Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Aug 24, 2015 in Stuff You Should Know

U.S. Embassy Reopens in Cuba

Last year, President Obama announced the end to a decades-old foreign policy with Cuba. Since then, there has been much speculation over what actions might follow. On August 14, the American embassy in Havana formally reopened. The occasion was marked with a ceremony in which Secretary of State John Kerry made remarks and the U.S. flag was raised. This marked the first time since President Dwight Eisenhower formerly cut diplomatic ties many decades ago. “Cuba’s future must be shaped by Cubans,” Kerry said, acknowledging that the country remains under a one-party communist rule.

Hundreds gathered to watch, while a brass band played both Cuban and American songs. The news conference that followed, however, was not without its tense moments. Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez defended criticisms of his country’s poor human rights record by turning the attention to the United States’s own history of police brutality, racial discrimination and torture. Former Cuban president Fidel Castro also made news when he published a newspaper column saying that the U.S. owes his country millions of dollars for damages caused by the economic embargo, which is still in effect.

Dig Deeper Back in July, a similar ceremony was held in Washington D.C. for the reopening of the Cuban embassy. Do some research on the event, reading at least two opinion pieces from a major newspaper about the impact of both ceremonies and what it might mean (positive and negative) for future relationships between the nations.

Google Creates Parent Company

One of the world’s biggest technology ”big kids” is getting a new parent. Earlier this month, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin introduced Alphabet, a collection of companies that include Google, Chrome, Android and YouTube. It will also oversee its labs for new efforts, as well as investments. What will not be included under the Alphabet umbrella is Google’s more experimental ventures, such as driverless cars. Alphabet Inc. will replace Google Inc, the entity that previously handled all publicly-traded entities and shares of Google. The decision was made in order to make everything “cleaner and more accountable.”

The model for the new venture is billionaire Warren Buffett’s empire called Berkshire Hathaway. Buffet’s collection of business is very broad, handling everything from real estate to fashion retail. Business observers say that the Google’s move toward this kind of structure will make the technology giant much more diversified and should deliver on the company’s promise to be more “transparent” (making its high-level decision making available to those who wish to view it). Just hours after the announcement, Google stock (GOOG) rose nearly 6 percent. But not everyone is excited about Alphabet. Critics have called the move another example of “digital imperialism.”

What Do You Think? Do some research into what critics mean by digital imperialism. Do you think that term applies in this case? Why or why not?

Paparazzi Problems for Prince George

Two-year-old Prince George is one of the biggest celebrities in the world. Single photographs of the boy, who is third in line to the throne in Great Britain can fetch thousands. This is encouraging photographers to go to great lengths to get a picture of the boy. Kensington Palace (the historic residence of the Windsor royal family) recently issued a public appeal against the use of unauthorized photography of minors. While most of the major media organizations already willingly comply, printing only authorized photographs, there is a growing number of smaller publications across Europe and in Australia and New Zealand, that do not.

The purpose of the public appeal is to raise awareness of the problem. The palace hopes to lower demand for such photographs and therefore pressure publications to stop printing them. George’s grandmother, Princess Diana, was relentlessly pursued by the paparazzi throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Many blame these photographers for her death in a car crash in 1997. Hollywood celebrities experience similar treatment. In California, governor Jerry Brown signed two paparazzi bills into law in 2014. Both are amendments to existing privacy laws. One creates clearer restrictions on “personal and family activities,” like schools and medical facilities. The other adds a definition of placing someone “under unnecessary surveillance” as stalking. This includes the practice of drone-mounted cameras.

What Do You Think? Do you think the Royal Family will be successful in curbing unauthorized photographs of Prince George? Why or why not?