dead Sea recedes about three feet each year.

Mexico City, Mexico

In the past 100 years, Mexico City has sunk more than 30 feet. The original city was built on the site of a former lake—the Aztecs built the city on a series of aquatic platforms, but when the Spanish conquered the city, they drained the lake, causing it to sink. As the city population ballooned and the demand for water increased in the 20th century, the government began pumping much of the city's supply out of the underground aquifer that once fed the lake, causing the city to sink further. No practical plan has been made for the future to provide the 22 million inhabitants of Mexico City with the water they need without destroying the city.

Taj Mahal
Agra, Uttar Pradesh state, India

A mausoleum in northern India on the Yamuna River, the Taj Mahal is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and the finest example of the late style of Indian Islamic architecture. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan ordered it built after the death of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The building, which was completed between 1632 and 1638, is visited by three to four million tourists each year. The crowds and air pollution, however, have caused irreversible damage to the building's façade, prompting tourism officials to consider closing the historic site to the public.

Pyramids of Giza
Giza, Egypt

One of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Pyramids of Giza, located outside modern Cairo, consist of three magnificent royal tombs guarded by a Sphinx. The Pyramids have been a heavily trafficked sightseeing area for centuries, but the pollution and magnitude of visitors has taken its toll on the ancient structures, which are not protected by Egyptian officials. Although camel and horseback tours are now banned from the site, the structures are still difficult to see through the crowds and vendors.

Little Green Street
London, United Kingdom

Located in the center of London, Little Green Street, is one of only a few surviving streets from Georgian England. Lined with about a dozen 18th century homes, Little Green Street only stretches a city block in length, but has survived the Blitz in World War II and three centuries of construction. As a perfect example of Regency London, it has been featured in poetry, photo shoots, and music videos, but today it is threatened by construction. Although an attempt to acquire the property failed in 2008, developers' appeals continue, and the threat of Little Green Street's destruction looms ahead.

Source: Frommer's and Columbia Encyclopedia


World's Largest Known Prime Number

Friday, August 7, 2009

Euclid proved in the 3rd century BC that there are an infinite number of prime numbers. A prime number can be divided only by itself and the number 1. Primes serve as the building blocks for all positive integers, and have applications in cryptography and other fields.

Mersenne numbers are numbers that are one less than a power of two (2n – 1). A Mersenne number that is also a prime number is called a Mersenne prime. These can be found and verified relatively quickly. Before 1952, 12 Mersenne primes were known; with the aid of computers, 30 more have been found. The eight largest have all been found by the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS), a distributed network of volunteers using their spare computer power to find the largest Mersenne primes.

The largest currently known prime, 243,112,609– 1, was found by electrical engineer Hans-Michael Elvenich on 6 Sept. 2008. It has 12,978,189 digits.


Mothers of Invention

They say necessity is the mother of invention. But mothers are the mothers of these inventions for kids.


Record-Breaking Foods

Most Noodle Strings: Simon Sang Koon Sung of Singapore really knows how to use his noodle. He made 8,192 strings of noodles from a single lump of dough in 59.29 seconds. That’s a rate of 138 noodles a second.

Largest Custard-Pie Fight: In 2000, 20 people at the Millennium Done in London, England, threw 3,312 custard pies in three minutes.

Longest Bean: Harry Hurley, of North Carolina, has a green thumb—a big one. In 1997, he grew a bean that measured 4.3 ft long.

Largest Ice-Cream Sandwich: At a promotional event in 1998 in Dubuque, Iowa, an ice-cream sandwich was made that weighed 2,460 pounds.

Largest Chinese Dumpling: In 1997, a dumpling weighing 1,058 pounds was made to celebrate the reunification of Hong Kong and China. No word on whether it was steamed or fried.
Most Expensive Meal: No, it wasn’t in McD’s. In 2001, six people in London spent a total of $62,138 on a meal in a restaurant named Petrus. Most of the money was spent on bottles of rare wine.

Largest Breakfast: In 2001, in Taiwan, 23,291 hungry people wolfed down 1,247 gallons of milk and 4,232 pounds of bread.

Longest Sandwich: Created in Italy in 2004, the loaf measured 2,081 feet in length. It was made of 2,028 pounds of flour, 112 gallons of water and 55 pounds of salt. Packed in the sandwich were 1,206 pounds of salami and mortadella, a type of cheese. The super sandwich weighed 34,275 pounds and was eaten by 19,000 people. Now that’s what we call a real hero sandwich!


Corazon Aquino

Monday, August 3, 2009

Political leader and president from (1986 to 1992) of the Philippines. In 1983 she succeeded her murdered husband, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr.(A popular critic of the Marcos administration), as leader of the opposition to President Ferdinand Marcos. No one could have imagined that Cory Aquino would become a president of the Philippines.
"As I came to power peacefully, so shall I keep it." Corazon "Cory" Aquino, the first woman to become president of the Philippines, was born in Tarlac on January 25, 1933. Her parents are Don Jose Cojuangco and Doña Demetria Sumulong. Cory was the sixth among the eight children of the Sumulong. Corazon Aquino's children are Maria Elena Aquino, Aurora Corazon, Victoria Eliza, Noynoy and Kris Aquino, her youngest child is a TV and movie personality.
Corazon Cojuangco was born into a wealthy, politically prominent family based in Tarlac province, north of Manila. In 1946, her family left for the U.S. and she enrolled at Ravenhill Academy in Philadelphia. She finished her junior and senior years at Notre Dame College in New York. She entered Mount Saint Vincent College in New York City in 1949 where she finished a Bachelor of Arts, major in French. In 1953, she returned to the Philippines to take up law at the Far Eastern University, but then abandoned further studies in 1955 to marry Benigno Aquino, who was then a promising young politician. Cory remained in the background during her husband's subsequent career, rearing their five children at home and later in exile. Her husband was assassinated upon his return to the Philippines in August 1983.
When Ferdinand Marcos unexpectedly called for presidential election in February 1986, Corazon Aquino become the unified opposition's candidate for the presidency. Though she was officially reported to have lost the election to Marcos, Aquino and her supporters challenged the results, charging widespread voting fraud. High officials in the Philippines military soon publicly renounced Marcos continued rule and proclaimed Aquino the Philippines rightful president. On February 25, 1986, both Aquino and Marcos were inagurated as president by their respective suppoerters but that same day Marcos fled the country.
In March 1986 she proclaimed a provisional constitution and soon thereafter appointed a commission to write a new constitution. The resulting document was ratified by a landslide popular vote in February 1987. Inspite of her continous popular support, Aquino faced an ongoing outcry over economic injustice, a problem that was only exacerbated by continuing warfare between the communist insurgency and a military whose loyalties to Aquino were uncertain. In general, her economic policies were criticized for being mixed or faltering in the face of mass poverty.
Aquino children are Maria Elena Aquino, Aurora Corazon, Victoria Eliza, Noynoy and Kris Aquino. Her youngest child is a TV & movie personality.


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