Harry Potter isn't the only one who can disappear with the swish of a coat. Researchers in Britain and the U.S. have developed an invisibility cloak that deflects microwaves and groups them together again on the other side of the object that's covered. So far, the scientists have only hidden a small cylinder. But if the technology is ever developed further down the road, imagine the implications for the Pentagon. Stealth fighting would take on a completely new meaning.
Want to go out to eat, but don't like the company of riffraff that gets into restaurants charging only $50 per entree? Forbes.com and Zagat recently released their annual list of the world's most expensive restaurants. Contenders were in non-U.S. "culinary capitals" chosen by Forbes. Zagat then provided the average price, including tip, of dinner for one with a drink at the cities' costliest eateries. Without any further ado, here are this year's winners:
1. Aragawa, Tokyo, Japan – $368 per person
2. Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris, France – $231
3. Gordon Ramsay, London, England – $183
4. Acquarello, Munich, Germany – $125
5. Alberto Ciarla, Rome, Italy – $110
6. Sushi Kaji, Toronto, Canada – $109
7. Queue de Cheval Steak House, Montreal, Canada – $85
8. El Amparo, Madrid, Spain – $70
9. Whampoa Club, Shanghai, China – $63
10. Boeucc, Milan, Italy – $62
Chinese authorities have canceled rapper Jay-Z's Shanghai concert, scheduled for October 23, saying the rapper is too vulgar. More vulgar, apparently, than the sometimes raunchy Rolling Stones and Black Eyed Peas, both of which held concerts in China this year. Still, I wonder how the promoters thought that a rapper whose hits include "Big Pimpin'" and "Money, Cash, Hoes" would have made it past the censors in the first place. I just have one thing to say about Jay: He's got 99 problems, and a Shanghai show ain't one.
Most 20-somethings already suspect you can get as much information from The Daily Show as you can from network news. Now they have proof. A new study, "No Joke: A Comparison of Substance in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Broadcast Television Coverage of the 2004 Presidential Election Campaign," by Julia R. Fox of Indiana University, finds that The Daily Show has the same amount of substantive content per news story as the traditional broadcasters. In fact:
The proportion of each story devoted to substance [on The Daily Show] was greater than in the network news stories," according to the report.
Although the entire paper won't be published until next summer, there is enough in the IU press release to make it clear that the sun may have set on the era of network news. And if that isn't truthiness, I don't know what is.
The Pentagon just renewed its contract with the Lincoln Group, the public relations firm that notoriously paid for and planted articles favorable to the coalition in the Iraqi media. The AP reports that for the next two years the company will monitor English- and Arabic-language news outlets and produce talking points for the coalition:
The idea, according to contract documents, is to use the information to 'build support' in Iraqi, Arab, international and American audiences for what the military describes as its goals in Iraq."
Because they've done such a good job already.
Bad news for enviro-friendly music fans. Coldplay, the popular British band best known for being fronted by Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow, (Please don't send me any angry letters about that, Passport readers. I too have been known to listen to Coldplay.) attempted to go carbon neutral with its 2002 sophomore album, A Rush of Blood to the Head. To offset the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere during production of the album, Coldplay sponsored the planting of 10,000 mango trees in southern India. But, four years later, many of the saplings have unfortunately withered in the arid Indian soil. Let's hope the forest they've adopted in Chiapas, Mexico, to go along with their most recent album, X&Y, doesn't suffer the same fate.
GOOD magazine has a nice little item on what political candidates would look like if they had to wear their political donations like endorsements, much like a NASCAR driver might do. Here's Hillary Clinton and Rick Santorum, who have raised the most money in their respective parties for the upcoming midterms.
You know those grave allegations made by U.S. authorities that Iran and Syria have been providing Hezbollah rockets, even in the midst of the recent conflict? Well, part of the evidence for these claims came from some good, old-fashioned..."crateology":
In the closed world of spy satellite photo analysis, it's called "crate-ology": the science of identifying a weapon or some other key component by the size and shape of its box.
The technique came into play last month when a U.S. spy satellite, looking down on an Iranian air base, captured images of military crews loading what U.S. intelligence analysts concluded were eight C-802 Noor anti-ship cruise missiles on board a transport plane, according to intelligence officials.
Hat tip: Arms Control Wonk
Monkeys are everywhere", [says the project's founder]. "Often, you'll see a huge, gorilla-sized monkey hang on to an antenna, swing from it, eat it, try to break it. We lost a lot of cables that way, but now we use very strong equipment so that even monkeys can't break it."
If you trust the media reports, all's well between China and India. The two massive nations claim to be putting aside their long-standing border dispute (which led to a war in 1962) in an effort to cement their supposedly newfound friendship. But here's one for the conspiracy theorists: Could China be secretly planning a border invasion in case talks fall through?
One intrepid Google Earth explorer has found in northern China what appears to be a 1:500 scale terrain model of the disputed Indo-Chinese border. The 630,000 square meter plot of land is an extraordinarily intricate replica of the border region - complete with snow-capped peaks, lakes, and mountain passes. And it seems to be situated next to a Chinese military compound; Google Earth images reveal mysterious buildings, military trucks, lookout towers, and a communications facility nearby.
So you've already heard of GPS satellites, telecommunications satellites, and spy satellites. Now China is adding another moniker to the mix - a "seed satellite." In an effort to feed its ever-growing population, Chinese officials are launching over 2,000 seeds into orbit for a two-week trip designed to force the seeds to mutate.
Exposed to special environment such as cosmic radiation and micro-gravity, it is hoped that some seeds will mutate to such an extent that they may produce much higher yields and improved quality.
Apparently, China has been experimenting with space seeds for years with much success, but this will be the first satelite solely dedicated to producing the mutations necessary for an improved crop yield. The launch of the seed satellite should immediately bring one question to the mind of any avid follower of the Chinese space program - what ever happened to China's super space pig sperm?
Did you know that we have cartoon characters working for the military? We mean that literally (although it's perhaps figuratively true too). Neither did we, until we stumbled across this photo from the Department of Defense's website. Yes, that's Otto the Bus Driver from The Simpsons. Here are some choice excerpts from his official bio:
Though frequently involved in random collisions, Otto remains true the Bus Driver's Pledge: "never crash the bus on purpose," and stands proudly by his record of fifteen crashes without a single fatality.
If you're stuck inside, slaving away at your desk this summer Friday, take a quick escape on the Internet. For three minutes, forget about the world's troubles and travel around the globe with this goofy guy Matt. He spent the first six months of this year dancing his way around 39 countries on all 7 continents. The lucky bastard even managed to get corporate sponsorship! Click on http://www.wherethehellismatt.com to watch.
As world leaders head off on holiday, pundits and columnists eagerly analyze their choice of destination. What does it tell us about President Bush that he revels in the heat of Crawford (even if only for ten days this year)? And how does all that brush he clears grow back so quickly? Tony Blair’s penchant for borrowing villas from the rich and famous, most recently Cliff Richard’s pad in Barbados, provides British journalists with irresistible copy about the PM's supposed celebrity fetish. But what are we to make of the fact that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, as The Spectator reports, owns a Winnebago camper van? Is the Kingdom finally on the move? Is its ruler restless? Or is he just harking back to his Bedouin roots?
The 2006 Branding Survey, done by InterBrand and Business Week, is out and it includes all sorts of interesting tidbits. On the list of most valuable brands, Ford, Gap and Kodak are down while Google, Starbucks, and Citi financial services are up. Burberry, the pride of British fashion, broke into the top 100 for the first time. American brands are by far the most valuable—the United States claims 13 of the top 20 spots. The State Department's beleagured public diplomacy shop must be green with envy.
As we celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness this weekend, FP thought it was time to delve a little deeper into another great Fourth of July tradition: Competitive eating. Our new Seven Questions previews the annual Nathan's International Hot Dog eating competition on Coney Island.
The cofounder of the International Federation of Competitive Eating dishes the dirt on world champion Takeru Kobayashi, talks about how international the sport (if that is the right word) really is, and explains how these men (and women) can eat 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes. Legal notice: FP takes no responsibility for any injuries sustained by Passport readers trying to emulate this feat.
Did you know that Honda (yes, as in the Japanese automaker) is the top organic soybean producer in Ohio? Neither did I. Then, there's this:
Honda acquired patents to high-yield rice genes last year. It's trying to learn the basics of genetic science with the aim of making ethanol from sugar cane to run cars, says Motoatsu Shiraishi, 59, president of research and development.
In addition, the company is developing a clean-running diesel engine (at a top-secret, closed-to-the-media lab) that should use 30 percent less fuel than standard gasoline engines. Check out this Bloomberg report to see the other ways that Honda is staying ahead of the environmental curve in anticipation of ever-increasing oil prices.
I have a two and a half year-old niece who is obsessed with Dora the Explorer. Actually, obsessed isn't nearly strong enough of a word. I'm convinced nothing short of a rigorous regimen of methadone treatments could wean her off of the Dora narcotic. But apparently Dora the Explorer is old news for some toddlers, like three-year-old Henry Schally, of St. Paul, Minnesota, who prefers to watch The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Yes. The Newshour with Jim Lehrer.
At Henry's most recent birthday party, the cake was decorated with a photo of the newshour cast, the partygoers wore Jim Lehrer party hats, and the prize gift was an autographed photo of "Jimmy Jimmy BoBo" (that’s “Jim Lehrer” in three-year-old speak). Don't miss the video on WCCO's website. Here's my question. What kind of gift do you bring to a Newshour-themed birthday bash? The 9/11 Commission Report? An American flag bow tie? I'm thinking a 2-year subscription to FP would go over quite well.
When Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi comes to the US later this month, he can look forward to peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Bush is escorting Koizumi, who's apparently the biggest Elvis fan to ever lead a country, to Graceland aboard Air Force One. The pilgrimage makes sense: Koizumi shares a birthday with the King, his brother ran a chapter of Presley's fan club, he often sings along to Elvis songs at official dinners, and he released a CD for charity entitled "My Favorite Elvis Songs." Given that devotion, you'd think he'd have visited Memphis before. Well, perhaps so many times it's embarrassing:
"This is his first time visiting Graceland as prime minister," a Japanese Embassy spokesman said. "I cannot confirm that he hasn't been there before."
In other news, the Chinese are all shook up over Koizumi's upcoming red-carpet treatment.
The idea that politics and sport don't mix is one of the oldest clichés in the book. But it's a little bit like saying you shouldn't drink wine and beer in the same evening: Mixing is inevitable, if undesirable, and sometimes has disastrous consequences.
But this World Cup could determine Iran’s attitude to diplomacy, how long Tony Blair can stay PM in Britain, and whether Germany liberalizes its economy. (And no, I’m not just saying this to justify taking a long lunch to watch the 2nd half of today's opener.)
Just imagine the consequences if Iran gets knocked out thanks to a couple of dodgy decisions from the predominantly Western referees? An England victory could buy Blair some much needed breathing room. If Germany wins, Angela Merkel's rating will roar into the stratosphere. She'd then have the political capital to implement the kind of reforms that her razor-thin mandate knocked off the agenda. Politics and the pitch just go together.
Here at FP, we like to think that we're occasionally ahead of the curve on important issues. Sometimes, we're WAY ahead of the curve - 30 years or so. That's why we're delighted to unearth this editorial cartoon from our Winter 1975-76 issue:
The great Herbert Block, the political cartoonist who lampooned every U.S. president from Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush and coined the term "McCarthyism," is to blame.
Simon C Roberts / NB Pictures
If a picture tells a thousand words, then a photo costs as much as a 3,000 word feature. But they’re truly L’Oréal. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this collection from the Press Photographer of the Year Award, photo number 5 is my personal favorite. They’re an eclectic group of shots ranging from Iraq to Pete Doherty aka Mr. Kate Moss to the World Taxidermy Championship in our very own Miss O’Hara’s neck of the woods. Check ‘em out.
Oh, Bono. Only you can write "nipple of aid" in an op-ed in the Guardian and get away with it. Kudos. So since this is a big week for celebrity activists and Africa, what with you traveling the continent, and Angelina about to give birth - after single-handedly putting Namibia on the map for a generation of entertainment reporters and gossip hounds - I give you again Rob Long's excellent FP memo on how celebs can use their star power to further good causes. You, Bono, are doing quite well considering. You're even something of a role model for Brangelina. But Rob's advice is golden: Pick a focused cause of choice, and "avoid being photographed with anyone who might later need to appear as a defendant in a war-crimes trial." Good stuff.
OK, I'm just so enamored, I had to post again. From an interview on the Eurovision website with Mr. Lordi, in his own words:
Mr. Lordi is the monster of monsters. He leads a group of five monsters from different ages and different dimensions. We have an alien, we have an Egyptian mummy. On the musical side, we are a rock band, a heavy rock band, playing melodic 80s hard rock.
Herra Jumala! The Finnish heavy metal band Lordi has won the Eurovision competition. Conan O'Brien must be so proud. If you haven't already (and I'm sure you have), check out the website: eurovision.tv. It must be seen to be believed.
Yes, the land of the midnight sun, naked saunas, salty licorice, and Santa Claus (not to mention home of the Air Guitar World Championships and the Wife-Carrying World Championships) has pulled a major upset and beaten out the rest of the continent. If you've spent any time in Finland, you'll know what a glorious victory it is for ALL non-Indo-European-language-speaking Finns, not just the ones who wear leathery satanic masks; sport long, stringy wigs; glare with bloodshot demon eyes; clad themselves in reindeer fur and capes; and spend a lot of time around smoke machines. Just imagine the national pride....ahhhh, sigh! (Just for the record, having spent a year as an exchange student in Finland as a teenager, I tease, because I love.) Onneksi olkoon! Hyvää Suomi!
To get a flavor of the politics of the British magazine the New Statesman, go to its website, where a poll reveals that--at the time of writing--80 percent of visitors think that Hugo Chávez was right to snub Tony Blair on his recent visit to London. (Think about that for a second.) As Anne Applebaum recalled in FP, straight after 9/11, NS ran an editorial arguing that it was debatable that the victims were as “innocent and undeserving of terror as Vietnamese or Iraqi peasants.” After London was bombed, they ran a cover story entitled “Blair’s Bombs.”
So, when the magazine asked readers and contributors to nominate their heroes, one might expect a list fairly reflective of the orthodoxies of the old left. The exercise turned up some surprising results, though. Who would have guessed that the woman who destroyed the left in Britain would have come fifth? Equally surprising is the fact that the founder of that "evil American corporate giant" Microsoft makes the top ten. Intriguingly, Tony Blair—a man the magazine has compared to Stalin, urged readers to give a bloody nose to, and diagnosed as a psychopath—makes the top twenty, while Gordon Brown, the prince over the water to many in the Statesman’s orbit, failed to garner even a single nomination. And, why on earth are New Statesman readers putting the Queen in their list of heroes?
But fear not, there’s still plenty in the list to illustrate the blind spots of the old left. Fidel Castro is two places higher than Blair at 16, proof that being anti-American covers any multitude of sins. Fidel, though, has been surpassed in the left’s affections by another Latin: Hugo Boss himself. Unsurprisingly, Pilger and Chomsky both make the top ten, while George "I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability" Galloway squeaks into the top twenty.
It is hard to quibble, though, with the top two on the list: Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. They are heroes of this age whose actions will inspire generations yet unborn. And speaking as an Englishman, the man at number fifty is one of the people who has brought me most joy in life.
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