Got a hot date tomorrow? Didn’t catch the news this week…or ever? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. This is a snapshot of what’s current in the world, so you’ll always have something interesting to say…on a first date or otherwise. Remember, if you want to find someone great, be someone great. Go get your read on.
What: Kim & Kanye’s Vogue Cover causes uproar among celebrity readers.
The Essentials: Social media exploded when Vogue chose to put Kim Kardashian & Kanye West on their cover. The outrage seems to be that Vogue readers, including several celebrities, have spoken out about how Vogue’s standards of high fashion have been thrown in the trashbin by featuring the details of K&K’s lives.
Why It Matters: Vogue readers commonly express that Vogue is a high end, sophisticated publication, while Kim and Kanye are mass market, vapid, self-absorbed egomaniacs who are ultimately tacky and tasteless. Chief editor Anna Wintour spoke up to defend putting Kim & Kanye on the cover, saying it is purely a business decision for eyeballs. Vogue, like all other print magazines are struggling with dwindling subscriptions and an ever tighter and competitive space where the internet is slicing away market share. There’s the old expression that all news is good news, and this may be very true in this case. It’s certainly got more people talking abou Vogue than there was last month!
What: Music Streaming service price wars are on!
The Essentials: The competition in the music streaming market is heating up.Songza, rdio, Spotify and others are trying to outdo each other.
Why It Matters: How music is distributed, sold & consumed by people is one of the first places that significant media shifts occur. The grey-area legal napster & mp3 players of the 90’s that was once the exclusive domain of hacker nerds in skateboard hoodies created entirely new distribution systems that have broken the music industry’s distribution monopoly, and changed how bands reach their audiences and generate revenue. New pricing models (pay to see songlists, unlimited song forwarding, removing ads) are always being tried out and optimized. Because music has such a high turnover rate (people always want new music), changes in the music distribution business affect movies, TV, news & books down the road. Expect these other content channels to follow the music industry’s lead!
What: What’s happening to the bees?
The Essentials: World honeybee populations have been falling for decades, in what’s generally being described as CCD, or Colony Collapse Disorder, which is kind of a catch all for when an entire colony dies at once. Nobody’s really sure why this decline is happening for sure, but we’ve got some pretty good evidence
Why It Matters: Pretty much piece of fruit or vegetable you eat that comes from a flowering plant requires a bee at some point to have crawled into the flower and deposited some pollen to germinate the plant. Agriculture has become so specialized that bees can’t ‘live’ year round at a commercial farm or orchard; since there’s only food when the individual crop is flowering, bees need a more varied environment to survive year round in the wild. Bees have to be trucked in from secluded apiaries (bee farms) and brought to the crops. Scientists haven’t found a single cause for CCD, probably because there isn’t a single cause – rather, it’s likely a potent brew of commercial pesticides and specifically fungicides that have built up over years to reduce bees’ natural resistances to an otherwise naturally occurring but non-devastating disease bearing parasites. Individual farmers are concerned with protecting their fruit from insects and fungal diseases, so they tend to opt with using those commercial products, and not really being concerned with the aggregate effect on the bees which are moved from farm to farm.
What: U.S. Midterm Elections are coming up
The Essentials: On Nov 4th, the U.S. midterms will be held. Midterms are elections for all of the seats in the U.S. House of Congress, 33 of the 100 Senate seats are also up for grabs, plus all the Governorships & most state legislatures. “Mid-terms” refers to the middle of the presidential term. These elections are designed to be a check and balance to make sure that people can influence a presidential administration’s policies at a more regular interval than every 4 years when a Presidential election is held.
Why It Matters: Voter turnout is much lower for mid-terms than they are for presidential elections, in particular historically for the Democrats. Democratic turnout tends to be very high for Presidential campaigns, while Republicans’ is more steady throughout. Since Democratic turnout falls, Republicans tend to make big gains in mid-terms, and 2014 is expected to be the same. Congress has gerrymandered their voting districts so much (basically meaning they’ve changed the boundaries of their voting districts to include people likely to continue to vote for the incumbent) that it is unlikely that the GOP faces any threat to their control of the House. The Senate, however, currently has a small Democratic minority, and could swing to the Republicans this year. This is significant because having both the House & Senate controlled by one party will lead to more proposed laws that are in line with that party’s platform. If the Republicans win, expect more initiatives to curb gay marriage, tougher stands on immigration & abortion, more personal and corporate tax cuts, increased military spending, more aggressive foreign policy, approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, expanded fracking development, the never-ending jihad to repeal “Obamacare” etc. If the Democrats keep the Senate or somehow manage to win the House, expect more proposals to expand universal health care, provide immigration reform, green energy initiatives, extend social programs like food stamps and unemployment benefits. In addition, Congress & Senate panels can delay or block Presidential appointments to roles on the Supreme & Lower Courts, Government Departments and roles like Secretary of Defense.
What: Scotland is voting to become an independent country!
The Essentials: Scheduled for September 18th, 2014, Scottish citizens will vote in a referendum to decide whether to remain part of the United Kingdom (along with England, Wales & Northern Ireland) or become an independent nation.
Why It Matters: Scotland & England joined to form the United Kingdom in 1707. After more than 300 years together, the Scottish National Party, led by Alex Salmond, have pushed for a referendum for independence, but just like long, complicated marriages…breaking up is hard to do. There’s practical and expensive questions, like dividing up the Army & Navy, share of the national debt issuing passports and all the other diplomatic requirements of running your own country. Not to mention, whether the relatively small population of Scotland is better off, or even ‘viable’ in the long run in the modern world, since an independent Scotland would be highly dependent on declining North Sea oil revenues, would likely not be able to join the EU for a long time if at all, and that Scotland generally receives more money in benefits from the UK than it sends back in tax revenues. Similar separatist groups in Spain (the Basques) and Canada (Parti Quebecois) are watching intently to see what happens in this vote.
What: Fiesta de Moros y Cristianos, April 22nd to 24th in Alcoy, Spain
The Essentials: Several towns in Valencia, in Southeast Spain conduct elaborate parades commemorating the battles of the “Reconquista”, under which Christian kingdoms re-took control over the region from ‘Moors’, North African Muslims who had controlled southern Spain for nearly 800 years.
Why It Matters: It’s an amazingly elaborate festival in a beautiful part of the world! You should go. The backstory is the Moors first took control of the southern half of Spain in the 8th century, and established a unique culture that flourished for hundreds of years, perhaps best exemplified by the incredibly ornate Alhambra fortress in Granada to the southwest of Alcoy. Over these 800 years, Christian kingdoms were eventually able to defeat the Muslim Moors in a series of battles and ‘reconquer’ Spain. In all, 28 “armies” from different surrounding villages re-enact key battles (including cannons!) of the Reconquista in amazingly elaborate spectacle of, oh let’s say, perhaps not always politically correct sights & sounds.