Council members abstain from vote on abstaining

image982Three members of a Michigan city council have abstained from voting on a measure that would have prevented them from abstaining on future votes.

AnnArbor .com reports that Ypsilanti City Council member Pete Murdock proposed a resolution on May 21st that would have required council members to only vote “yes” or “no” on each issue unless they had a financial or professional conflict.

Mayor Paul Schreiber and council members Susan Moeller and Brian Robb abstained from the vote to show their disapproval of the resolution.

The resolution failed, with Murdock and another City Council member voting “yes” while two other council members voted “no.”

House on the Drina River attracting curious travelers

image974The world is full of unusual places, sites that are both intriguing and mysterious. A house on the Drina River in Serbia has captured both qualities, attracting curious travelers from across the globe.

Mysterious and tranquil, this tiny house stands on an exposed rock in the middle of the Drina River. It is situated near the town of Bajina Basta, Serbia. The town lies in the valley of the Drina River at the eastern edge of Tara National Park.

The beauty of the house was captured by Hungarian photographer Irene Becker in August. The picture soon became a hit on the Internet. The image was highlighted by National Geographic as one of the best “Photos of the Day” for the month of August, 2012.

Irene Becker, Hungarian Photographer, said, “I’m so glad that my picture makes this tiny house known to more and more people.”

image973The house, despite having just found its recent fame, has been standing in the middle of the river for more than 40 years.

The owner of the house, said, “This house was built in 1968. It was not easy to build it then. But finally I made it happen with the help of my friends.”

The owner says the house has become a perfect place to spend the holidays. And when the weather is favorable, a boat ride to the house is one of the key highlights.

And after becoming a hit on the web, more and more curious travelers are going to descend on this house on the river, situated almost in the middle of nowhere.

Watch a CCTV news video:


Tourist trek thousands of feet up Chinese mountain

image1000Vertigo-inducing pictures show tourists navigating an extremely narrow and treacherous walkway along cliffs at a scenic mountain in China’s Shaanxi Province.

The precipitous Chang Kong Cliff Road on Haushan mountain was built more than 700 years ago by hermits seeking ‘immortals’ they thought were living deep in the mountains.

The walkway is only a foot wide and has been built clinging to the absolutely vertical cliff. One misstep would send pilgrims plunging thousands of feet down into the valley.

These days, anyone brave enough to navigate the path does have to wear a special safety harness.

Bland’s plan to link with Dull and Boring

image1001The long-suffering inhabitants of Bland, Australia are hoping to turn a negative into a positive by establishing sister relationships with Dull in Scotland and Boring in the US.

Bland Shire, Australia, is home to more than 6,000 people, encompasses farmland in a region of New South Wales. It was named after William Bland, a colonial-era doctor who was anything but dull.

Born in London, the son of an obstetrician, he was transported as a convict to Van Diemen’s Land in 1814 after killing a sailor in a duel in Bombay.

He was later pardoned, became a pillar of colonial life and went on to found the Australian Medical Association.

“I think over the years we’ve had our share of fun poked at us,” Tony Lord, a Bland Shire councillor, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“Wherever there’s a deemed threat or a deemed negative, there’s always an opportunity.”

“I think that’s where we need to think positively and look ahead at all the opportunities that may occur or that we can generate.”

“We’re hoping it will basically make people aware of the Bland Shire, and also make people aware that there are unusual names around the world,” he said.

The village of Dull, in Scotland, and Boring, in the U.S. (Oregon), have already joined forces to draw in tourists and forge closer links between their communities, with their inhabitants linking up via social media.

Stomping grounds of trolls and Valkyries in Norse folklore


The town of Reine in the Lofoten Islands of Norway.

Norway’s Lofoten Islands, the stomping grounds of trolls and Valkyries in Norse folklore, were once a place where adventurers hauled in riches from the dangerous seas.

Now the rewards – and the seafaring way of life – face threats from a precipitous decline in whaling and a rapidly changing cod industry. These changes have transformed this chain of islands in the Arctic Circle into a place that sees more job seekers leaving than arriving.

Skrova boasted the highest percentage of millionaires in all Norway as recently as 1980, thanks to its thriving fish factories and whaling station. All but one factory has since closed, according to National Geographic magazine.

An article in the June (2013) issue of National Geographic magazine chronicles how the way of life that once linked modern people to their Viking ancestors is going extinct.

An abandoned sheep hut on Røst testifies to the changing times. Only two young men in the past ten years have pursued a fishing career.

Jan Bjørn Kristiansen, 69, has spent the past five decades sailing the waters of the Vestfjorden. His weather-beaten vessel, also called Jan Bjørn, was among the 20 that took to the seas this summer season. When he started as a deckhand in the late 1950s, there were some 200 whalers in the area.

The plunge in participants isn’t due to a lack of minke whales or the complicated politics of whaling – Norwegian youths are simply opting for salaried jobs instead of becoming fishermen, according to National Geographic.

Whaling is a costly trade with low returns. Whale meat is often seen as Depression-era or eco-unfriendly food. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) imposes restrictions on its trade, and the export market is scant. In 2011, only 533 minke whales were caught in Norway, a far cry from the country’s annual quota of 1,286.

Kristiansen said he usually harpoons 30 or 40 whales during the summer season and sells their meat to local merchants.

Dried cod trade once attracted thousands seeking their fortunes to Lofoten. Every year, millions of Atlantic cod migrate from Barents Sea, transforming the islands into opulent fisheries. The area also has the right climate to dry out the fish to make stockfish, a kind of cod jerky, which was highly valued by the Vikings for their long journeys and became an important export during the Middle Ages.

The cod still spawn among Lofoten’s reefs and sandbars, but as old fishermen retire, seafood companies snatch their quotas, which dictate how many tons of cod can be caught each year. The younger fishermen who want to take over for their fathers often have trouble getting the money to buy a boat.

With dreams of studying film, 16-year-old Aurora Ellingsen will soon leave Skrova to attend the regional high school, the first step in a journey that will likely take her far from her parents and her island roots.

With dreams of studying film, 16-year-old Aurora Ellingsen will soon leave Skrova to attend the regional high school, the first step in a journey that will likely take her far from her parents and her island roots.

“Banks don’t want to lend you that kind of money when you’re my age,” Odd Helge Isaksen, a 22-year-old who wants to become a traditional Loften fisherman, told National Geographic.

In Skrova, which was once a thriving fishing port, all but one of the factories that used to process cod and herring have shut their doors. The island once boasted Norway’s highest percentage of millionaires. Now, it is home to only 150 full-time residents.

According to National Geographic, “Skrova’s most significant export these days isn’t salmon or whale but the precious cargo that leaves on the passenger ferry to Svolvær every autumn-a small clutch of schoolchildren who have outgrown the island’s tiny community school and are obliged to pack their bags and leave home to attend the regional high school. For most of them, this introduction into the larger world is the start of a whole new life, one that leads away from Skrova.”

The Army wants you — to write soaps for Colombian guerrilla fighters

image1002Uncle Sam is looking for a few good men or women – to write Spanish-language soap operas to combat Colombian guerrilla fighters!

The US Army put out a call for proposals to write 20 radio novella episodes that would air in Colombia and push the message that citizens should resist joining violent, drug-pushing rebels.

Additionally, nearly half of those episodes would encourage current fighters to put down their weapons and give up the cause, according to a Wired magazine report.

The government wants the radio novellas to focus on counter-recruitment as well as family values and treating women with respect.

And like any good soap opera, the episodes should highlight “democratic alternatives to violence that can furnish functioning state institutions, and emerging environmental concerns in support of US and partner nation goals in Colombia, South America.”

The 15-minute episodes will be written in Spanish “using a mix of Colombian actors who speak the various dialects of each area,” according to the Army’s solicitation request.

Story lines are expected to lean on the real-life experiences of former guerrilla fighters.

“The script … must be written based on the themes provided by a Military Information Support Team (MIST) representative and derived from the statements received from the demobilized guerrillas at one of the Grupo de Atención Humanitaria al Desmovilizado (GAHD) centers located in the cities of Bogota, Bucaramanga, and Cali,” according to the Army’s solicitation.

Ana Patel, of the Outward Bound Center for Peacebuildng and a former expert on disarmament told Wired magazine that “FARC commanders spend a lot of time telling foot soldiers that they will be killed, hurt or imprisoned if they demobilize.”

“For the past couple of years, government officials have asked demobilizing combatants to call their friends who are still in the mountains and tell them that it is safe to demobilize, with a lot of success.”

The mag reports the Army’s soapy plan would have wide reach because of rural Colombia’s reliance on radio communication.

While the U.S. military doesn’t reveal how much is being spent on the proposals, USA Today reported that the Pentagon spent $54 million in 2012 on global propaganda programs.

From The Boston Herald and China Central Television, USA-UK online, London’s Daily Telegraph, New York Daily News and New York Post.