Some are wondering if Dennis Rodman's basketball diplomacy to North Korea has gone too far, after he crooned "Happy Birthday" to North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un to the rhythmic applause of officials there. The Christian Science Monitor reports that even defenders of sports diplomacy are having second thoughts.
By the way, Rodman's US team, sprinkled with a few retired NBA players, reportedly lost to the North Koreans.
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Here's what keeps medical researchers up at night
Forget climate change, terrorism or a stunted global economy, the biggest threat to humanity could be the failure of antibiotics.
After most of a century using (indeed, over-using) antibiotics to fight bacterial diseases across the globe, doctors are finding that bacteria are turning the tide on us. The BBC reports on warnings from top UK health officials that bacteria are becoming drug-resistant more often — and more aggressively. Experts have called for increased funding and incentives for drug manufacturers to help us stay ahead of the drug-resistance curve.
If innovation comes from R&D spending, Europe beware!
China's rapid economic development passed another milestone recently. The share of its economy devoted to research and development now exceeds that of Europe. In the last year, China spent 1.98 percent of its GDP on research, compared to 1.96 percent across Europe.
Europe has a long-term goal of increasing R&D to 3 percent, but hasn't made much progress moving in that direction. The journal Nature looks at how China's investment may pay off — and how its risk-averse culture may be holding China back from using that money to its full potential.
Did the world just rescue serious scientists or reckless tourists?
Over the holidays, it was hard to miss news stories about the "Spirit of Mawson" Antarctic expedition. A research ship with 52 scientists, journalists, and paying tourists (who helped fund the trip) got trapped in ice near Antarctica from Christmas through the New Year. The passengers were rescued after a major international collaboration that included a Chinese icebreaker, a Chinese helicopter, an Australian icebreaker and, now, an American icebreaker.
But the rescue effort — which cost an as-yet-untold amount of money and diverted resources from serving other scientists during the short Antarctic summer — has raised the ire of some polar scientists. PRI's The World reports that critics say the trip was light on science and foolhardy in heading into the ice-filled bay.
Hitchcock's unseen Holocaust documentary
When Alfred Hitchcock saw footage of liberated Nazi concentration camps, he stayed away from his studio for a week. He also began work on a little-known, and previously incomplete, documentary about the camps. Part of the footage came to light in the 1980s, and even got a showing on PBS, but the entirety of the project remained lost — and what did exist was poor quality.
No more. The Independent reports on efforts to reconstruct the documentary, restore its quality and put it out in the way Hitchcock originally intended it to be seen.
Streaking at the South Pole has its dangers
“[They] both suffered some minor frostbite — she on her nipples and he on the tip of his weenie.”
Please don't try this at home, polar vortex or no polar vortex. The Atlantic reports on the intrepid group of scientists who spend winters at the South Pole — and ways they keep their sanity during the cold, dark winters. One way they keep themselves busy is by joining the Club 300.
To be considered members, scientists must work together to jump from a 200-degree sauna and race around a ceremonial South Pole when it's -100 F. outside. Oh, did we mention they can't wearing anything but shoes? It's about 100 yards from the warmth of the station to the pole — and then another 100 yards back.
Only coders need apply to this school, with no classes, no grades and no tuition
The newly-opened, private school in France is either brilliant or ridiculous. The founders are trying to teach France's next generation of computer programmers in a way that fits their culture and lifestyle.
To start, the application process involved a four-month tryout. 4000 competed and only 800 made the cut. But the ethic is all about collaboration. There's lots of technology, a few teachers, and little structure — so no attendance taking, no specific start to the day. Even the name of the school — 42 — is an inside coder's reference. PRI's The World reports traditional educators in France are howling.
What we're seeing on social
VIDEO: Dennis Rodman sings "happy birthday" to N. Korea's Kim Jong-un http://t.co/9ZulDhPAQY
— Michael van Poppel (@mpoppel) January 8, 2014
Weather around the world
While most of the US warms up, it's still cold in Siberia. Really cold. Our friends at AccuWeather tweeted out this gem this morning: "The high Tuesday at Yaralin, Russia, was -69 F (-56 C). The low was -73 F (-58 C)." Brrr.