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Extreme adventure & challenge: 23k-mile Vendée Globe, non-stop no-assist round-the-world single-handed yacht race
The French do not lack for creativity, and some of it has been expended over the years to develop sports events. The French were the driving force behind the modern revival of the Olympics. They played a vital role in starting soccer’s World Cup and European Cup, which is now better known as the Champions League, and in Alpine skiing’s World Cup. They also dreamed up the Tour de France and the Vendée Globe yacht race.
That last event is surely the most obscure. But in France, the Vendée Globe is a major happening - a quadrennial opportunity for Gallic sea dogs and landlubbers alike to reacquaint themselves with the iceberg-infested dangers of the southern oceans and man’s (and woman’s) capacity for salt-stained, sleep-starved solitude. The concept is brutal if attractively simple: competitors race alone around the South Pole and back in 60-foot monohulls without stopping. There are strict limits on outside assistance once the sailors leave Les Sables d’Olonne on the west coast of France.
"Maintain the Gross National Happiness", vows 28-year old Oxford graduate newly crowned the fifth King of Bhutan
The United States was not the only country to name a new leader last week. In Bhutan, an insular nation of about 600,000 people located high in the Himalayas, a new king was crowned. 28-year-old Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, an Oxford-educated bachelor, was crowned as Bhutan's fifth king - now the world's youngest reigning monarch. Bhutan also has the distinction of being the world's youngest democracy - having held parliamentary elections last March for the first time ever. The young ruler vows to maintain a stance of protection against the worst aspects of globalization, maintaining the "Gross National Happiness", a measurement of national progress that places a high value on spiritual development. Gross National Happiness is a term invented by, and proudly embraced by Bhutanese since 1972.
Above: Bhutan's fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck (right) crowns his son Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck as the fifth King of Bhutan, in the Throne room of the Tashichhodzong Palace during the coronation ceremony in Thimphu, Bhutan on November 6, 2008. With medieval tradition and Buddhist spirituality, a 28-year-old with an Oxford education assumed the Raven Crown of Bhutan on Thursday, to guide the world's newest democracy as it emerges into the modern world.
Oldest WWI survivors join commemorations on Remembrance Day, pay tribute to fallen millions in 1st, 2nd World Wars
This year’s Armistice Day anniversary, com- memorating the millions of lives lost in the so-called War to End All Wars, comes 90 years after the guns fell silent in 1918. Anyone who was a part of it would have to be at least 108 by now. Astonishingly, there are still three men who fit the bill, three survivors who were in uniform 90 years ago as the First World War drew to a close. Yesterday, this trio marked Remembrance Sunday to the best of their abilities.
The men - all well into their 100s - will attend a service at the Cenotaph in central London. Harry Patch, 110, a veteran of the horrors of Passchendaele, is the only survivor of the trenches. He ignored the rain and attended a parade at Wells, near his Somerset home. Allingham, Britain's oldest man at the age of 112, was an aircraft mechanic who saw action at sea, in the Battle of Jutland, and ashore on the Western Front. Bill Stone, a young pup of 108, ended up fighting two World Wars for the Royal Navy. Today, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, all three men will be on parade in London at the Cenotaph to mark the exact moment when the guns fell silent. Of the five million men and women who served in Britain's armed forces in the war, only four are still alive. The other surviving veteran, Claude Choules, 107, lives in Australia and will mark the 90th anniversary at local events there. read more »
Sculptures by the Sea - 107 sculptures from 7 countries on display at Australia's largest annual outdoor free exhibition
Every year, peculiar apparitions appear on the cliffs between popular Sydney beaches Bondi and Tamarama, yet not even the gulls take fright at the annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibition - Australia's largest annual outdoor free exhibition of sculpture. This year, more than 100 sculptures from seven countries, including Japan, the US, Iceland and New Caledonia, are on display on the cliff tops or around the rocky foreshore, expecting to attract 500,000 sightseers.
For David Handley, who founded the event 12 years ago, its popularity never ceases to surprise. "I would have needed therapy if you'd told me 12 years ago how big it was going to be," he says. "You wouldn't believe how much work goes on behind the scenes, but once Sydney responded the way it did, you just can't stop."
Diwali, the Festival of Lights - signifying victory of good over evil and celebrating unity in diversity
Diwali/Deepavali is a Sanskrit word which means path or array of lights and signifies the victory of good (light) over evil (darkness). Many legends are associated with Diwali. Today it is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs across the globe as the "Festival of Lights," where people light deyas (small clay pots filled with coconut oil and a cotton like string(wick)is inserted) to signify victory of good over the evil within an individual. Officially, it fell on Oct. 28 this year.
In India, a land of festivals,Diwali is celebrated with fervor and gaiety. The festival is celebrated by young and old, rich and poor, throughout the country to dispel darkness and light up their lives.
Obama, Biden win historical US election; both Obama and McCain call for unity to face the myriad challenges ahead
"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer," President-elect Barack Obama said after his victory. The first black president-elect cast his election as a defining moment in the country's 232-year history and a rebuke to cynicism, fear and doubt. "Even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime — two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century," he said. "There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and, for us to lead, alliances to repair."
Obama’s victory speech was delivered before a multiracial crowd that city officials estimated at 240,000 people. He said he had received an "extraordinarily gracious" call from his Republican rival John McCain, who he said had "fought long and hard" for this campaign and for his country. "We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader," he said of the former Vietnam prisoner of war, "and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the month's ahead." read more »
Comfort food - 14th Chocolate Show opens in Paris with 400 exhibitors & 140 chocolatiers from around the world
The 14th edition of the Chocolate Fair has opened in Paris featuring 400 exhibitors and 140 chocolatiers from around the world, featuring displays and mountains of chocolate, top pastry chefs and sculptures. Visitors will be able to sample treats, creamy truffles and steaming cups of hot chocolate.
"It may be doom and gloom for everybody else, but for us all is well," said Gilles Marchal of luxury French chocolate-maker La Maison du Chocolat, speaking as the annual Paris chocolate show opened Wednesday. "Chocolate is a comfort-food," he added. "There has been no drop in sales."
The French have had a long-standing love affair with chocolate since its introduction to the country by Anne of Austria in 1615. It was presented as a wedding gift upon her marriage to Louis XIII. Anne of Austria only married him on condition that she could bring her own chocolate supplies from Spain. By the mid-1600s, the chocolate drink had gained widespread popularity in France. read more »