Iditarod Off and Mushing
March 6, 2014
It's off to the races for 69 mushers and their dog teams in the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The 975-mile race, which alternates between two starting points, began this year in Willow, Alaska, about 50 miles north of Anchorage. Competitors dawdled through Anchorage a day earlier in an 11-mile cermonial appearance. Stages range from 18 to 85 miles and wind through 21 other Alaska villages, as well, as lots of frozen snow. Competitors are required to take three separate rest stops, one of 24 hours and two of eight hours. The winner is expected to reach the finish line, in Nome, in as few as nine days.
Stonehenge 'Musical,' Study Suggests
March 6, 2014
The giant bluestones of Stonehenge might have had sonic significance, according to a new study. Researchers at the Royal College of Art in London have found evidence that several of the stones at the famous giant circle were struck in ancient times. The researchers conducted their own striking tests, on stones in the Preseli Hills, source of some of Stonehenge's bluestones, and among their observed results was a series of tones, some that sounded like deep bells. Different rocks produced different sounds, along a range of metallic sounds from bell-like sounds to gong-like intonations.
Big Changes Ahead for College Entrance Exam SAT
March 5, 2014
The SAT is changing, for the first time since 2005. Administrators of the popular university entrance exam College Board have announced major changes, among them making the essay portion of the exam optional and offering another option, that of taking the test using a computer. The new exam will appear in 2016. Reading, writing, and mathematics skills will continue to be the focus. Questions in those areas will focus more heavily on analysis, College Board officials said. In math specifically, calculators will be allowed on only a select number of questions, and overall math questions will focus more on skills with real-world application.
Mexican Pyramid Could Crumble, Scientists Say
March 5, 2014
One of Mexico's largest pyramids is in danger of collapse, scientists say. The Pyramid of the Sun, in the lost city now known as Teotihuacan, has a dry side and a wet side, as discovered by 3D imaging carried out by a group of researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The 3D scans showed that one side of the pyramid was 20 percent less dense than the other, meaning that the dry side was in danger of crumbling. The scientists said that the risk of collapse was not imminent but was very real if some sort of repairs were not made. The phenomenon, the scientists said, was the same as that observed in Mexico City, which was built on what used to be a lake, and which sinks a few inches every year. The scientists differed in their support of repair theories, with some preferring structural repairs to the stones and others preferring to shore up the earth-filled interior.
Dates Announced for Indian Elections
March 5, 2014
India has announced dates for its national elections. Voters in the world's largest democracy will vote for candidates for the 543-member parliament in nine phases from April 7 to May 12. Four days of vote-counting later, elections officials will announce results. Turnout is expected to be high. About 814 million adults are eligible to vote in India, an increase of 100 million over the same figure available for the previous national election, which took place in 2009.
Fruits, Vegetables More Popular with U.S. Students
March 4, 2014
American students are eating more fruits and vegetables, a study has confirmed. The study, from the Harvard School of Public Health, offers findings that support one of the main assertions of the authors of the new federal standards for school nutrition, launched in 2012. Those standards, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, required students to make more healthful choices for their school meals, primarily in the area of fruits and vegetables. Other changes in the standards were to make whole grains more available and to remove trans fats. In addition, limits were stipulated for sodium levels and total calories. The study surveyed more than 1,000 students in four schools, both before and after the introduction of the new standards and found a 23-percent increase in the consumption of fruit and a 16-percent increase in the consumption of vegetables. The study also found no marked increase in food waste.
Tunnels Discovered Under Alcatraz Prison
March 3, 2014
Scientists have discovered a series of tunnels under Alcatraz, the fabled prison situated on an island off San Francisco. The scientists, from Texas A&M University, found the 150-year-old tunnels using ground-penetrating radar to perform a scheduled scan of the former prison's recreation yard. But the tunnels were not a planned escape for gangster Al Capone or any of the other famous residents of Alcatraz. Rather, the tunnels, made primarily of dirt but reinforced in places with concrete, were a holdover from before the days of the prison, when the island was a military fort.
Nepal to Require Everest Climbers to Bring Back Others' Trash
March 3, 2014
The Government of Nepal has announced what amounts to a new trash tax on anyone who climbs Mount Everest. The new rules, which begin in April with the start of the climbing season, require all mountaineers and support staff who climb above Everest base camp to bring back 17 pounds of trash that is already on the mountain or pay a stiff fine. Government rules already require climbers to bring back their own trash or risk losing the $4,000 deposit that they pay before being granted passage upward. To get that money back, climbers have to present their own trash when they return down the mountain. A similar arrangement will presumably accompany the new rules.
Sesame Street Promotes Healthy Eating
January 23, 2014
Sesame Street is onboard with a message of healthy eating, including a message from Cookie Monster to cut back on the cookies. Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster, and other familiar characters from television's long-running Sesame Street will focus even more on eating healthy foods, after the completion of a three-year project in Colombia helped young children there lead more healthy lives.
Morsi to Face Three Separate Trials
January 22, 2014
Former President Mohamed Morsi, along with 35 co-defendants, will face charges of spying for which, if convicted, they could face the death penalty. The espionage trial will begin on February 16. The defendants are accused of collaborating with Hamas, a Palestinian freedom organization, and with Hezbollah, a militant movement based in Lebanon.
Three Years after Revolution, Egypt Still Divided
January 22, 2014
The revolution that ousted Egypt's Hosni Mubarak after decades in power began with a large protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square, on Jan. 25, 2011. Three years later, the landscape looks, to many people, not much different. Mubarak is no longer the leader of the country. He stepped down as president on Feb. 11, 2011, and is in a military hospital, awaiting a retrial, his ill health a constant reminder of his advanced years. He is 86. The protests that overpowered Mubarak's influence were largely driven by a combination of Islamists, like the members of the long-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, and unaffiliated youths, who saw an opportunity to change their country's political landscape in the wake of related revolutions in neighboring countries, notably Tunisia. Both the Brotherhood and large amounts of the country's otherwise affiliated young voters approved of the country's 2012 constitution and subsequent election of Mohamed Morsi as President and of an Islamist majority in Parliament. But the judiciary, filled with Mubarak appointments, has been a powerful check on the expansion of the Islamist agenda.
Egyptians Overwhelmingly Approve New Constitution
January 19, 2014
Egyptian voters have approved the country's draft constitution by a massive 98.1 percent, the election commission has announced. During the two-day referendum, just 38.6 percent of the country's 53 million voters cast their votes. Many Islamists, who featured prominently in the previous government, did not participate. The most prominent Islamist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, called for a nationwide boycott and vowed to continue protests against the interim government. Members of the Brotherhood also criticized the government for curtailing anti-constitution protests in the days leading up to the voting.
Russian Olympics Officials Unveil 11 New Venues
January 12, 2014
Organizers of the 2014 Winter Olympics have built from the ground up, literally. Unlike many previous cities, Sochi, a Black Sea town not far from Russia's border with Georgia, had no set of stadiums to expand. The last Winter Olympics, in Vancouver, Canada, in 2010, utilized some venues that had been around for awhile and built only two new facilities, one for curling and the other for long-track speed skating. Sochi, on the other hand, has built new. The site of the Opening Ceremonies, Closing Ceremonies, and medal presentations will be Fisht Olympic Stadium (right), in what is known as the Coastal Cluster, a grouping of venues in and around Sochi. The 40,000-seat stadium was designed to allow those seated inside to have views to the south of the Black Sea and to the north of the mountains, one of which is Fisht Mountain. One of five new venues within walking distance of one another, Fisht Stadium sits atop a tall hill, in Adler Olympic Park, near Adler Arena. Nearby are twin 12,000-capacity venues, the Bolshoy Ice Dome, home to ice hockey, and the Iceberg Skating Palace, which will house figure skating and short-track speed skating.