World leaders smile and back-slap like old friends at summit meeting photo-ops. But behind the bonhomie they may be judging each other’s strengths and weaknesses with the brutal candor of high school students sizing up rivals. The huge cache of diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks contain frank assessments of many top geopolitical players – and predictions as to how their personalities might affect US politics.
Now that we're fully into the holiday shopping season, Monitor staff writers have compiled a list of items you might consider as Christmas or Hanukkah gifts. We begin with some family-friendly DVDs. Each item has a link to amazon.com, where you can purchase the item and help support the Christian Science Monitor at the same time.
The newest WikiLeaks release comprises 251,287 cables from more than 250 United States embassies around the world, including thousands classified "Secret." With historical cables dating back to the 1960s, the trove is seven times the size of "The Iraq War Logs," making it the world's largest classified information release. The New York Times, Der Spiegel, El País, the Guardian, and Le Monde had early access to the logs. According to their analysis of the myriad issues discussed in the cables, these five are among the most striking revelations.
Amid all the hype about e-readers, let's not forget audiobooks, an alternative to traditional print that’s been around since vinyl records. Here are some of the audiobook titles now topping bestseller lists in the English-speaking world.
What's selling best in independent bookstores across America.
North Korea shelled South Korea's Yeonpyeong island Tuesday, killing two South Korean marines and injuring more than a dozen people. South Korea returned fire. Both sides claimed that the other fired first. While the South has engaged in past attacks – notably in November 2009, when it fired on a North Korean patrol boat, and in June 1999, when it sunk a North Korean vessel – history shows that Pyongyang is often the instigator. A 2007 report from the US Congressional Research Service documents dozens of provocations, ranging from low-level naval warfare to assassinations of South Korean cabinet officers. Here are seven examples of the North's military provocations over the past decade.
Sarah Palin's new book, "America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag," includes numerous references to Americans – and occasionally non-Americans – of whom she approves. Many of Palin's choices are not surprising (Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Thomas Jefferson) while others (Judd Aptow, Simon Cowell, Elvis Presley) are. Often, Palin praises one figure by disparaging another. Taken together, her likes and dislikes offer a quick recap of her worldview.
Royal wedding date-watchers need speculate no more. When the long-awaited engagement of Prince William and longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton was announced last week, they and their wedding planners were bombarded with questions. Where did that gorgeous ring come from? Who will design the wedding dress?And – when will the wedding of the decade be? Some of those questions were answered immediately (the ring originally belonged to William's mother, the late Princess Diana), some have since been answered, and some remain up in the air (rumors run rampant about who will design Kate's wedding gown, but nothing has been confirmed). Here are some of the details that have been finalized.
Security screening at US airports has undergone waves of changes in the years since 9/11. Here are five of the biggest changes to affect air travelers in recent years.
It's enough to create a royal tizzy. With Prince William and Kate Middleton engaged to be married, they must now settle on a wedding date – while dodging obstacles posed by friends' weddings, a major political referendum, and, of course, Britain's cold and rainy months. Sources are speculating, guessing, estimating, and guesstimating on the possible day. It's of importance to more than royal watchers, friends, and family of William and Kate. Many brides-to-be are concerned that their special day will be overshadowed by what tabloids are calling the biggest wedding of the decade. Here are the four likely wedding dates being bandied about:
Full-body scans and enhanced pat-downs have become America’s “primary screening” technique, but have also generated a rising tide of criticism for being too invasive. At each of the 68 major airports where the 385 new full-body scanners are in place, passengers will be directed to them, says Sarah Horowitz, spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Here's what to expect – and what protections you can demand:
See a lot of people squatting in the open today? Don't be offended. The so-called "big squat" was held worldwide to coincide with the 10th annual World Toilet Day, an initiative to bring awareness to the need for adequate sanitary facilities. Every day, some 1.1 billion people go to the bathroom without any type of toilet, according to the World Health Organization. And even with a toilet, facilities are not necessarily sanitary. WaterAid America estimates that roughly 2.5 billion people – nearly 40 percent of the global population – do their business unsafely, often in public spaces. World Toilet Day is organized by the Singapore-based World Toilet Organization, which has 235 member organizations in 58 countries "working toward eliminating the toilet taboo and delivering sustainable sanitation." Here's a list of the world's worst nations in terms of people lacking access to sanitary facilities.
This year's Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on Dec. 10 won't only be missing its honoree, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who is under house arrest in China. The number of countries that have declined invitations to attend has risen from six to 19 in the past two months. Nobel committee members suspect that has something to do with China's "you're either with us or against us" tone urging other nations to join its boycott of the Oslo ceremony. Beijing boasted Tuesday that most countries would stay away from attending the ceremony. In fact, only the 65 countries with embassies in Norway were invited, and 44 of those had accepted, according to the Nobel Prize Committee. Who's standing with China? Here's a list. (click on the blue circle in the upper right corner of this page to move through the slides)
Al Qaeda-linked terror threats in Europe this fall put intelligence and security forces, as well as the public, on edge. Most recently, Germany ramped up its security in anticipation of a possible attack. Below, an overview of those threats and incidents:
As the world waits for the Nov. 19 release of Harry Potter film No. 7 ("Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" Part 1), it's fun to remember Harry as he's been revealed to us through the years.
Everyone's buzzing about the Tuesday announcement of Prince William's engagement to longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton. How closely have you been following the coverage? Take the quiz.
What's selling best in independent bookstores across America.
The fount of information about Kate Middleton, Prince William's fiance, will be unending from now until the wedding in spring or summer 2011. She has been one of the most searched items on the Internet since the engagement announcement Tuesday. There is far more about her available online than can be condensed into one article – but here are some highlights about Kate (Catherine Elizabeth) Middleton and her engagement.
Accused Russian arms trader Viktor Bout is to appear in court in New York on Wednesday. The previous day, he was extradited from Thailand, where he was arrested in 2008 and from where he fought an unsuccessful two-year legal battle against being turned over to US custody. He has always denied supplying weapons to armed groups and governments. For many years, he ran a legitimate air-cargo business that was accused by the United Nations of flouting sanctions in Africa and the Middle East. In recent years, he has lived in Moscow and rarely traveled outside Russia. He has been indicted for conspiring to sell weapons to a terrorist organization and of conspiring to kill US nationals. He has denied the charges.
Starting this Monday, the Senate welcomes 16 fresh faces to the Capitol’s marbled halls. While they won’t be sworn into office until January, these newly-elected members – three Democrats and 13 Republicans – come to Washington to tour the buildings, learn rules of decorum, and meet with their future coworkers. The new Senators come largely from open seats where both parties had a new candidate on the ticket and include a handful of tea partyers.
The Global Language Monitor, a language analytics company based in Texas, tracks language trends around the world. One of its projects is an annual list of the year's most buzzed-about words, phrases, and people, which provides a good snapshot of what the world was thinking about in 2010. Click through below for the five most popular words and phrases of 2010.
After years of speculation about when they would wed, Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement on Tuesday. The announcement seems to have thrilled Britons, both the public and the press. The wedding and the buzz leading up to it are likely to provide a bit of cheer for a nation – though some people are sure to grouse about the cost of what is sure to be a lavish affair at a time of sobering austerity cuts. Below are some of the royal wedding and marriage traditions that we will surely hear more about in coming months.
Barack Obama is not alone. Other presidents – and presidential hopefuls – have also written books for children.
A record number of international students – 690,923 – attended colleges and universities in the United States during the 2009-10 academic year, according to the just-released "Open Doors" report. Which countries sent the most students? Here is a countdown of the top five places, using data from the Institute of International Education, which publishes this survey annually.
After 388 days as prisoners of Somali pirates, Paul and Rachel Chandler were released Nov. 14. They were among 1,052 hostages taken in 2009, in addition to the 773 hostages taken in the first nine months of 2010, according to a recent report by the International Maritime Bureau. Click through the following slides to read about the Chandlers' ordeal and other high-profile captures.