Current Events Cheat Sheet: The Fight For Freedom Spreads

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Inspired by the recent and effective Egyptian protests, more and more Middle Eastern countries are being consumed by rallies. Bahrain, Libya and Yemen were most prominent in the news this week, though protests are happening in numerous countries including Jordan, Tunisia, Iran, just to name a few. In many of these countries, the governments are responding to the peaceful protesters with extreme violence. In Libya, for example, the six days of political unrest has resulted in over 200 deaths, many caused by pro-government security forces. The anti-government fury has even begun to spread beyond the Mid-East. In China, plans for the “Jasmine Revolution” were unsuccessful on Saturday when less than a hundred showed up to protest, though organizers say there is more to come. There are a lot of different, complicated stories to keep track of here, and by far the easiest resource I’ve found to help keep up-to-date on this is an interactive map from CNN.

In a man versus machine Jeopardy! showdown, a computer named Watson took down two past champions. Watson, which (or who?) was created by IBM scientists over four years, ended the game with $77,147, while well-known champ Ken Jennings came in second with $24,000. Scientists at IBM say not to worry- computers aren’t quite able to take over the world yet. The win, though, is an indication of the ever-improving technology that will lead to faster and better access to information in the future. I’m imagining little mini-Watsons we can all carry in our pockets one (exam) day, although the original did cost somewhere above $30 million to create.

President Obama proposed a $3.7 trillion federal budget for 2012, refocusing new spending towards clean energy, infrastructure and education and research. This is down just a tad from the 2011 budget (about $3.8 trillion) but it would still require huge cuts in programs no politician wants to get rid of, such as Medicare and Medicaid. $3.7 trillion is a lot, but not nearly enough to cover our nation’s expenses- there would still be a $1.1 trillion deficit that Obama said Republicans and Democrats would need to work together to deal with.

Wisconsin’s capital has been packed with protesters rallying against the governor’s proposed budget cuts. On Saturday, an estimated 55,000 people showed up to rally against the changes, which would effectively make it impossible for public unions to exist. In the kind of scenario a high school student prays for, many of the protesters are teachers, which means classes in school districts across the state keep getting canceled. No word yet on the return of the “Fighting 14” state Democrats who disappeared from the legislature in an effort to stall a vote on the budget; though one did post on her Facebook an all-too-familiar, vague status- “brb.”

Photo of the Week:

Meet Hickory, the Scottish Deerhound who took the title of Best in Show at last week’s Wesminster Dog Show. I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard of a Scottish Deerhound, but this one seems quite special. Not only is she mighty cute, but she knows what she wants; when she was taken out for her celebratory filet mignon dinner, she turned up her nose at the steak. Guess she’s more of a NY strip steak kinda gal?

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