Blog Posts by Vera H-C Chan

  • Y! Big Story: Summer solstice’s past and forecast

    Everything you need to know to get up to speed on the story of the day

    Stonehenge summer solstice (Matt Cardy/Getty)
    Summer solstice arrives a day "early" this leap year, which gives us more time to appreciate what lies ahead:  hotter-than-normal temperatures in some parts (and maybe an occasional dousing), more pests buzzing about, the Olympics, a sustained political current of hot air, and—for one delectable day—luxuriating in 14 to 17 hours of sunlight (where conditions allow). Let's look back and forward on what summer brings.

    Getting heliocentric: In Latin, solstice means "sun" and "comes to a stop"—but what does it mean, astronomically speaking?

    As Earth orbits the sun, its axis of rotation is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees from its orbital plane. Because Earth's axis of spin always points in the same direction—toward the North Star—the orientation of Earth's axis to the sun is always changing...On the Northern Hemisphere's summer solstice, the northern spin axis is tilted toward the sun, and latitudes north of the

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  • Y! Big Story: Nik Wallenda, old-fashioned daredevil

    Nik Wallenda on wireNik Wallenda's tightrope walk across the Niagara Falls is astounding for two reasons—and not just for traipsing in leather-soled slippers across a two-inch-thick wire 170 feet above tumbling waters. The gorge, after all, has been rope-walked 16 times (11 have survived), although not for the last two centuries, and Nik already has two Guinness records, one with his family and a solo one for traveling the longest distance and greatest height by bicycle on a wire.

    The first bewildering fact is that seven Wallenda generations have survived a familial predisposition to hover high in the air above certain death. The second is even more astonishing: how a 21st-century audience might still marvel at a man who considers courting death a performance art. Audiences are gathering, and searches on Yahoo! have been breathlessly rising about the stunt and the Wallenda name ("nik wallenda niagara falls," "wallenda," "niagara falls tightrope," "the flying wallendas").

    In our pleasure palace of

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  • Y! Big Story: Behind Syria’s “civil war”

    Syria protesters (Reuters/Shaam News Network/Handout)

    It took 15 months, more than 14,000 lives, and shots fired at United Nations monitors investigating a massacre before the U.N. called Syria's conflict a civil war.

    The acknowledgment came June 12 from the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous. Of course, unless the words "Syrian civil war" comes from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Geneva Conventions don't kick in—although ICRC has described the situation as "deteriorating sharply."

    [Related: Syria conflict now a civil war, U.N. peacekeeping chief says]

    For most observers, the death toll and the U.N.'s report of children being used as human shields already confirms Syria is, if not in civil war, has devolved into a kind of genocide. Of all the nations swept up in the Arab Spring, how did Syria's crisis reach these proportions? And what is the truth behind the Houla massacre, which many call a turning point in the bloodshed? Some thinking on Syria:

    A quick Syria history: Syria's about

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  • Y! Big Story: The politics of the slap

    Ilias Kasidiaris assaults Liana Kanelli on Greek TV. (AP Photo/ANTENA TV)

    A slap may not damage, but it can wound.

    Ilias Kasidiaris is the latest offender to buzz the Web, after the deputy of the Greek Golden Dawn party—described as neo-Nazi extremists—slapped a female political rival three times on a live political talk show.

    The triple offense follows a few high-profile stingers on American soil, setting off searches on Yahoo! for "barrett slap," "barrett slapped," "tom barrett," "will smith slap," "will smith slaps," "will smith slaps reporter," and "will smith slaps reporter video."

    In the case of a celebrity versus paparazzi, it's often a question of defending privacy. In a political context, it can signal betrayal or a nation spiraling out of control. Even in an age of hair-pulling reality TV segments, cinematic violence, and trigger-happy headlines, a slap still has the power to shock.

    A look at recent high-profile slaps: A female "supporter" hit Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett when he was down, conceding Wisconsin's gubernatorial race to Scott

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  • Y! Big Story: Facebook slap

    As if the IPO fumble and lawsuit pile-on weren't a couple black eyes for Facebook, now comes an insult even more wounding: People are just bored with the social network.

    A Reuters/Ipsos poll counted 34% of its users slacking off, compared with six months ago.

    The most frequent Facebook users are aged 18 to 34, according to the survey, with 60 percent of that group being daily users. Among people aged 55 years and above, 29 percent said they were daily users. Of the 34 percent spending less time on the social network, their chief reason was that the site was "boring," "not relevant" or "not useful." Privacy concerns ranked third. (June 4, Reuters)

    Wait, wouldn't that mean people are bored with their friends? Is it really more IPO letdown? Could the introverts be rebelling? Or is it all of the above? Let's check out the status updates and a few reader comments along the way, and see whether the Facebook beatdown can get any worse (hint: It does).

    Dustin of Kansas City, Missouri

    [Related: Let

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  • Y! Big Story: Why you can’t get that job

    But I'm Perfect For You"Wanted: Someone exactly like my last boyfriend (see list of qualities), only better. Demonstrate success in a proven relationship, preferably a current one. You should know what I want without my telling you."

    There wouldn't be enough 10-foot poles to poke at a dating ad like that. Replace that mating call with a job posting, though, and that's what many employers are asking for these days—and more.

    The latest hiring numbers made markets skitter and economists gloomy. Yet this time, attention also focused on commitment-phobe employers, who can't seem to bridge the gulf between unemployed workers and job vacancies. The growing consensus—which won't surprise frustrated job seekers—is that fickle companies in a surplus labor market are demanding perfect candidates without paying market wages or investing in training. Worse, some discriminate against the unemployed, figuring if they're not taken, they must be tainted goods. And because employees are taking their sweet time sifting

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  • Y! Big Story: The real story behind the Hatfields and the McCoys

    Everything you need to know to get up to speed on the story of the day
    Kevin Costner as Devil Anse Hatfield

    The History Channel made its own history with "Hatfields & McCoys." The miniseries drew the biggest audience ever for a nonsports event—twice.

    More than a century later, the storied feud is as much about American mythology as it is a tale of Appalachian blood vengeance. The saga came on the heels of the divisive Civil War, which killed more Americans than any other military engagement and led West Virginia to secede from Confederate Virginia. The hostilities were never just one incident, but escalating grievances that included pig theft, turf arguments, broken romances and murder.

    And sometimes, Americans just like to take sides in a feud.

    (Related: Inside History Channel's epic miniseries, "Hatfield & McCoys")

    The real McCoy—spoiler alert: How real was the miniseries? Liberties, as they say, were taken:

    Historians and educators were also brought in to vet the story, according to the show's producers, though

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  • Market missteps, big openings, zombie apocalypse (May 2012 buzz)

    May confirmed many things: the latest "American Idol" winner, the GOP presumptive nominee, a war criminal's sentence, even the sun's partial eclipse. Some sure things, though, faltered badly, while others performed beyond expectations. And while May proved to be a crammed news month with domestic politicking and international conflict, a story too gruesome to be true turned out to be just that. Here now, the buzz that grabbed readers and fueled plenty of hysteria.

    Facebook IPOMarket missteps: Facebook IPO and JPMorgan Chase
    Wall Street, not one to afford any more black eyes, got a double knockout this month with two things that shouldn't have gone wrong. Facebook, despite grumblings over privacy and its Timeline, was to debut one of the most anticipated offerings in months, and—despite warnings against hyperaised its initial price offering. JPMorgan Chase, with its much-admired CEO, Jamie Dimon, was among the rare institutions to emerge from the economic debacle with most of their reputation.

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  • Y! Big Story: What the minimum wage gets you

    Everything you need to know to get up to speed on the story of the day

    Minimum wage advocateWhat does $7.25 an hour get you?

    These days, barely two gallons of gas. You'd probably have to work 30 minutes to enjoy a tall Frappuccino (maybe more if prices keep going up), although that's an indulgence when a box of diapers would cost about two hours of labor.

    As the economy slowly rebuilds itself, talk about raising the minimum wage is, well, on the rise, and it has taken on more urgency in cities, states, and at the national level:

    • Eight states raised minimum wages on January 1.
    • Advocates in New York ($7.25/hr) are lobbying for $8.50, a pay raise that Governor Andrew Cuomo calls harder to pass than gay marriage.
    • Legislators in New Jersey ($7.25/hr) want to add $2,500 to a full-time minimum-wage annual salary that is indexed to inflation. Governor Chris Christie has said, "I'm showing a willingness to listen but also honestly saying I'm not inclined to do so."
    • Connecticut ($8.25/hr) lost momentum on its
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  • Y! Big Story: The missing

    Everything you need to get up to speed on the big story of the day

    Etan Patz missing poster (AP, New York Police Department)May 25 is National Missing Children's Day. Etan Patz, its poster child, remains missing.

    After 33 years, a man has stepped forward to confess to strangling Patz. Proof will be another matter, as the former grocery store worker has not been able to provide the body nor has he given a motive. As for the confession's timing, a realtor who rented the suspect his apartment told the Star Ledger that maintenance people heard he was battling cancer, but nothing more has been substantiated.

    When Etan vanished May 25, 1979, he was said to be the first missing child featured on a milk carton; his father Stan Patz, a professional photographer, supplied the photo. Etan's face was the first to appear on a Times Square electronic billboard six years later. In an era of highly publicized kidnappings — among them Adam Walsh, whose 1981 disappearance prompted his father to host "America's Most Wanted" — the campaign convinced

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