Samara braces for 2018 World Cup

Samara, one of the 11 Russia cities that will host 2018 FIFA World Cup events, has altered its initial host bid plan by moving the future stadium outside its historical center.

The 45,000-seat $400-million new sports arena was initially meant to be built on the bank of the River Samara where it flows into the Volga, but that part of the city abounds in historical and architectural monuments dating from the 16th -19th centuries. To avoid exposing them to unnecessary risks, the authorities decided to move construction to a wasteland where a radio center once stood, according to Voice of Russia.

Samara has hosted many football events before, both domestic and international events, deputy head of the local football federation Sergei Marushko told reporters.

"This year, we hosted the national Super Cup match between Zenit (St. Petersburg) and Rubin (Kazan). And last year, we launched our first under-15 international tournament, the Volga Gates. We had Chelsea, Marseille, Espanyol, and other clubs competing here."

The key fan zone will be Kuybyshev Square, the largest square in Europe, sprawling across 17.4 hectares. It was named after prominent Soviet politician Valerian Kuibyshev.

In between the matches, fans may entertain themselves by touring a real bunker. Built during in 1942 and located at 37 meters underground, it was meant as a reserve hideout for the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin during World War II, says Emma Khazanova, a local guide.

"In 1942, our city was a reserve capital. The government was here and Stalin himself was expected to come. A bunker was built for him at a depth of 37 meters. After the war, the city became a space capital. The first carrier rockets were produced in Samara, including the one on which the world’s first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin travelled to space."

Samara is also famous for its aircraft plant producing the Tupolev airliners.

In 2014, the local Kurumoch airport will be revamped to receive passenger and cargo planes of all types and sizes. The airport currently handles regular and charter flights from Paris, Frankfurt, Barcelona, Pathos, Varna, Prague, and Dubai as well as from former Soviet republics. There is also a large river port from which boats will take football fans to nearly all the other cities hosting 2018 World Cup events.


New Facebook app to track offline users – report

Those concerned about Facebook’s controversial privacy policies may have yet another reason to worry. The social network is reportedly developing a smartphone application which will track the location of its users – even when the app isn’t running.

The app is scheduled to be released in mid-March, two anonymous sources told Bloomberg.

It’s allegedly designed to help users find nearby friends by revealing those friends’ locations. But unlike Facebook’s current mobile app, which allows users to let others know where they are by “checking in” at a location, the new app would continuously follow the user once the program is activated.

The app would track user whereabouts in the “background” of Apple’s mobile operating system – even when the app isn’t open on the phone, one of the sources said. It remains unclear whether the app will run on other platforms.

It’s a technique that would likely require the social networking site to ask permission from users. But there’s a loophole – Facebook may have already gotten consent from its users to run the feature.

The app may fall under Facebook’s data policy – which tells users that a company may use location information “to tell you and your friends about people or events nearby, or to offer deals to you that you might be interested in.”

“When we get your GPS location, we put it together with other location information we have about you (like your current city)…but we only keep it until it is no longer useful to provide you services, like keeping your last GPS coordinates to send you relevant notifications,” the data use policy says.

The app isn’t drastically different from current applications, such as Apple’s “Find My Friends” and Math Camp Inc.’s “Highlight,” which constantly track user locations to help people find friends or places of interest.

When approached by Bloomberg to speak about the tracking application, Facebook Spokesman Derick Mains declined to comment.

Based on past precedents, the new app is bound to raise concern from users who value their privacy.

Facebook is no stranger to controversy surrounding its privacy settings. The site has already been under fire from US and European regulators, who claim it doesn’t do enough to keep user data private.

In early January, the EU pressured internet giants such as Facebook to boost personal security controls and limit the collection of data without users’ consent.

Last September, the site was forced to stop using its facial recognition software in Europe following an investigation by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland.

And now, the social network’s new “Graph Search” system – which is waiting to be tested – is raising red flags.

The system is designed to search Facebook for very specific information, such as ‘Friends who like Star Wars and Harry Potter’ and ‘Languages my friends speak.’

But after using the system, computer programmer and ‘Gadget Geek’ Tom Scott found the program can conduct much juicier searches.

For instance, it will easily find ‘Married people, who like prostitutes’ or ‘Current employers of people who like racism,’ Scott revealed in a blogpost.

News of the location tracking app comes less than one week after Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg emphasized the need for new mobile products during Facebook’s Fourth Quarter Earnings Conference Call, which was broadcast on the internet.

“A lot of what we had to do last year was simply to improve our mobile development process…the next thing we’re going to do is get really good at building new mobile-first experiences,” Zuckerberg said during the call.

And while this may, indeed, be a “mobile-first experience,” it remains unclear whether it’s an experience that Facebook users will actually want.

Source: RT


The Poorest president in the world, donates 90% of salary to charity

Usually presidents are not associated with poverty. But the President of Uruguay, José Mujica, has earned the nickname of the “poorest,” or the “most generous,” president in the world — depending on how you see things— after revealing that he donates 90 percent of his earnings, to charitable causes.

In a recent interview, Mujica told Spain’s El Mundo that he earns a salary of $12,500 a month, but only keeps $1,250 for himself, donating the rest to charity.

The president said that the only big item he owns is his VW car, valued at $1,945 dollars. The farmhouse in which he lives in Montevideo is under his wife’s name, Lucía Topolansky, a Senator, who also donates part of her salary.

“I do fine with that amount; I have to do fine because there are many Uruguayans who live with much less,” the president told El Mundo.

The 77-year-old Mujica is a former guerilla leader, who fought against Uruguay’s military regimes in the 1970s. He was also Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries from 2005 to 2008 and afterwards, served as a senator.

Later on, as presidential candidate for the Broad Front, the left-wing coalition, Mujica won the 2009 election becoming Uruguay’s president on March 1, 2010.

Uruguay is the second smallest nation in South America by area, after Suriname. However it is one of the most developed countries on the continent, with a GDP per capita of $15,656. That’s less than half of United States’ GDP per capita, but it triples earnings in Honduras which has a GDP per capita of just $4,345. Under Mujica’s stewardship, Uruguay has become known for low levels of corruption. The South American country ranks as the second least corrupt country in Latin America in Transparency International’s global corruption index.

Uruguay also made it to the world cup 2010 semi-finals while Mujica was in office, and the country won the South American Soccer championships in 2011, stunning tournament hosts Argentina, in a memorable performance by striker Diego Forlan.

It seems therefore, that it’s a good time to be Jose Mujica. Without bank accounts, and with few debts, Mujica told El Mundo that he sleeps peacefully. When his term is over, the President hopes to rest even more peacefully in his farmhouse, along with his wife and his inseparable dog, Manuela.



First Iranian astronaut to be sent to space by next six years

 Iranian Space Agency official Mohammad Ebrahimi said on Monday that heavy consignments will be sent to the space in the next six years including astronaut.

Ebrahimi said that Iran has planned to send the first Iranian astronaut to the space.

He said the project would be materialized in light of cooperation among all organizations and scientific centers to manufacture advanced spacecraft,according tio IRNA.


Music therapy helps college professor speak again

More than three years ago, Bill Forester was a much different man.

“I couldn’t do anything,” said Forester, who is now 55 and lives in Bay Village, Ohio. “I couldn’t talk.”

In August 2009, the father of five had a stroke, which left him in a coma for three days.

Doctors told his wife Lori the man she loved was lost and that he may never speak or walk again. For the first six months after the stroke, Forester could only say four words.

But, Lori knew better. She was convinced her husband would fight to get his life back.

“In his professional world, he’s always been very motivated and driven, and he basically just took that and ran with therapy,” Lori Forester said.

Forester was a public speaker before the stroke. He was a college professor, so he loved talking.

He began taking music therapy classes at the Cleveland Clinic to re-learn the skills he had lost.

"The primary thing we do is work on his speech through singing songs and then talking about the songs so he can practice his speech that way too,"  said Lisa Gallagher, a music therapist at the Cleveland Clinic.

Every week, Forester and Gallagher did finger exercises on the keyboard and guitar to help him get the strength back in his hands, as well as sing.

"Everytime I sing or talk with Lisa, it's coming back,"  Forester said.         

He attended music therapy every week for one year, but now he goes sporadically.

Gallagher said language is on the left side of the brain and music is on the right, so music therapy is helping to retrain the left side of Forester’s brain.

“I mean, his speech is just amazing now,” Gallagher said. “He still has some pauses every now and then, but he talks up a storm.”

Music therapy can also be used for patients who suffer from depression, anxiety, pain, autism and cognitive disabilities.

Gallagher said patients don’t need to be musically inclined.

And, Forester hopes he can one day return to teaching.

“I’m always pushing the envelope, you know, because I want my life again,” he said.