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Thousands and thousands of people are protesting in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. Protesters have surrounded government offices, and some have had to shut down. They want the country’s leader, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, to step down. Earlier this month, the government tried to pass a bill which would forgive people who had been involved in wrongdoings during political protests in the past. The bill did not pass, but it made many people furious. The protesters are peaceful and are armed with whistles and hand-clappers, which make a lot of sound.
Yingluck was elected as the prime minister in 2011. She is the sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, who was Thailand’s prime minister from 2001 to 2006. Many people thought Thaksin was corrupt, and he was forced to step down by Thailand’s military in 2006. There are charges against Thaksin, and he has been living outside of Thailand since 2008 to avoid going to jail. This bill that people were opposing could have forgiven Thaksin as well. That’s one of the reasons people got upset at Yingluck.
Thailand’s head of state is King Bhumibol Adulyadej, one of the world’s longest-serving current monarchs (over 67 years). He is loved and respected by the Thai people. Thailand is famous for its food, floating markets, and temples. Thai food tries to balance all five fundamental tastes – sweet, spicy, sour, bitter, and salty – in every meal. Damnoen Saduak is one of the country’s famous floating markets. People come in their canoes selling vegetables, fruits, snacks, hats, flowers, and lots more.
About 90% of the Thai people follow the religion of Buddhism. A famous Buddhist temple in Bangkok is the Wat Pho Monastery. The temple has a statue of Buddha in a reclining position. The statue is about 45 meters (150 feet) long and 15 meters (50 feet) high.
The term “white elephant” (which means something that is expensive but not very useful) has origins in Thailand. In ancient times, white (albino) elephants were regarded as sacred and could not be put to work, but had to be fed and taken care of. Therefore, owning a white elephant was expensive and not very useful.
Did you know?
Yingluck Shinawatra is Thailand’s first female Prime Minister.
Did you know?
Bangkok’s full Thai name is rather long: Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. It translates as “City of Angels, Great City of Immortals, Magnificent City of the Nine Gems, Seat of the King, City of Royal Palaces, Home of the Gods Incarnate, Erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s Behest”. Phew!
Image Credits: Phillip Maiwald (Nikopol) for the Reclining Buddha’s image, http://www.thaigov.go.th for Yingluck Shinawatra’s image, Ahoerstemeier for Floating Market’s image
Sources: BBC, http://www.thailandtoday.org, http://www.thaigov.go.th/, CIA World Factbook, http://www.phrases.org.uk/, http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thailand/bangkok/, http://www.cs.ait.ac.th/, http://www.watpho.com
Presidential elections were held in Maldives and Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom was the winner. In 2008, the first democratic presidential elections were held in Maldives, and Mohamed Nasheed had become the president. The president before Nasheed had ruled for 30 years. However, Nasheed resigned in 2012 because of some protests, and the vice president had taken over as president until Yameen was recently elected.
Maldives is a country in the Indian Ocean made up of nearly 1,200 islands. The country is famous for its white sandy beaches, blue water, coral reefs, and palm trees. The country’s beauty attracts many tourists. Maldives has already received over one million tourists this year. The capital of Maldives is the busy, bustling city of Male. Almost a third of Maldivians live in Male. Maldives’ official language is Dhivehi and official religion is Islam. The weekend in Maldives is Friday thru Saturday.
Did you know?
Most of the islands of Maldives are less than 1 meter (3 feet) above sea level. One of the country’s big concerns is the rising sea levels caused by global warming, as this could put a large part of Maldives under water.
Image Credits: Shahee Ilyas for Male’s image, http://www.presidencymaldives.gov.mv for Yameen’s image
Sources: http://www.visitmaldives.com, https://www.cia.gov, http://www.presidencymaldives.gov.mv
Turn your hand into a mic, turn up the music to your favorite song, and sing along. The Karaoke World Championship 2013 was recently held in Lappeenranta, Finland. People from 32 countries participated, and the women’s winner was Sarah Ramos (from Spain) and the men’s winner was Teruhisa Tanaka (from Japan).This annual championship was started in Finland in 2003.
Did you know?
Finland holds some very unique annual world championships. Some examples are the Mobile Phone Throwing World Championship, the Air Guitar World Championship, and the Wife Carrying World Championship.
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According to a new study by scientists from NASA, University of Maryland, and Google, we are losing about 1.5 million square kms (600,000 square miles) of forest every single year. The study used satellite images from Google Earth. Here are some detailed maps showing global forest change from 2000 to 2012.
Image Credits: NASA Goddard, based on data from Hansen et al., 2013, http://www.kwc.fi/ for the Karaoke World Championship winners’ image
Sources: http://www.umdrightnow.umd.edu, http://googleresearch.blogspot.com/, www.nasa.gov, http://www.kwc.fi/
Over 50,000 people gathered in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, to express their unhappiness with their country’s government. Ukraine and the European Union (EU) were expected to sign an agreement this month that would improve trade between the two. However, Ukraine’s government decided not to go ahead and instead improve its relationships with other countries, including Russia, one of its already big trading partners. Many Ukrainians were upset because they want to have closer ties with the EU countries (a group of 28 countries in Europe that collaborate with each other). Russia is not a member of the EU.
The last time such large protests were held in Ukraine was in 2004. At that time, presidential elections had just been held in the country and the main contestants were two Viktors, Viktor Yanukovych and Viktor Yushchenko. Ukrainians believed that the winner should have been Yushchenko, but Yanukovych was declared the winner. People came out in large numbers to peacefully protest, and the elections were repeated with Yushchenko winning. These protests came to be known as the “Orange Revolution”, because orange was Yushchenko’s campaign color.
The current president of Ukraine is Viktor Yanukovych. Wait, didn’t we just say that he lost the elections in 2004? Yes, but he came back to win the next presidential elections in 2010!
Ukraine and Russia used to be part of the same country called the Soviet Union (USSR) until 1991. The Soviet Union split into fifteen separate countries. The two countries haven’t always gotten along. Ukraine buys gas used for cooking and heating from Russia, and Russia pumps its gas to other European countries through Ukraine’s pipes. The countries have had disagreements about how much they should pay each other. Russia has even cut off gas supply to Ukraine in the past during winter, making it very hard for Ukrainians.
Ukraine is very famous for its decorated eggs, usually referred to by the name “pysanka”. This tradition of decorating eggs is thousands of years old. Patterns and colors are used with wax to decorate the eggs. After the advent of the religion Christianity into the Ukraine area, these eggs have been associated with the Christian holiday of Easter.
Did you know?
Folks in Kiev (Ukraine) and Moscow (Russia) really enjoy eating at McDonald’s, the fast food chain restaurant . The top two most visited McDonald’s in the world in 2012 were the ones in Moscow’s Pushkin Square followed by Kiev’s Station Square. There are over 34,000 McDonald’s in 118 countries around the world.
Image Credits: Lubap Creator:Luba Petrusha for pysanky’s image, europa.eu for EU map’s image, Flag of Ukraine
Sources: New York Times, http://ec.europa.eu/, http://www.kmu.gov.ua, http://www.pbs.org, http://www.mcdonalds.ua
November 14 was Guinness World Records Day. It is a day celebrated annually where people around the globe get together to break world records. Some of the records that were set are the largest gathering of people dressed as penguins (United Kingdom), the largest table knife (Sweden), the longest wooden carving (China), the most darts caught by hand in one minute (Germany), the largest collection of pizza boxes (USA), the largest knitted scarf (Norway), and the most swords swallowed simultaneously underwater (Australia). A Japanese man broke his own record that he set last year on the Guinness World Records Day for the fastest 100m running on all fours.
You can watch a video of some of the new records set here.
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A new world record has recently been set in Canberra, the capital of Australia. The record is for the most lights on a home. A family put up 502,165 lights (breaking the previous record of 331,038) to decorate their house for Christmas. That’s over half a million lights! You can watch a video here.
Image Credits: http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com for Guinness World Records Day image
Magnus Carlsen of Norway won the World Chess Championship 2013 on November 22 in Chennai, India. He defeated Viswanathan Anand of India, the winner of the World Chess Championship last year. Carlsen became the youngest person to be ranked the World Number One chess player in 2010. He was just 19 years old at the time. Carlsen started playing chess at the age of 5, and by the time he was 13 years old, he was awarded the title of chess Grandmaster (a title given to only the most excellent chess players around the globe). Carlsen can play multiple chess games simultaneously, while not looking at the chess boards and just being told verbally what moves his competitors have made. He is often called the “Mozart of chess”. He not only plays chess but also has been a model for a clothing company. Time Magazine annually publishes a list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Carlsen was on its 2013 list which was published in April this year. You can view the list here. You can watch a clip about him here.
Did you know?
Chess is believed to have originated in India over 1,500 years ago.
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There is a small town in Norway called Rjukan that hardly gets any sunlight for about half a year as it is surrounded by tall mountains. Three large mirrors were installed earlier this year on top of a nearby mountain. These computer-controlled mirrors follow the sun’s path and reflect the sun’s rays onto Rjukan’s main square. Here is a video.
Image Credits: http://chennai2013.fide.com for the World Chess Championship 2013’s image
Sources: http://magnuscarlsen.com, http://chennai2013.fide.com/fide-world-chess-championship-2013-live/, http://www.fide.com/fide.html, http://www.visitrjukan.com
On November 18, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) took off from Earth and headed towards our neighbor Mars. MAVEN is the American space agency NASA’s spacecraft that will orbit Mars and study the atmosphere of the planet. The trip to Mars will take MAVEN about 10 months. Scientists believe that Mars once had flowing water on its surface. They want to understand what happened to the water and what changed the planet to the dry and cold planet we know today. The data MAVEN collects will help us understand the history of the atmosphere of Mars.
There are already 3 spacecrafts (Mars Odyssey, Mars Express Orbiter, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter) orbiting Mars and sending data back to Earth. There is another orbiter (Mars Orbiter Mission) launched earlier this month that is currently on its way to Mars. There are even two rovers (Curiosity and Opportunity) strolling around on Mars.
Here is a NASA site that gives a Mars and Earth comparison. Here are two videos explaining Maven and what ancient Mars could have looked like.
Did you know?
One Mars year (the time it takes Mars to orbit around the Sun) is 687 Earth days.
Image Credits: http://www.nasa.gov for MAVEN’s image
Sources: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov, http://www.nasa.gov
The Oxford Dictionaries picked their Word of the Year for 2013 to be (drum-roll) “selfie”. Selfie is a noun and its definition is “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website”. Who came up with the word? Well, it’s unclear but one of the first known uses of the word was in 2002 in a post on an Australian Internet site.
A couple of the the runner-up words were “binge-watch”, where you watch multiple episodes of a show one after another in one sitting, and “schmeat”, which is man-made meat. You can watch a video here.
Did you know?
“A picture is worth a thousand words.” This is a commonly used quote. It means that a complicated idea can be explained by an image.
Did you know?
In August this year, scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands presented the world’s first lab grown burger. The meat used in the burger was made up of cells grown in a laboratory.
Image Credits: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/ for selfie’s image
Sources: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com, http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com
“I wish to be Batkid.” This was the wish of a 5-year-old American boy named Miles Scott who had been fighting a type of cancer called Leukemia. He made a wish to an organization called Make A Wish Foundation. They helped make it come true!
Batman is a comic book character based in Gotham City. He goes around catching bad people and stopping crime. Batman wears a black cape and drives a car called the Batmobile. Some of his friends are his partner Robin, the police commissioner, and his butler. Some of his enemies are the Riddler, the Joker, and the Penguin. The character Batman first appeared in issue #27 of Detective Comics in May, 1939.
On November 15, the police department, the mayor, and over 10,000 citizens of the city of San Francisco, United States, joined the effort to transform their city into Gotham. Miles took on the role of Batkid and saved a lady, stopped the Riddler from robbing a bank, and stopped Penguin in a kidnapping attempt. Two black Lamborghinis were used as the Batmobile. People gathered and cheered, “Batkid, Batkid!” Even the president of the United States posted a message, “Way to go Miles, way to save Gotham.” You can watch it here.
The reason such a large number of people were able to gather to cheer Batkid was thanks to word spreading about the event through social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. Interestingly, San Francisco (and the area around it) is famous for being the headquarters of Internet companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google.
Miles was diagnosed with Leukemia three years ago, and his treatment ended earlier this year. Make A Wish is an American organization that takes wishes of children with serious illnesses and tries to make their dreams come true. The organization is able to grant the wish of a child every 38 minutes on average.
Here is a video of Batkid in action.
Image Credits: http://wish.org/ for Batkid’s image, DC Comics, Inc for Batman’s first comic image
Sources: telegraph.co.uk, http://www.mercurynews.com, http://wish.org, http://www.fingerfamily.com, http://www.npr.org/
Let’s visit the Golden Gate Bridge! This bridge, in San Francisco,United States, is widely believed to be the most photographed bridge in the world. The bridge, built over the Golden Gate Strait, was completed in 1937, taking over 4 years to build. For more than 25 years, it held the record for the longest suspension bridge in the world. It was also the bridge with the tallest suspension towers for over 60 years! The bridge is about 2.7 km (1.7 miles) long. It uses about 130,000 km (80,000 miles) of cable.
The bridge uses adjustable lanes, so that the number of traffic lanes in either direction can be changed based on traffic needs.
The name “Golden Gate” is often said to be because of the discovery of gold in California, but in reality, it was named so by a US Army captain who was reminded of the Golden Horn harbor of Byzantium.
When the bridge was completed, the chief engineer wrote a song, “The Mighty Task is Done“.
A suspension bridge is one where the weight hangs off cables that transfer the load to the ends of the bridge. These days, most of the world’s longest bridges are suspension bridges.
Image Credits: Rich Niewiroski Jr. for Golden Gate Bridge’s image