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5 things you absolutely must know today (and one more thing)

Photo credit: National Geographic.

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Gorgeous phenomenon covers Chilean desert in flowers

It’s a phenomenon called “desierto florido.” It happens once every five to seven years, and it’s another notch of proof that the natural world we are so much a part of is diverse, never boring, and awesome. Hundreds of millions of pink and purple and white flowers are currently coating Chile’s Atacama desert, which is typically one of the driest regions in the world. The area received above average amounts of rainfall earlier this year, an effect of warmer than average Pacific Ocean waters, causing much of the region’s usually dormant 1,900 species of plants and animals started to show signs of life. Then, in August, more rainstorms hit the desert causing a rare “double bloom” event. [Source: National Geographic]

Houston votes down anti-discrimination ordinance

The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was voted down 61 per cent to 39 per cent Tuesday, putting an ugly, disheartening end to the city’s yearlong battle with the proposed anti-discrimination legislation. The ordinance, if passed, would have prohibited bias in housing, employment and other areas for a total of 15 protected classes, some of which include race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Naysayers in Houston torqued the vote into the one-issue catchphrase “bathroom bill,” which opponents used to refer to how the ordinance would allow men identifying as transgendered to use women’s restrooms. This became the central issue. Most major cities in the U.S. already have such anti-discrimination laws in place. Pastors of some conservative megachurches claimed the ordinance was not about putting an end to discrimination, but was instead about Houston’s openly gay mayor Annise D. Parker foisting her gay agenda on the city. Because, you know, those megachurch pastors are beacons of light and wisdom to us sinful, naive sheep. [Source: NYTimes]

Guinness beer bends to vegans

Guinness will no longer be using isinglass in its brew process. This is good news for vegetarians, who, I guess, took issue with the product used to help the sediment settle during the beer’s primary fermentation stage. Isinglass is derived from the bladders of fish. Many beermakers have switched to non-fish substitutes for settling sediment. Irish moss works. Guinness has held steady on its use of isinglass for quite some time, stomaching and enduring the jabs from vegans and vegetarians. The substitute will be used in its 2016 brews and will not affect the flavour at all, according to Guinness. Neat. Though, isinglass is not as gross a product as the source article describes it as. [Source: Death and Taxes]

Maldives declares state of emergency ahead of rally

The President of the Maldives Absulla Yameen has declared a state of emergency, relinquishing much of the basic rights of the country’s citizens to security forces. The rash move comes ahead of a major anti-government rally expected later this week, according to the Guardian. Maldivian Democratic party leader and former president Mohamed Nasheed, who is currently in jail for using the military to arrest a senior judge while he was in office, has organized the protest. Yameen has suspended the nation’s rights of assembly, free expression, freedom from arbitrary detention, and freedom of movement. The state of emergency will last no longer than 30 days and there will not be a curfew, said government officials. The declaration comes amid escalating tensions made even more so after an explosion on Yameen’s speedboat injured his wife and others. Authorities said it was an attempt on his life, but the FBI said there was no evidence of a bomb. Yameen arrested vice-president Ahme Adeeb for high treason, blaming him for the blast. Since the September incident, officials say they’ve discovered bombs and other weapons allegedly targeting the president. The rally to release Nasheed remains scheduled for this week, despite the state of emergency. [Source: The Guardian]

Trudeau sworn in as Canada’s 23rd prime minister

Justin Trudeau is now Canada’s 23rd prime minister, following a swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa this morning. As part of the ceremony, Trudeau named his 31-member cabinet, which included the appointment of some new faces to high-profile seats and some veterans to equally weighty portfolios: Stéphane Dion will take on foreign affairs; Marc Garneu, transport minister; Ralph Goodale, public safety minister; and newcomer Bill Morneau, finance minister. [Source: every Canadian news source, but specifically CBC]

Honourable mention: Amazon to open its first physical bookstore in Seattle. [Source: Seattle Times]


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