Home Blog Page 3

Rotten Tomatoes Has Given This New Horror Movie About Race 100%

0

1Don’t See It Alone

The trailer made me curl up with my fingers over my face so I can only imagine what the entire movie will be like.

Get Out is a psychological thriller directed by actor Jordan Peele, who is most notably known for his comedy acts.

It follows a black man going to visit his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time in upstate New York. But things quickly get weird when they hit a deer with their car. I’ll let the trailer do the talking:

 

Rotten Tomatoes has it ranked at 100% from 65 reviews with the critics consensus stating, “Funny, scary, and thought-provoking, Get Out seamlessly weaves its trenchant social critiques into a brilliantly effective and entertaining horror/comedy thrill ride.”

The movie premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival where it received also positive reviews.

Benjamin Lee from The Guardian said: “Get Out is designed to lift the facade of post-racial America and showcase the ugliness that lies beneath. What’s quite astounding is not only how sharply he manages this but that he does so while also crafting a terrifying horror film.

Peele told USA Today he wanted to explore, “the fears of being an outsider.”

“It just seemed to be a very taboo piece of the discussion to talk about something so horrific as racism in any type of genre other than a film about slavery or something.”

In an interview with IGN, Peele also said: “I knew that the only way to make this movie work, besides getting the tone right, was that the plot would have to reveal the judgments and the presumptions we would have about the movie are in fact our presumptions.”

The film is released in the US tomorrow while UK audiences will have to wait until 17 March.

Reported Here: http://www.theladbible.com/entertainment/film-and-tv-rotten-tomatoes-has-given-this-new-horror-movie-about-race-100-20170223

Featured Image Credit: Perfect World Pictures

Facebook Comments

University of Washington Declares Proper Grammar Is Racist

0

2The Writing Center at the University of Washington is telling students that expecting Americans to use proper grammar perpetuates racism.

A press release put out by the University of Washington’s Writing Center argues that “there is no inherent ‘standard’ of English,” and that pressure to conform to proper American grammar standards perpetuate systems of racism.

“Linguistic and writing research has shown clearly for many decades that there is no inherent ‘standard’ of English,” claims the writing center’s statement. “Language is constantly changing. These two facts make it very difficult to justify placing people in hierarchies or restricting opportunities and privileges because of the way people communicate in particular versions of English.”

The university’s Writing Center Director, Dr. Asoa Inoue, suggests that racism has produced certain unfair standards in education.

“It is a founding assumption that, if believed, one must act differently than we, the institution and its agents, have up to this point,” Inoue claimed. While overt racism is usually easily identified, more elusive are microaggressions, forms of degradation which manifest on a subconscious and casual level. As the statement reads “Racism is pervasive. It is in the systems, structures, rules, languages, expectations, and guidelines that make up our classes, school, and society.”

The university’s Vice Chancellor, Jill Purdy, claimed that the Writing Center’s new statement is a great example of how academia can fight back against racism. “Language is the bridge between ideas and action,” she claimed. “So how we use words has a lot of influence on what we think and do.”

You just can’t make this stuff up!!! … LOL

Reported Here

Facebook Comments
Next

Not Funny: ‘Saturday Night Live’ Viewers Are Over the Trump Jokes

0

1Sorry Alec – Trump is More Popular Than You

A large chunk of Saturday Night Live’s audience says they are tired of the punchlines aimed at President Donald Trump and his administration.

A poll conducted by Morning Consult reveals that more SNL viewers want the long-running NBC show to move on from lampooning Trump than want the sketch comedy show to keep “ribbing” the president.

While 33 percent of respondents say they “would like to see more” Trump skits on SNL, 19 percent say they “enjoyed” the jokes but “would like SNL to focus on something else.” Another 16 percent say they have “not enjoyed the impersonations of the members of President Trump’s administration.”

Perhaps oddly, 31 percent of respondents did not have an opinion.

In total, 35 percent of SNL viewers want to see new non-Trump-related skits compared to the 33 percent who want more. The disparity is within the survey’s two percentage point margin of error.

Ironically, Donald Trump’s political rise coincided with a surge in SNL’s ratings. After slumping in late November, the sketch comedy show’s ratings spiked in February to its highest level in six years.

The rise in ratings came thanks to Melissa McCarthy’s impersonation as White House press secretary Sean Spicer, and Alec Baldwin’s record 17th outing as host.

Baldwin first debuted his Trump impression during the 42nd season premiere of SNL and has continued to appear on the show to skewer the president.

Reported Here

Facebook Comments

Study: People would rather not see the future, no matter what it holds

0

Interesting Profile

seeing the future

It seems — if given the option — we should choose to see what our future holds. After all, we spend much of our time trying to protect ourselves from life’s unknowns.

But German and Spanish researchers find most people would rather not know what is to come, whether the imminent circumstances are good or bad.

Scientists at the Berlin-based Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the University of Granada studied more than 2,000 people in Germany and Spain and picked their brains about potential future events. The participants were asked whether they’d like to know the outcome of a soccer game they planned to watch, their future Christmas gifts and whether their marriage would end in divorce.

A majority of people would not want to be aware of future upcoming negative events, researchers discovered. And even for positive events, responders preferred ignorance.

Barely any of those studied — about 1% — always wanted to know what life had in store.

The study’s lead author Gerd Gigerenzer said people don’t want to know their future “to avoid the suffering and regret that knowing the future may cause and also to maintain the enjoyment of suspense that pleasurable events provide.”

Your willingness to peer into the future, the research found, also can tell you a bit about your personality. Those who wished not to know the future, the study found, were “more risk-averse and more frequently buy life and legal insurance than those who want to know the future.”

The study also found the closer an event was, the more likely people didn’t want to know about it. People who are older, researchers said, weren’t as likely to want to know the cause and date of their death or that of a loved one compared to younger people. The only part of the survey in which most people wanted to know the future is when asked whether they’d want to know the future of their unborn child. Only about 37% said they’d rather be in the dark on their baby’s gender.

“Not wanting to know appears counterintuitive and may raise eyebrows,” Gigerenzer said. “But deliberate ignorance, as we’ve shown here, doesn’t just exist; it is a widespread state of mind.”

READ MORE: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/02/22/study-people-would-rather-not-see-future-no-matter-what-holds/98246332/

Facebook Comments

7 Earth-Size Planets Orbit Dwarf Star, NASA and European Astronomers Say

0

1Amazing Discovery

Not just one, but seven Earth-size planets that could potentially harbor life have been identified orbiting a tiny star not too far away, offering the first realistic opportunity to search for signs of alien life outside the solar system.

The planets orbit a dwarf star named Trappist-1, about 40 light-years, or 235 trillion miles, from Earth. That is quite close in cosmic terms, and by happy accident, the orientation of the orbits of the seven planets allows them to be studied in great detail.

One or more of the exoplanets in this new system could be at the right temperature to be awash in oceans of water, astronomers said, based on the distance of the planets from the dwarf star.

“This is the first time so many planets of this kind are found around the same star,” Michael Gillon, an astronomer at the University of Liege in Belgium and the leader of an international team that has been observing Trappist-1, said during a telephone news conference organized by the journal Nature, which published the findings on Wednesday.

Scientists could even discover compelling evidence of aliens.

“I think that we have made a crucial step toward finding if there is life out there,” said Amaury H. M. J. Triaud, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge in England and another member of the research team. “Here, if life managed to thrive and releases gases similar to that we have on Earth, then we will know.”

Cool red dwarfs are the most common type of star, so astronomers are likely to find more planetary systems like that around Trappist-1 in the coming years.

“You can just imagine how many worlds are out there that have a shot to becoming a habitable ecosystem,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s science mission directorate, said during a NASA news conference on Wednesday. “Are we alone out there? We’re making a step forward with this — a leap forward, in fact — towards answering that question.”

Telescopes on the ground now and the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit will be able to discern some of the molecules in the planetary atmospheres. The James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch next year, will peer at the infrared wavelengths of light, ideal for studying Trappist-1.

Comparisons among the different conditions of the seven will also be revealing.

“The Trappist-1 planets make the search for life in the galaxy imminent,” said Sara Seager, an astronomer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was not a member of the research team. “For the first time ever, we don’t have to speculate. We just have to wait and then make very careful observations and see what is in the atmospheres of the Trappist planets.”

Even if the planets all turn out to be lifeless, scientists will have learned more about what keeps life from flourishing.

Astronomers always knew other stars must have planets, but until a couple of decades ago, they had not been able to spot them. Now they have confirmed more than 3,400, according to the Open Exoplanet Catalog. (An exoplanet is a planet around a star other than the sun.)

The authors of the Nature paper include Didier Queloz, one of the astronomers who discovered in 1995 the first known exoplanet around a sunlike star.

While the Trappist planets are about the size of Earth — give or take 25 percent in diameter — the star is very different from our sun.

Trappist-1, named after a robotic telescope in the Atacama Desert of Chile that the astronomers initially used to study the star, is what astronomers call an “ultracool dwarf,” with only one-twelfth the mass of the sun and a surface temperature of 4,150 degrees Fahrenheit, much cooler than the 10,000 degrees radiating from the sun. Trappist is a shortening of Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope.

During the NASA news conference, Dr. Gillon gave a simple analogy: If our sun were the size of a basketball, Trappist-1 would be a golf ball.

Until the last few years, scientists looking for life elsewhere in the galaxy have focused on finding Earth-size planets around sun-like stars. But it is hard to pick out the light of a planet from the glare of a bright star. Small dim dwarfs are much easier to study.

Last year, astronomers announced the discovery of an Earth-size planet around Proxima Centauri, the closest star at 4.24 light-years away. That discovery was made using a different technique that does not allow for study of the atmosphere.

Trappist-1 periodically dimmed noticeably, indicating that a planet might be passing in front of the star, blocking part of the light. From the shape of the dips, the astronomers calculate the size of the planet.

Trappist-1’s light dipped so many times that the astronomers concluded, in research reported last year, that there were at least three planets around the star. Telescopes from around the world then also observed Trappist-1, as did the Spitzer Space Telescope of NASA.

Spitzer observed Trappist-1 nearly around the clock for 20 days, capturing 34 transits. Together with the ground observations, it let the scientists calculate not three planets, but seven. The planets are too small and too close to the star to be photographed directly.

All seven are very close to the dwarf star, circling more quickly than the planets in our solar system. The innermost completes an orbit in just 1.5 days. The farthest one completes an orbit in about 20 days. That makes the planetary system more like the moons of Jupiter than a larger planetary system like our solar system.

“They form a very compact system,” Dr. Gillon said, “the planets being pulled close to each other and very close to the star.”

In addition, the orbital periods of the inner six suggest that the planets formed farther away from the star and then were all gradually pulled inward, Dr. Gillon said.

Because the planets are so close to a cool star, their surfaces could be at the right temperatures to have water flow, considered one of the essential ingredients for life.

The fourth, fifth and sixth planets orbit in the star’s “habitable zone,” where the planets could sport oceans. So far that is just speculation, but by measuring which wavelengths of light are blocked by the planet, scientists will be able to figure out what gases float in the atmospheres of the seven planets.

So far, they have confirmed for the two innermost planets that they are not enveloped in hydrogen. That means they are rocky like Earth, ruling out the possibility that they were mini-Neptune gas planets that are prevalent around many other stars.

Because the planets are so close to Trappist-1, they have quite likely become “gravitationally locked” to the star, always with one side of the planets facing the star, much as it is always the same side of Earth’s moon facing Earth. That would mean one side would be warmer, but an atmosphere would distribute heat, and the scientists said that would not be an insurmountable obstacle for life.

For a person standing on one of the planets, it would be a dim environment, with perhaps only about one two-hundredth the light that we see from the sun on Earth, Dr. Triaud said. (That would still be brighter than the moon at night.) The star would be far bigger. On Trappist-1f, the fifth planet, the star would be three times as wide as the sun seen from Earth.

As for the color of the star, “we had a debate about that,” Dr. Triaud said.

Some of the scientists expected a deep red, but with most of the star’s light emitted at infrared wavelengths and out of view of human eyes, perhaps a person would “see something more salmon-y,” Dr. Triaud said.

NASA released a poster illustrating what the sky of the fourth planet might look like.

If observations reveal oxygen in a planet’s atmosphere, that could point to photosynthesis of plants — although not conclusively. But oxygen together with methane, ozone and carbon dioxide, particularly in certain proportions, “would tell us that there is life with 99 percent confidence,” Dr. Gillon said.

Astronomers expect that a few decades of technological advances are needed before similar observations can be made of Earthlike planets around larger, brighter sunlike stars.

Dr. Triaud said that if there is life around Trappist-1, “then it’s good we didn’t wait too long.”

“If there isn’t, then we have learned something quite deep about where life can emerge,” he continued.

The discovery might also mean that scientists who have been searching for radio signals from alien civilizations might also have been searching in the wrong places if most habitable planets orbit dwarfs, which live far longer than larger stars like the sun.

The SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., is using the Allen Telescope Array, a group of 42 radio dishes in California, to scrutinize 20,000 red dwarfs. “This result is kind of a justification for that project,” said Seth Shostak, an astronomer at the institute.

“If you’re looking for complex biology — intelligent aliens that might take a long time to evolve from pond scum — older could be better,” Dr. Shostak said. “It seems a good bet that the majority of clever beings populating the universe look up to see a dim, reddish sun hanging in their sky. And at least they wouldn’t have to worry about sun block.”

Reported Here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/22/science/trappist-1-exoplanets-nasa.html?_r=0

Facebook Comments

Norway Is the ‘World’s Best Democracy’ – US Has ‘Flawed Democracy’

0

1What is their secret?

The United States was downgraded to a “flawed democracy” in a recent index that examined 167 countries. NBC News traveled to the world’s top-ranked democracy, Norway, to ask them how it’s done.

OSLO, Norway — A look of puzzled amusement creeps across Aurora Aven’s face when asked if she plans to vote in her country’s election, like she’s being asked what color the sky is.

“It’s very strange not to vote,” says the 18-year-old, as if stating the painfully obvious. “It’s, like, a normal thing.”

Her eagerness might stand out among America’s more disengaged youth.

But Aven is Norwegian.

Her country has just been ranked the best democracy in the world for the sixth year running by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a London-based consultancy.

The report also downgraded the United States from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” — placing it alongside countries such as India, Argentina and Colombia.

The demotion was linked to American voters losing trust in their own political institutions and the role of big-money lobbying.

Neither are significant issues in Norway.

“There’s something about our culture that says it’s very important to vote,” Aven says, speaking to NBC News at an ice rink in Oslo. “Norway has such a good system, so no one feels left out and no one feels misunderstood. Everybody knows their voice will be heard.”

Norwegians are automatically registered to vote, and 78 percent of them did so in the last election — 20 percentage points higher than in the U.S.

Instead of big personalities with even bigger war chests, the focus here is on how rival political parties can collaborate on policies.

The key to Norway’s success is the healthy relationship between its people and lawmakers, according to 27-year-old political adviser Torkil Vederhus.

“People can feel like they’re part of the democracy,” he says. “They recognize their politicians as not part of some kind of elite, they’re just regular people.”

At the ice rink, Aven’s friend, 17-year-old Mattis Dysthe Lyngstad, thinks the U.S. can learn from his country’s cordial culture.

“In United States, you have such a different system of democracy — there’s a lot of money involved and it’s a lot about how big a person you are and if you’re important, or whatever,” he says. “But in Norway we try to keep it so the politicians don’t earn that much money. You do it because you care about the country and the future.”

Of a similar view is Torild Haustreis, a 56-year-old nurse from Kristiansand, a city 150 miles southeast of Oslo.

“Norwegian people are engaged in politics and I think that’s very good,” she said. “I think the U.S. needs to build its election system again. It’s not right the way they have it in the U.S. today.”

A Land of Ice and Oil

Any comparison between Norway and the U.S. must come with the colossal caveat that these two countries are very different beasts.

The Nordic nation is far smaller, both in population and geography. Its 5 million people live in an area the size of Montana that straddles the Arctic Circle.

Its government struck offshore oil in the 1960s, allowing it to accrue the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund — a $880 billion rainy-day piggy bank.

This helped it weather the 2007-8 financial crisis better than most, and it remains one of the richest countries in the world per capita.

Furthermore, Norway isn’t a member of the increasingly fractious European Union. And despite a recent spike in immigration, it remains much less ethnically and culturally diverse than most countries, meaning the often divisive debate on immigration has not been as prominent until recently.

Norway functions as a social democracy, the type of place Sen. Bernie Sanders dreams about.

Citizens pay relatively high taxes and the government isn’t afraid of spending big on public projects such as schools, healthcare and generous unemployment benefits.

While many Americans would balk at this level of government interference, Norwegians are the happiest people in the developed world.

The gap between its wealthiest and poorest citizens is far lower than the U.S. — and its people spend far less time at work and more time with their families.

“It’s expensive but you pay your taxes and you get things out of it,” says 18-year-old Nancy Adelaide Hancock, who spoke while visiting Oslo from the Danish capital of Copenhagen. Like much of Scandinavia, her own country has a similar economic system.

It’s not just taxes and wages that are high. Vacationers are often stunned by the country’s wallet-busting prices — upward of $9 for a beer.

‘More Cooperation and Less Confrontation’

There are eight political parties in Norway’s legislature — instead of just Republicans and Democrats — and the system means none of them can gain power alone. Instead they must try to build coalitions with enough support to form a government.

“You have a lot of cooperation between parties in Norwegian politics … and the political debate climate is much milder than in the U.S.,” according to Carl Knutsen, a politics professor at the University of Oslo. “I would say [there is] more cooperation and less confrontation.”

Norway’s government is parliamentary, rather than presidential. And the Economist Intelligence Unit says it has better checks and balances than the U.S. system.

Although many Americans take pride in their country’s separation of power between the president, Congress and the courts, critics say that presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama expanded their authority so this balance is now tipped heavily in favor of the White House.

Stymied by a gridlocked Congress, even many sympathetic to Obama concede that he used executive power to act unilaterally and shape policy at home and abroad — including America’s controversial drone-warfare program.

President Donald Trump’s opponents worry that his flurry of executive orders suggests that he intends to continue this trend.

America’s slip down the consultancy’s rankings had been a slow process. While Trump was not to blame, he almost certainly benefited by “tapping into Americans’ anger and frustration with the functioning of their democratic institutions,” according to last month’s report.

Some Trump foes have also criticized an electoral college system that awarded the billionaire victory despite him gaining 2.8 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton.

“Public confidence in government has slumped to historic lows in the U.S.,” the study added. “This has had a corrosive effect on the quality of democracy.”

While the U.S. is still waiting for its first female leader, Norway is now onto its second, Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Women make up 40 percent of lawmakers and the government grants some of the best maternity and paternity rights around.

From this relatively serene environment, the partisan theater and bombastic personalities of Washington seem alarming to many Norwegians. This culture clash is perhaps typified by Trump, who has a dismal 6 percent approval rating in Norway.

“At first it was kind of funny, now it’s kind of frightening and kind of sad,” says Ola Schiefloe, a 28-year-old carpenter from Oslo.

He was spending his Friday night at Cafe Mono, one of the city’s most popular clubs. Although the band, local outfit Aiming for Enrike, are at times raucous, Schiefloe prefers his politicians to be less so.

“I think Trump’s a bit too much of an alpha male to be popular among Norwegian voters,” Schiefloe says above the din of roaring guitars.

Politicians in Norway are not as well paid as their American counterparts and most live a more modest, low-profile existence. The basic pay for U.S. senators and representatives is $174,000 — compared to $108,000 in Norway.

Many Norwegians just can’t shake the feeling that America elected “a reality star as president,” according to Silje Ljødal, a 25-year-old barista. “It’s just a reality show, the whole thing,” she adds in disbelief.

Opinion seems to be just as scathing outside the city of Oslo.

Annette Dahl, a 26-year-old hunter from Norway’s rural Telemark region, says U.S. politics “seems like a circus to me. [Trump] seems like kind of clown, you know? The way he talks and the things he says, it’s hard to take him seriously.”

Worries About Russia and Polar Bears

Many are just as worried about Trump’s substance as they are his style.

Despite almost 4,000 miles between them, Norway has always enjoyed a partnership with the White House and was one of the first nations to join NATO in 1949.

Its inhabitants can be forgiven for paying particular attention to Trump’s foreign policy pronouncements; they have skin in the geopolitical game in the shape of a 120-mile border with Russia.

Just last month, hundreds of U.S. Marines landed in Norway as a reassuring presence against Moscow’s saber-rattling.

But under Trump, many Norwegians say his comments undermining NATO as “obsolete” have made them feel nervous. Norway is also one of the countries Trump has criticized for not paying the recommended 2 percent share toward the alliance’s upkeep.

“It’s kind of scary because we share a border with Russia, and we’ve got Putin … turning quite aggressive,” says Schiefloe, the carpenter.

“The world is going to change, I hope for the better but I fear it’s going to be quite bad,” adds Tor Bomann-Larsen, a 65-year-old writer from Drammen, a city 25 miles from Oslo. “We’ve never seen anything like Trump before, it’s something quite new and the world is shaking.”

Norwegians also worry about man-made climate change, something Trump has repeatedly labeled a hoax and once even suggested was a conspiracy invented by the Chinese.

His claims go against scientific consensus, but they also threaten Norway’s delicate ecosystem, where the northern ice is crucial to the symbolic survival of polar bears and other Arctic creatures.

“If I met Donald Trump I would invite him to Svalbard, in the high north, and I would show him what the climate change is doing to our environment,” Norwegian Local Government Minister Jan Tore Sanner told NBC News during an interview in the country’s Parliament building.

Like others in his government, Sanner says he is optimistic about working with America’s new leader. Asked about Trump’s environmental policies, however, and his tone changes slightly.

“The ice is melting,” he says. “The climate is changing the way we can the can live in the world.”

‘Just Politicians In Suits’

While the statistics and anecdotes may make liberal hearts flutter, Norway is far from a leftist utopia.

It’s current government is led by the Conservative Party and includes lawmakers from the right-wing populist Progress Party, which wants to slash taxes and immigration amid a migration crisis that has gripped Europe over the past three years.

And of course not everyone here agrees that Norwegian politics is all that great in the first place.

“I don’t feel we have the best democracy in the world,” says Steinar Vetterstad, a 67-year-old former construction worker from the town of Hokksund. “There are a lot of things that aren’t right.”

The United States was downgraded to a “flawed democracy” in a recent index that examined 167 countries. NBC News traveled to the world’s top-ranked democracy, Norway, to ask them how it’s done.

OSLO, Norway — A look of puzzled amusement creeps across Aurora Aven’s face when asked if she plans to vote in her country’s election, like she’s being asked what color the sky is.

“It’s very strange not to vote,” says the 18-year-old, as if stating the painfully obvious. “It’s, like, a normal thing.”

Her eagerness might stand out among America’s more disengaged youth.

But Aven is Norwegian.

Her country has just been ranked the best democracy in the world for the sixth year running by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a London-based consultancy.

The report also downgraded the United States from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” — placing it alongside countries such as India, Argentina and Colombia.

The demotion was linked to American voters losing trust in their own political institutions and the role of big-money lobbying.

The View On Trump From ‘The World’s Best Democracy’3:43

Neither are significant issues in Norway.

“There’s something about our culture that says it’s very important to vote,” Aven says, speaking to NBC News at an ice rink in Oslo. “Norway has such a good system, so no one feels left out and no one feels misunderstood. Everybody knows their voice will be heard.”

Norwegians are automatically registered to vote, and 78 percent of them did so in the last election — 20 percentage points higher than in the U.S.

Instead of big personalities with even bigger war chests, the focus here is on how rival political parties can collaborate on policies.

The key to Norway’s success is the healthy relationship between its people and lawmakers, according to 27-year-old political adviser Torkil Vederhus.

“People can feel like they’re part of the democracy,” he says. “They recognize their politicians as not part of some kind of elite, they’re just regular people.”

Image: Aurora Aven and Mattis Dysthe Lyngstad
Aurora Aven and Mattis Dysthe Lyngstad at an ice rink in Oslo. Alexander Smith / NBC News

At the ice rink, Aven’s friend, 17-year-old Mattis Dysthe Lyngstad, thinks the U.S. can learn from his country’s cordial culture.

“In United States, you have such a different system of democracy — there’s a lot of money involved and it’s a lot about how big a person you are and if you’re important, or whatever,” he says. “But in Norway we try to keep it so the politicians don’t earn that much money. You do it because you care about the country and the future.”

Of a similar view is Torild Haustreis, a 56-year-old nurse from Kristiansand, a city 150 miles southeast of Oslo.

“Norwegian people are engaged in politics and I think that’s very good,” she said. “I think the U.S. needs to build its election system again. It’s not right the way they have it in the U.S. today.”

A Land of Ice and Oil

Any comparison between Norway and the U.S. must come with the colossal caveat that these two countries are very different beasts.

The Nordic nation is far smaller, both in population and geography. Its 5 million people live in an area the size of Montana that straddles the Arctic Circle.

Its government struck offshore oil in the 1960s, allowing it to accrue the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund — a $880 billion rainy-day piggy bank.

This helped it weather the 2007-8 financial crisis better than most, and it remains one of the richest countries in the world per capita.

Furthermore, Norway isn’t a member of the increasingly fractious European Union. And despite a recent spike in immigration, it remains much less ethnically and culturally diverse than most countries, meaning the often divisive debate on immigration has not been as prominent until recently.

Image: Demonstration in Oslo
A recent rally in Oslo calling for more humane policies toward refugees. Kyrre Lien

Norway functions as a social democracy, the type of place Sen. Bernie Sanders dreams about.

Citizens pay relatively high taxes and the government isn’t afraid of spending big on public projects such as schools, healthcare and generous unemployment benefits.

While many Americans would balk at this level of government interference, Norwegians are the happiest people in the developed world.

The gap between its wealthiest and poorest citizens is far lower than the U.S. — and its people spend far less time at work and more time with their families.

“It’s expensive but you pay your taxes and you get things out of it,” says 18-year-old Nancy Adelaide Hancock, who spoke while visiting Oslo from the Danish capital of Copenhagen. Like much of Scandinavia, her own country has a similar economic system.

It’s not just taxes and wages that are high. Vacationers are often stunned by the country’s wallet-busting prices — upward of $9 for a beer.

‘More Cooperation and Less Confrontation’

There are eight political parties in Norway’s legislature — instead of just Republicans and Democrats — and the system means none of them can gain power alone. Instead they must try to build coalitions with enough support to form a government.

“You have a lot of cooperation between parties in Norwegian politics … and the political debate climate is much milder than in the U.S.,” according to Carl Knutsen, a politics professor at the University of Oslo. “I would say [there is] more cooperation and less confrontation.”

Image: Professor Carl Knutsen
Professor Carl Knutsen Alexander Smith

Norway’s government is parliamentary, rather than presidential. And the Economist Intelligence Unit says it has better checks and balances than the U.S. system.

Although many Americans take pride in their country’s separation of power between the president, Congress and the courts, critics say that presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama expanded their authority so this balance is now tipped heavily in favor of the White House.

Stymied by a gridlocked Congress, even many sympathetic to Obama concede that he used executive power to act unilaterally and shape policy at home and abroad — including America’s controversial drone-warfare program.

President Donald Trump’s opponents worry that his flurry of executive orders suggests that he intends to continue this trend.

America’s slip down the consultancy’s rankings had been a slow process. While Trump was not to blame, he almost certainly benefited by “tapping into Americans’ anger and frustration with the functioning of their democratic institutions,” according to last month’s report.

Some Trump foes have also criticized an electoral college system that awarded the billionaire victory despite him gaining 2.8 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton.

“Public confidence in government has slumped to historic lows in the U.S.,” the study added. “This has had a corrosive effect on the quality of democracy.”

While the U.S. is still waiting for its first female leader, Norway is now onto its second, Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Women make up 40 percent of lawmakers and the government grants some of the best maternity and paternity rights around.

From this relatively serene environment, the partisan theater and bombastic personalities of Washington seem alarming to many Norwegians. This culture clash is perhaps typified by Trump, who has a dismal 6 percent approval rating in Norway.

“At first it was kind of funny, now it’s kind of frightening and kind of sad,” says Ola Schiefloe, a 28-year-old carpenter from Oslo.

He was spending his Friday night at Cafe Mono, one of the city’s most popular clubs. Although the band, local outfit Aiming for Enrike, are at times raucous, Schiefloe prefers his politicians to be less so.

“I think Trump’s a bit too much of an alpha male to be popular among Norwegian voters,” Schiefloe says above the din of roaring guitars.

Image: Norway's Parliament
Norway’s Parliament. Kyrre Lien

Politicians in Norway are not as well paid as their American counterparts and most live a more modest, low-profile existence. The basic pay for U.S. senators and representatives is $174,000 — compared to $108,000 in Norway.

Many Norwegians just can’t shake the feeling that America elected “a reality star as president,” according to Silje Ljødal, a 25-year-old barista. “It’s just a reality show, the whole thing,” she adds in disbelief.

Opinion seems to be just as scathing outside the city of Oslo.

Annette Dahl, a 26-year-old hunter from Norway’s rural Telemark region, says U.S. politics “seems like a circus to me. [Trump] seems like kind of clown, you know? The way he talks and the things he says, it’s hard to take him seriously.”

Worries About Russia and Polar Bears

Many are just as worried about Trump’s substance as they are his style.

Despite almost 4,000 miles between them, Norway has always enjoyed a partnership with the White House and was one of the first nations to join NATO in 1949.

Its inhabitants can be forgiven for paying particular attention to Trump’s foreign policy pronouncements; they have skin in the geopolitical game in the shape of a 120-mile border with Russia.

Just last month, hundreds of U.S. Marines landed in Norway as a reassuring presence against Moscow’s saber-rattling.

But under Trump, many Norwegians say his comments undermining NATO as “obsolete” have made them feel nervous. Norway is also one of the countries Trump has criticized for not paying the recommended 2 percent share toward the alliance’s upkeep.

“It’s kind of scary because we share a border with Russia, and we’ve got Putin … turning quite aggressive,” says Schiefloe, the carpenter.

“The world is going to change, I hope for the better but I fear it’s going to be quite bad,” adds Tor Bomann-Larsen, a 65-year-old writer from Drammen, a city 25 miles from Oslo. “We’ve never seen anything like Trump before, it’s something quite new and the world is shaking.”

Norwegians also worry about man-made climate change, something Trump has repeatedly labeled a hoax and once even suggested was a conspiracy invented by the Chinese.

His claims go against scientific consensus, but they also threaten Norway’s delicate ecosystem, where the northern ice is crucial to the symbolic survival of polar bears and other Arctic creatures.

“If I met Donald Trump I would invite him to Svalbard, in the high north, and I would show him what the climate change is doing to our environment,” Norwegian Local Government Minister Jan Tore Sanner told NBC News during an interview in the country’s Parliament building.

Like others in his government, Sanner says he is optimistic about working with America’s new leader. Asked about Trump’s environmental policies, however, and his tone changes slightly.

“The ice is melting,” he says. “The climate is changing the way we can the can live in the world.”

‘Just Politicians In Suits’

While the statistics and anecdotes may make liberal hearts flutter, Norway is far from a leftist utopia.

It’s current government is led by the Conservative Party and includes lawmakers from the right-wing populist Progress Party, which wants to slash taxes and immigration amid a migration crisis that has gripped Europe over the past three years.

And of course not everyone here agrees that Norwegian politics is all that great in the first place.

“I don’t feel we have the best democracy in the world,” says Steinar Vetterstad, a 67-year-old former construction worker from the town of Hokksund. “There are a lot of things that aren’t right.”

Image: Steinar Vetterstad
Steinar Vetterstad Kyrre Lien

He has lived off disability benefits ever since he was injured at work.

Symptomatic of the global populism that helped Trump into the White House and Britain vote for Brexit last year, Vetterstad used to support the left-wing Labour Party but in 2013 switched his vote to Progress.

“It is the politicians in Oslo … don’t represent the people anymore … [they’re] just politicians in suits,” he says.

That there is such healthy debate in Norway betrays the violence in its recent past. Less than six years ago its democracy came under direct attack.

On July 22, 2011, white supremacist Anders Behring Breivik detonated a car bomb among Oslo’s government buildings. Wearing a police officer’s uniform, he then drove to the island of Utøya, around 20 miles away, and began shooting children staying at a camp run by the left-wing Labour Party. In all, he killed 77 people.

Sanner, the member of Norway’s Cabinet, took NBC News to the site of the car bomb.

“It was an attack on Norwegian democracy and … he killed a lot of young people, young people who were engaged in politics,” he says, looking out over where the blast occurred. “They were 16 years old, 18 years old. They just started to be involved in politics and they lost their lives.”

READ MORE: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/norway-world-s-best-democracy-we-asked-its-people-why-n720151

Facebook Comments

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2017

0

Quite Amazing Breakthroughs

Technology breakthroughs 2017

These technologies all have staying power. They will affect the economy and our politics, improve medicine, or influence our culture. Some are unfolding now; others will take a decade or more to develop. But you should know about all of them right now.

As reported here

3Paying With Your Face

Face-detecting systems in China now authorize payments, provide access to facilities, and track down criminals. Will other countries follow?

The 15 worst cities for rush hour traffic

0

2Plenty of drivers complain about rush hour traffic, but some have more to gripe about than others.

Bangkok has the worst evening rush hour traffic in the world for a second consecutive year, according to GPS manufacturer TomTom.

The results were compiled after TomTom tracked a years-worth of traffic in 390 cities across 48 countries.

Here is the 2017 ranking of cities with the most severe evening rush hour traffic:

  1. Bangkok, Thailand
  2. Mexico City, Mexico
  3. Bucharest, Romania
  4. Jakarta, Indonesia
  5. Moscow, Russia
  6. Chongqing, China
  7. Istanbul, Turkey
  8. St. Petersburg, Russia
  9. Zhuhai, China
  10. Santiago, Chile
  11. Guangzhou, China
  12. Shijiazhuang, China
  13. Shenzhen, China
  14. Los Angeles, U.S.
  15. Beijing, China

TomTom’s senior traffic expert Nick Cohn said that Thailand — and many other big cities at the top of the congestion ranking — have become victims of their own success. Growing economies and surging populations translate into more traffic and commuters.

“It would be a challenge for any city government [to] keep things moving,” he said, noting that as more people have moved to Bangkok’s low-density suburbs, commuter traffic has worsened.

While Mexico City has the second worst evening rush hour traffic in the world, TomTom considers the Mexican capital to be the world’s worst city for full-day traffic congestion.

“It could be middle of the day or late at night, but it’s just really, really congested,” said Cohn.

“Mexico City has an extensive subway system but it doesn’t extend out to where all the population growth is happening,” he said. “People don’t have a lot of options for getting to work.”

Moscow, which ranks as the fifth worst city for evening rush hour traffic, was higher up the rankings in past years. But congestion has eased a bit since city officials introduced new parking rules.

Cohn said the city now charges for some parking, which “really changed people’s behavior.”

Istanbul has also seen a modest easing of traffic congestion because authorities have made a point to provide more real-time traffic data to drivers. This helped people plan their drives and avoid severe traffic jams.

“It’s still terrible but there is a slight decrease,” he said.

The only American city in the top 15 is Los Angeles. Its traffic congestion has worsened, but it’s been moving down the ranking over the past few years as other global cities experience more acute traffic problems.

READ MORE: http://money.cnn.com/2017/02/20/autos/traffic-rush-hour-cities/index.html

Facebook Comments
Next

David Cassidy, ‘Partridge Family’ Star, Reveals He Has Dementia

0

1Sad Story

Former teen heartthrob David Cassidy has revealed that he is suffering from dementia and has quit performing.

The onetime star of “The Partridge Family” spoke to People magazine about his health following a weekend concert in California during which he reportedly struggled to remember the lyrics to songs he has been singing for 50 years. The 66-year-old also appeared to fall off the stage at one point.

Cassidy gained fame on the television series, which ran from 1970 to 1974. He played Keith Partridge, the oldest of five children in a musical family that formed a band.

He was blindingly handsome, with a fresh-scrubbed look and hair that was long yet perfectly coiffed. After the show’s run ended, Cassidy went on to a solo musical career.

Cassidy told People that he had watched his grandfather struggle with dementia, and had also seen his mother “disappear” into dementia until she died at age 89.

“I was in denial, but a part of me always knew this was coming,” he said.

Over the past decade, Cassidy has struggled with personal problems, including three arrests for drunk driving, divorce and bankruptcy.

He joins a growing list of ’60s and ’70s stars who are now facing dementia.

In 2014, Malcolm Young, a founding member of rock band AC/DC, announced through a representative that he was suffering from “a complete loss of short-term memory.” He retired from the band and was placed in a home specializing in dementia.

And in 2011, country music star Glen Campbell announced he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He embarked on a farewell world tour that lasted over a year. Now 80, Campbell lives in a care facility.

Earlier this month, Cassidy said on his official website that he would continue touring through the end of 2017 before retiring.

But, though his website still lists concert dates for the rest of this year, he told People that he would now quit performing.

“I want to focus on what I am, who I am and how I’ve been, without any distractions,” he said. “I want to love. I want to enjoy life.”

 

Facebook Comments

Singapore ‘fire rainbow’ cloud phenomenon lights up sky

0

1Amazing View

A rare cloud phenomenon over Singapore has delighted people in the city-state.

The multi-coloured glow appeared in the sky on Monday in the late afternoon, lasting for about 15 minutes, and was seen across the island.

Media reports said it was likely a fire rainbow, which occurs when sunlight refracts through ice-crystal clouds.

Others have also said it could have been cloud iridescence, which happens when water droplets or crystals scatter light.

“It started as a small orange circle and then grew bigger and bigger till all the colours came out… It lasted for about 15 minutes and it slowly went off.

She said “all the children in the school, some parents, and other staff were very excited and commenting that it was very, very rare to see such a beautiful and unique rainbow”.

“The rainbow bridge is broken,” joked one Facebook user, while another person asked: “Is this a case of Monday Rainbows?!”

READ MORE: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-39036138

 

Facebook Comments