Shortly after Michael's Phelps supposedly "disastrous" defeat in the 200m butterfly to South Africa's Chad le Clos today, he collected his 15th gold in 800-meter freestyle, giving him a record 19 total career medals.
Phelps has now not only performed every other athlete in the history of the games, but many entire countries. Of the 205 countries that participate in the Olympics, 148 have fewer than 19 medals. Not too shabby.
Full list below the jump:
India's dark days continue. When two of the country's five power grids collapsed today, the number of powerless Indians neared 700 million. With stranded trains, unresponsive ATMs, and dark traffic lights abounding, it's been an unprecedented disaster only somewhat mitigated by the fact that the majority of Indians aren't connected to the power grid in the first place.
India's outage is now the largest blackout in history, surpassing yesterday's power outage for the record. But it's not the only time the world has seen millions without power. Here are a few more of the world's recent memorable blackouts:
Number affected: 120 million people in Java and Bali
When three power stations went down, three provinces -- including the capital city, Jakarta -- were plunged into darkness. Fires erupted across the capital when resourceful residents turned to candles to light their homes.
Number affected: 97 million across Brazil and Paraguay
The blackout was caused by lightning hitting an electricity substation, causing the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to grind to a hault. Just two years later, the Brazilian government was forced to ration power to prevent more blackouts during a national drought.
Number affected: 60 million across Brazil and Paraguay
Ten years after Brazil's biggest blackout, the Itaipu dam along the border of Paraguay shut down completely, affecting large parts of both countries. Many at the time thought the blackout (shown above) was the consequence of a cyberattack.
Number affected: 57 million across Italy
The blackout occurred the night of Italy's annual "Nuit Blanche" or "White Night" festival in Rome. It's safe to say festivities ended earlier than expected.
Number affected: 50 million in New York, Michigan, and Ohio, as well as Toronto and Ottawa, Canada
The biggest blackout in U.S. history cost an estimated $6 billion dollars. Remarkably, the massive outage began with a single high-voltage power line in Northern Ohio brushing against overgrown trees.
Number affected: 30 million across parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, and Ontario, Canada
The initial cause of the blackout was the tripping of a transmission line near Ontario, though at time, many linked the outage with supposed UFO sightings.
Number affected: 10 million across Europe
After a routine shut down of a high-voltage transmission line to allow a ship to pass on the Elms river in Germany supposedly caused this blackout. France, Italy, Austria, Belgium, and Spain were also affected.
Number affected: 10 million
Keeping the lights on does, indeed, appear to be an Achilles heel for the fast-growing economy, provoking fears ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images
From Beijing to Moscow from Rio to Sydney, the Olympics have spanned continents, traversed intense political terrain, and remained competitive for bidders of all colors and creeds. That said, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan recently questioned the IOC's fairness:
"No country with a majority of Muslim population has ever hosted the Olympics," Erdogan said in London after watching the Turkish women's basketball team beating Angola 72-50 in its first Olympic match.
"This is the third time for London, Madrid was the host twice," he said. "Tokyo has hosted three games. Istanbul has bid to host the Olympics five times but has never been handed the rights. This is not a fair approach."
Not yet jaded by his fourth rejection since the 2000 Olympics, Ergodan has been working to bolster Turkey's fifth bid to host the 2020 Games in Istanbul and to understand why Turkey's never won the bid. With a 75,000-person stadium already built, Ergodan's sparing no line of argument to help sway Jacques Rogge, head of the IOC.
While a number of other cities in Islamic countries have vied for the games in recent years including Cairo, Kuala Lumpur, and Doha, the winner won't be announced until September 7, 2013, in Buenos Aires.
Islamic practice has already caused some controversy in this Olympics with the dispute over whether Saudi Arabia's female Judo competitor Wojdan Shaherkani will be allowed to compete with her headscarf.
Researchers from Oslo's Norwegian Institute for Water Research and Milan's Mario Negri Institute revealed results from their collaborative study on European sewage today.
Partnering with eleven other institutions across Europe, they traced illicit drug use across 19 European cities measuring biomarkers of cocaine, amphetamine, ecstasy, methamphetamine and cannabis in each city's sewer system. In what was essentially a "city-wide urine test," scientists found cocaine usage was highest in Antwerp while Nordics preferred methamphetamines; Amsterdam had the highest use of cannabis (surprise, surprise).
While questionnaire-based studies, police reports, and medical data have been the predominant methods to map drug use in cities, studying sewage might yield the most "accurate and dependable results," according to Kevin Thomas -- one of the project's coordinators. He added that "with the right financing we have the potential for the first time to better understand the hard facts about illicit drug use worldwide."
Gert-Jan Geraeds, the Executive Publisher Environmental Science & Ecology at Elsevier, said:
"The importance of solid academic foundations to develop effective drug policies cannot be underestimated. It all comes together in this study: science and policy, on a local scale with global significance."
Way to kill Europe's buzz, man.
There's some rare promising news out of El Salvador, which with 7 killings per 10,000 inhabitants per year, has one of the world's highest death rates due to armed violence. Ever since Msgr. Fabio Colindres, a Catholic bishop in the capital city of San Salvador, negotiated peace between the city's most violent gangs -- the Mara Salvatrucha gang (MS-13) and Barrio 18 -- last March, crime has been more than cut in half, dropping from 15 deaths per day in March to only 6 deaths per day in June. According to government reports, an estimated 800 lives have been saved as a result of the peace and communities feel significantly safer.
Insisting that the drop in violence was "el proceso de paz" (the process of peace) and not simply a "tregua" (truce), Colindres met with Organization of American States Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza at La Esperanza Prison yesterday. Meeting with gang leaders who had been transferred there from maximum security prisons just before the peace agreement, Insulza commended the inmates:
Thanks to your courage in opening yourselves to understanding and to conversations, and for understanding that the good that comes of this will be a lesson that could be applied in other countries that suffer from criminal violence."
Gang members in the neighborhoods don't really want to be doing the things that they're doing, but there really - there is no resources, no outlet for these kids to address the issues that they're involved in. So, once there is a space - once something is created for them to kind of think about the things that they're doing and there is some activity around the issue as an alternative, they break down."
Over 150 days since the brokered ceasefire, Colindres reminded the community that (my translation), "one can only achieve peace believing that it is possible... It's a process that involves-and should involve-the entire nation."
When U.S. President John F. Kennedy turned 45, Marilyn Monroe performed her infamous rendition of "happy birthday" in Madison Square Garden. When Russian President Vladimir Putin turned 58, he received an erotic calendar from young journalists in Moscow. But when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych turned 62 yesterday, he received...well, a fake Belarusian visa and a book on the "Basics of Ukrainophobia:" gifts from angry activists to ridicule his Belarusian roots and party's most recent legislation.
No doubt, his celebration's been a little less sultry and lot more politically heated. Widespread discontent over the recent "language bill," passed last Monday, July 3, has fueled protests throughout Ukraine and exaggerated tensions between Ukraine's Russian-speaking East and Ukrainian-speaking West. Approved by 248 of the 364 legislators present for the vote, the bill officially recognizes "regional" languages where they're spoken by at least ten percent of the population and permits their official use of in legal discourse, business, and education.
Yanukovych, who grew up in the Russian speaking Donetsk Oblast and represents the pro-Russian Part of the Regions, pledged to make Russian a second official language during his campaign, but the vote was still a shock for many Ukrainians. In response to what's been deemed "a lightning vote," the speaker of Ukraine's parliament and leader of the opposition People's Party -- Volodymyr Lytvyn - resigned. Rather than accept the resignation of its leader, parliament voted Friday to adjourn for the summer and delay discussion of the bill.
Citing article Article 10 of the Ukrainian constitution which requires that the state "ensure comprehensive development and functioning of the Ukrainian language in all spheres of social life throughout the entire territory of Ukraine," critics charge that the bill is a blatant attempt to undermine Ukraine's language and sovereignty in favor of Russia - an all too familiar criticism for Yanukovych who's been ridiculed as the Kremlin's pawn in the past.
While the jury's still out on the future of the bill, it seems like Yanukovych may need to work on his birthday plans. Last year, he simply asked for "hard workers."
While most countries use independence day as an excuse for over-the-top indulgence, Malawi's new President Joyce Banda has a more modest interpretation. As her country prepared to celebrate its 48th year of independence from Great Britain, Banda made it clear that this year's celebrations would be more, well...responsible. While celebrations under former President Bingu Wa Mutharika were lavish and fun (for some), they were also expensive. And so, in keeping with her track record of fiscal responsibility --in contrast to her jet-setting, free-spending predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika -- Banda decided to save some party money (roughly $400,000) and host a national worship service instead.
Standing before a packed hall of worshipers in Blantyre she called for collaboration and diligence moving forward:
I thank God for the dedicated team of personnel he has given me. Together, we make very brilliant plans for the nation. But no matter how hard we might try, if those below us frustrate such plans, we won't achieve anything."
Hopefully she at least had desert.
STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images
Passport, FP’s flagship blog, brings you news and hidden angles on the biggest stories of the day, as well as insights and under-the-radar gems from around the world.