CLEVELAND (AP) — An amended wrongful death lawsuit over a Cleveland policeman’s fatal shooting of a 12-year-old boy includes claims related to his parents and sister and references to other use-of-force cases.

Tamir Rice had a pellet gun when he was confronted by police responding to a call about someone with a firearm near a recreation center on Nov. 22. The attorneys now representing his family filed the updated federal lawsuit Friday against the city, the officer who shot Tamir, another officer and unnamed emergency dispatchers.

The complaint alleges excessive force, negligence, infliction of emotional distress on his sister and mother, violation of due process for the parents, and failure by the responding officers to provide first aid to the boy immediately after the shooting. He died the next day.

It also claims false imprisonment of Tamir’s 14-year-old sister, who ran toward the scene after the shooting, struggled with police and was handcuffed and put into a cruiser parked near her wounded brother.

The city doesn’t comment on such pending litigation, Cleveland spokesman Dan Williams said.

Patrol officer Timothy Loehmann shot Tamir in the abdomen within two seconds of a patrol car stopping near the boy, and the confrontation was captured on surveillance video. It shows Tamir in a park carrying what turned out to be an airsoft-type gun that shoots non-lethal plastic pellets.

The person who called 911 with the initial report told a dispatcher that the apparent weapon was probably fake and that the subject was probably a juvenile, but the police union has said that information wasn’t relayed to the responding officers. Police say the weapon appeared to be real.

In the amended lawsuit, the family questions whether the rookie officer who fired at Tamir had first sufficiently ordered him to raise his hands and drop the weapon. The surveillance video doesn’t clarify that issue because it doesn’t include audio.

The Cuyahoga County sheriff’s department is investigating the shooting. A prosecutor has promised that a grand jury will consider whether criminal charges are merited.

Tom Hanks said, “While I was (in college) I was exposed to this world that I didn’t know was possible.” College is definitely a time of discovery. We’re exposed to new ways of thinking and begin to form our own ideas about the world. Of course, it’s also a time for fun. College students are straddling the line between still being young and being faced with adult decisions.

Straddling that line between teenager and adult can be difficult to manage for some students. College may be their first time away from home, which adds to the stress of managing a budget, paying bills and making decisions that will directly impact their future. For many, it is tempting to rack up debt now and worry about it later. College should be fun, but it’s also vital that students start thinking about their future and what life will be like after graduation.

Vikki Feggulis, a 2013 graduate of Utica College, said that while in college she watched many of her friends be carefree with their money. “It was really tempting to do that too, especially with the stress of school mounting,” says Feggulis. “But I recognized that working hard, getting out of school as fast as I could and being mindful of my finances would put me in the best spot upon graduation.”

It is not possible for every student to graduate from college debt free. However, it is crucial to make smart financial decisions while still in school to limit the financial burden as much as possible, as this will have a direct and lasting impact on your financial health for the rest of your life.

Maintain a Source of Income

Even with loans, grants, scholarships, or all of the above, some students may still need additional sources of income while in school. Getting a job will not only provide some much needed income, but could also give students an opportunity to beef up their resume and get some real life experience that will help them land their dream job upon graduation.

Find a job that you know will be flexible with your class schedule. Working at night or on weekends will allow you to attend class and leave time for homework. Students should also make the most out of Christmas and summer breaks, working as much as possible so they can save money for the rest of the school year.

Colleges and universities offer a number of opportunities to work on campus. Students can serve as research assistants, clerical assistants, tutors and more. Some of these positions may even allow students to earn credits toward graduation and get paid. Looking for a job related to your major will increase your chances of getting an internship and send you to the top of the list when you start applying for jobs after graduation. Another added bonus to working on campus is that most of these positions find it perfectly acceptable to complete school work if you have down time.

Feggulis says, “I’ve been working at least one job at all times since I was 15. I (worked) every holiday weekend, winter break and summer break.” She also had a number of jobs that helped ease the cost of her education. “I took a paid internship in NYC and… held an internship position at a local radio station, which was related to my major and allowed me to make extra money. I also tutored and was a resident assistant, which covered my housing costs and provided a small stipend.”

Use Credit Carefully

A line of credit can be great when you’re strapped for cash or want to earn rewards for your purchases; however, credit cards aren’t the ideal source of funds while in school. It’s easy to wrack up a large balance, but not so easy to pay it off, especially if you carry a balance. After graduation, when payments on student loans begin, a credit card payment can be an unnecessary burden.

If students do use credit cards, they should learn to manage them responsibly and use them for the sole purpose of building their credit so they have good to excellent credit upon graduation. Students should never use credit cards as a source for paying their tuition. Student loan interest rates are 2-4 times less than credit card interest and credit cards also charge, on average, a convenience fee of 2.62 percent to process student loan payments.

Before opening a credit card, students should understand how credit cards and credit scores work. Most importantly, they should have a firm understanding that whatever you charge on a credit card has to be paid back, and it can be very difficult to pay back large balances that have a high interest rate.

There are a variety of trusted sources that can provide consumers with information about understanding credit scores. Wells Fargo has a comprehensive resource section for learning about credit scores and building healthy credit. Pathway to Financial Success and Cash Course also offer information that is specific to students and can help them shape healthy financial habits.

If a student does decide to open a credit card, there are credit cards designed specifically for students. Determining which student credit card is best for you will depend on factors such as your credit score and what kind of perks or benefits you want. Check out the guide for the First Time Credit Card Owner when you think you’re ready for your first credit card.

Along with saving money, it’s equally important that young adults understand the importance of their credit score. Most college freshmen haven’t had the chance to establish a good credit history and may not even understand what it means. Using services like CompareCards’ Credit Concierge, will provide them with the necessary information for learning about what’s included in their credit report and how their credit score impacts their ability to make purchases and obtain loans.

There are a number of ways young adults can establish good credit. Having credit cards, utilities, or loans in their name and always paying bills on time is the first step in building good credit. Banks and credit unions also offer credit-building loans that allow students to “borrow” against money that is already in their account. This allows them to build credit without the risk of incurring large balances.

Be Budget Savvy

Remember, budgets and coupons aren’t just for parents. College students typically have a small budget, but also have a relatively small number of bills to pay each month. Students should calculate monthly expenses versus how much money they have available through work and/or loans. If there isn’t enough to cover the bills, students should focus on how they can save money.

Buy Generic

A study from economists at Tilburg University and the University of Chicago revealed that people who buy generic brands of products actually score higher on IQ tests. That indicates that students who are smart enough to get into college are prime candidates for saving money by buying off-brands instead of paying premium prices for well-known brands. Generic products typically contain the same ingredients as the name brand products and lose no value or quality.

As reported by CNN, “Nine times out of ten, pharmacists and doctors will buy the generic version of aspirin rather than a brand-name like Bayer. Likewise, professional chefs prefer store-brand sugar, salt and baking powder instead of brand name ingredients.”

The savings on consumer products across the board can be dramatic despite the fact that the products or their key ingredients are virtually identical.

Cut Down on Textbook Expenses

The reason that textbooks are so extraordinarily expensive is because most of them are printed in rather small quantities. They are sold only to colleges and universities and, among those buyers, may only appeal to certain campus bookstores where professors specifically request them. Publishing companies also know students have limited options and are almost locked-in, because choosing not to buy the book would likely cause the student to fail the class.

That makes the market for used textbooks a great resource for students who are shopping for bargain prices or want to resell their own books for fast cash. Most campuses operate their own book exchanges where you can find books in great condition at a fraction of the price. You can also find ads on campus buildings or dormitory bulletin boards. Some websites where you can buy or sell textbooks include:


Another way to save big on textbooks is to use digital e-book versions instead of hard copies that weigh down your backpack. Many educational institutions are converting to this more environmentally-friendly and less costly format. Check with your college and/or professors to see if there are e-books or open-source textbook options available. Open-source textbooks can be printed and bound for about $40.

Take Advantage of Free High-Tech Financial Tools

There are tons of great tools, apps and programs that can be helpful in managing your budget and saving money, and many of them are free. Websites like, for example, can help you create and manage your budget like a pro, while also including expert information about how to be a wise saver and investor.

Most major banks have free apps that you can download to enable you to keep track of your accounts or pay bills from a smart phone or other Wi-Fi device. Online banking options usually offer lower rates and fees than traditional brick and mortar banks. You can also set your account preferences to take advantage of text and email alerts when your payment is due or when you are hitting your spending limit.

There are even some banks that reward students for doing things like paying their bills on time, so be sure to shop around and find a bank that matches your goals, while helping to save you money.

Always Mention You’re a Student

Just about every single merchant, service, or product offers a discount for students. This can result in discounts on food, clothing, entertainment and more. Mention to the merchant that you’re a student to make sure you receive the highest discount you can. Most require you to have a copy of your student ID card on hand, so make sure you always carry that with you.

As students work hard in school and hopefully work hard at making financial choices, they can learn more than just what professors are teaching in the classroom. While it might seem like economics are only for economic majors, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Students who take charge of their financial education will be in a better position to meet their financial responsibilities after graduation.

The economy and work force can change quickly, so it’s important to continually monitor what salary and employment projections are expected for your intended field of work. As you move toward graduation, talk with advisors and use resources such as Payscale’s yearly College Salary Report to determine what you might expect to make after graduation.

Students can also continue to look for additional grants and scholarships. Some grants and scholarships are renewed yearly, or are specifically designed for students who are already in school.

To prepare yourself for post-college life, the most important things you can do are exit college with as little debt as possible and have good credit. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each credit reporting company (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to provide consumers with a free credit report once a year. These reports will provide details about your report, outstanding debt, credit inquiries and more.

Credit monitoring services such as Credit Concierge can help you understand your credit report and make sense of what is positively and negatively impacting your credit. This free credit monitoring service allows users to track and monitor their credit profile.

This extra step will set students up for a healthy and robust financial future. As they look forward to graduation and starting a career, they will be equipped not only with book smarts, but also with the financial skills needed upon entering the real world.

The morning of the wedding can be an emotional roller coaster for the marrying couple — that we know. But here’s one groom who was simply unable contain his, er, excitement.

Credit: Chelsey LeBlanc Photography

KIDDING. That’s not actually an erect penis. If you haven’t already figured out what’s going on here, allow the groom, Ian, to explain.

“Getting dressed before my wedding,” he captioned the photo on Reddit on Thursday. “Only noticed the belt after the pictures had been distributed.”

This very happy accident occurred at Ian’s 2013 wedding in New Brunswick, Canada, but it wasn’t until he posted the kinda-sorta d**k pic on Reddit this week that it aroused the attention of more than 2 million people. Photographer Chelsey LeBlanc called the sudden attention a “very unexpected surprise.”

“It was noticed not too long after the photo was given to the client and was posted on Facebook,” she told The Huffington Post. “We laughed about it at the time. In fact, Ian is the one who posted it on Reddit simply because he thought it was amusing.”

If you ask us, you’re never too old to find a penis-belt “amusing.”

H/T Reddit

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Some among us have witnessed a botched plastic surgery procedure that, for some reason or another, didn’t exactly go as anticipated. Thank you, reality television. However, even the most heinous of surgical blunders does not compare to the radical results of conducting plastic surgery with, not a scalpel or a knife, but good old paint.

Today we’re ogling the work of Marie-Lou Desmeules, an amateur surgeon a French-Canadian professional artist who uses pure pigment to transform living models into bizarre sculptures of surreal celebrity lookalikes. Desmeules piles on paint like it’s frosting, tweaking and tempering until her human subjects look like deranged versions of Barack Obama, Pamela Anderson or Elvis Presley. Like the lovechild of Alexa Meade and Jaimie Warren, with a little Madame Tussauds thrown in.

We reached out to Desmeules to learn more about her work.

kim jong un

What inspired this unusual idea?

People! People inspire me in the way they project themselves to the others. I am fascinated at how the image we project is becoming more powerful than ourselves. As Andy Warhol said: “It is not what you are that matters, it is what they think you are!”

I am inspired by the notion of beauty, the growing plastic surgery industry, gender and identity. I am attracted by the bizarre and strange, all that goes outside the standard. In my “celebrities series” I focused more on the cult of image we practice today. Our culture wants us to reflect success, happiness and beauty… From getting self tanned, setting up selfies, getting face-lifts or buying a new ass or nose people transform themselves into their heroes. And the price to reach perfection is loosing your own identity. Somehow I am inspired by all these ideas to create my own language in my work.

marilyn manson

What is your process?

I constantly research new images and information to learn and challenge me. I select many ideas, icons and projects and I work on them guided by my feelings. I also research day-by-day — in any place, new things attract my attention in flea-markets such as masks, hair, latex pieces or any recycled piece of clothing that I find interesting. My studio has plenty of inspiring objects for my work.

A “surgery” takes up all of me and is very intense since I may only work for a couple hours because I always work with a model, and I don’t want him/her to sit on a chair for more than three hours. I have to prepare my mind and all the settings and things I might use for the operation. Music plays a big role in my art and therefore I also preselect most of my music for each performance to help me get in the mood of the surgery I am creating. I do not have a standard process to create a surgery. Actually, my process is in constant evolution which creates a thrilling challenge.

In my last project, the challenge was to create a series of world leaders and make them fashionable. I decided to mix them up up with cartoons and pop culture characters that suit their image. Barack Obama as Mickey Mouse, Kim Jong-Un as LEGO Man, Berlusconi as McDonald and Patrick (from “Spongebob”) as David Cameron.

I actually may express better with my art or with my videos compilations than with my words, so I made this video.

What do you hope to communicate through your work?

My surgeries are a really big part of me. This big part of me is truthful, fun and perfectionist. The surgeries are done with passion and when I am doing them I really think about doing something which will make me proud. I also hope my work may help other people get a different perspective on what they see everyday. Maybe it will make them think twice about what they see and their preconceptions of the images we see.

The past week has been quite the roller coaster for folks who care about the fate of the Arctic. First, as Mike Brune, head of the Sierra Club wrote recently, President Obama stepped up and announced protection for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska: one of America’s most impressive wildlife treasures. Paying no mind to this signal, notorious multinational Shell then confirmed that it intends to head to the Arctic in search of oil this summer. The very same Arctic that’s melting thanks to our global addiction to fossil fuels. Not long after Shell’s news, the Senate approved the Keystone XL pipeline. By this point my “Are you kidding me?” radar is going off loud and clear.

Public outcry started immediately after the Senate’s Keystone vote, with compelling arguments flying around the Internet and protests greeting President Obama in Philadelphia the same day. We’re going to need the same public outcry come March when the Obama administration will decide whether Shell gets to drill in the Arctic. In the meantime, I don’t want Shell’s reckless announcement to sneak in under the radar. Too much is at stake.

Let’s be clear, Shell is the very same company that made a serious mess of its first attempts to get ahold of oil in the Alaskan Arctic, using the now infamous Kulluk drill rig. The rig couldn’t handle the rough seas and gale force winds that occur relentlessly in that part of the world. The Kulluk ran aground and its crew underwent a harrowing evacuation by helicopter. One of the companies contracted by Shell to do its Arctic exploration, Noble Drilling, eventually pled guilty to eight felonies and was fined $12.2 million dollars for violating environmental and safety standards. On announcing its intention to head back to the Arctic this summer, Shell Chief Executive, Ben van Beurden, told the BBC “we are as well prepared as any company can be to mitigate the risks.” This seems little more than “fingers crossed” given Shell’s disastrous track record in the region.

I take the prospect of Shell heading to the Arctic personally. Not least because the company recently rushed through a deal with the city of Seattle, my hometown, to host its drilling fleet in our Port. Clearly it knew the kind of resistance Seattleites would put up to Shell’s presence in our sustainable city, and decided to avoid the hassle by foregoing any meaningful public consultation.

The case for leaving Arctic oil in the ground is stronger than ever. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), responsible for managing development of America’s offshore resources in an environmentally and economically responsible way, has already reported a 75 percent chance of one or more large spills if oil is pumped in U.S. Arctic waters. Those are terrifying odds for the people and wildlife that need the Arctic kept pristine to survive.

If the imminent threat of a major spill doesn’t have you questioning Shell’s logic, respected scientific journal Nature recently identified Arctic oil as the natural resource that must remain entirely unburned if we’re to avoid catastrophic climate change. I cannot over-emphasize the need to freeze further exploration for all new fossil energy sources, since our atmosphere couldn’t even handle it if we burn what’s already been discovered.

And yet I continue to find myself on this roller coaster. Just two days after President Obama offered protection for the ANWR, which by definition must mean that exploration for onshore oil is now off limits there, he proceeded to propose opening up areas off the Alaskan and Atlantic coasts to oil and gas leasing. Some of these waters are right off the shore of the newly protected Wildlife Refuge. So an oil spill here would be the equivalent of declaring half your cup of coffee “protected”, while pouring sour milk into the rest. The whole thing is ruined, though of course the Arctic is irreplaceable, unlike a $3 coffee.

The signal these “please protect, please drill” announcements send is at best confusing. The only thing that can stop Shell drilling in the Arctic now is for President Obama to cancel its lease. As with his decision on Keystone XL, the world is watching to see if the President means it when he says that no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.

There is no need for President Obama, Seattle, or any of us to be complicit in Shell’s risky endeavours. We need to be vocal in our dissent. The President needs to veto Shell’s plans and take Arctic drilling off the table. I’m going to stick with this roller coaster until we’re back on solid ground; safe in the knowledge that Arctic oil is staying exactly where it belongs.

Flying into Keflavik airport is probably an un-nerving experience for a monophobe visiting the isolated Nordic nation of Iceland during winter…

The sun comes up late, but spectacularly, in wintertime Iceland

Gazing out of the plane on the approach and spying the first indication of dry land for hours below revealed little more than a craggy, frozen coastline and an apparently inhospitable, snow-covered hinterland.

Some faint tell-tale traces of civilization glimmered; an ice-covered outline of a road here, a couple of remote farmhouses there. I resisted the urge to shout ‘Helllooo!?’ as loudly as I could, like the dazed cyclist in 28 Days Later when he wakes up to find he’s the only person in the city.

But plenty of people are down there, somewhere… 300,000 Icelanders in fact; over two thirds of whom live in the capital. You just wouldn’t know it from the air. Its diminutive national population gives rise to some playful statistics…

The Independent newspaper says one per cent of the entire population can be found at international football matches from time-to-time, while the BBC proclaims Iceland to be a nation of such ardent literature lovers that 1-in-10 nationals will publish a book.

They’re numbers the taxi driver laughs at as I stumble for suitably Icelandic things to ask him about during our 50 km transit from airport to city. But it turned out that was pretty much all I had, leading me to search for anything else I knew about the place…

It has the Northern Lights – hence this trip; there was a rather well-publicized volcanic eruption that brought European airspace to its knees in 2010, and it used to be unbelievably expensive for tourists, but is comparably affordable now ‘thanks’ to the recession.

Iceland also offers some unique musical exports, like Bjork and Sigur Rós. And a bunch of huge sci-fi movies have been filmed there, including Prometheus, Oblivion and Interstellar… meaning you’re proportionately more likely to bump into an A-lister there than you are in Cannes during the film festival (I made that last fact up).

But the craziest numbers involving Iceland concern its tourism sector.

In 2000, the annual number of visitors to Iceland exceeded the total resident population for the first time. That would be crazy enough, for most countries… but the last published figures showed there were 672,000 visitors in 2012. A number expected to balloon to 900,000 – or three times the population – by 2016.

Cold Capital

It was a head-numbing -10c when we reach the Óðinsvé hotel in the country’s capital, Reykjavík, where it quickly became apparent most of us were not dressed for arctic conditions.

The best views of Reykjavík are from Hallgrímskirkja church steeple

The wind chill whipped the ambient temperature down further still as we claimed our bags, and I heard an American voice behind me lamenting… “Christ, between this and Aruba, I chose this?”

After regrouping in my room, I vowed not to leave it again without Victorian-swimming-style long johns tucked into each other, thermal everything on top and every jumper I’d brought with me layered over like a woolen matryoshka doll.

Heading into the center for something to eat, I hit the first outdoor clothing shop I saw and bought a tightly-fitted collar scarf, gloves and a deerstalker, to stop my ears frosting off.

Less worried about my personal well-being after kitting myself out, I could now relax and take in Reykjavík’s colorful pedestrianized streets. They were densely-packed thoroughfares with a regular run of city center shops, bars and restaurants but with an extra helping of craft art galleries and many, many book shops… maybe the BBC was right.

Settling on the most authentic-looking Icelandic eatery I could find, I sat down in a pine-walled room at Lækjarbrekka with a bowl of air-dried fish ‘crisps’, a pint of micro-brewery beer and a very Icelandic menu.

Foreigners who know what they like in Iceland can almost always opt for lamb, pork or salmon. But visitors with a taste for the exotic can push the boat out, literally. Anyone for Grilled Minke Whale with Brennivin Sauce, Fermented Shark or maybe a Horse Tenderloin with Bacon Pomme Anne, served on Icelandic birch?

I stuck with the (non-endangered) fish, opting for the arctic char: a relative of the salmon and brown trout. Served with potato pavé, pickled fennel and hollandaise sauce, it was superb, and I pledged to trek over to Billingsgate fish market once I was back in London, to impress a guest with it.

The Ancients

The next day, I wandered back into town to ascend the towering steeple of the overbearing Hallgrímskirkja church, whose shadow uptown Reykjavik sits in.

Eyrarland Statue
The thousand year-old Eyrarland Statue, unearthed at a farm in 1815

Having taken the elevator, and walked the stairs to reach the summit of its dizzying 73-meter concrete belfry (designed in homage to the Iceland’s lava-spewing peaks), I was rewarded with a stunning panoramic of multi-colored rooftops in the city below; and a wild, volcanic landscape beyond.

It was a great taster for what was to come, particularly as this trip is designed to remove you from everyday surroundings, and transport you into an ancient, alien world of lava pools and creeping glaciers.

Before we left the city in search of adventure, I hurried across the city’s frozen Reykjavíkurtjörn lake where a Saturday football match was in full swing, for a whistle-stop tour of the National Museum.

Its must-see ‘Making of a Nation’ exhibition offered an all-encompassing tour of Icelandic life, from the Settlement Age to the present, commencing with a replica of the ship the first medieval settlers arrived in.

The stand-out item from a vast collection of artifacts spanning more than a millennium was, for me, a tiny bronze human figurine from around 1,000 AD.

Whether it’s the Norse god Thor holding a hammer or Christ clutching a cross is contested but it was overwhelming standing in front of it, like Tutankhamen’s death mask or the Great Star of Africa.

It was a sensation I would get used to in Iceland once we’d headed away from civilization that night.

Into the Wild

The tour bus that picked us up was as impressive as it was unique, like a stretched monster-truck that made kids snap us with their phones wherever we rolled up.

The Great Geysir
The Great Geyser puts on a steamy show every 10 minutes

We’d appreciate our behemoth bus all the more in the coming days as we sailed past snow-bound coaches, ditched at the roadside with their passengers jumping about outside trying to keep warm, as emergency rescue vehicles came to collect them.

Our first rural expedition took us to the plateau of a frozen valley as the sun rose, casting a deep red and golden glow across the lakes below and turning the snow and ice around us a bright pink. Later on, we’d navigate an ice road to the Great Geyser, comically waddling towards it on foot over ultra-slippery ice while it jetted white hot water and steam 30 meters up into the air.

Before our two days in this region were out, we’d see a beautiful black basalt sand beach with cliffs made up of polygonal columns of layered basalt (like the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland); a towering glacier inching year-by-year further inland and a couple of spectacular waterfalls. We also took time out to relax in the Blue Lagoon, an epic outdoor thermal bath heated by lava pools, thankfully out of sight, far below.

Don’t forget to pack your spikes if you want to walk on the glaciers!

The Ranga hotel we stayed at in Southern Iceland’s Hella region is designated by tour operators as being set back far enough from any light pollution to offer unspoiled views of the aurora borealis… should it decide to put in an appearance.

This really is key for those, like myself, whose hearts are set on seeing the phenomenon, which occurs when electrically-charged particles from the sun collide as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere at the poles.

Lights, Camera… Settings

When we arrived, Ranga was all ‘knotty pine’ and deer antler lights, like a giant ski chalet without the slopes… or out-of-control après-ski parties.

Vík í Mýrdal Black Sand Beach
The Vík í Mýrdal black sand beach is stunning

Having unpacked and chilled in the whirlpool bath for a while, I headed to the restaurant for dinner with the other guests making sure to sign the wake-up list at reception, which gets you woken up at any hour if the lights suddenly appear outside.

The ‘aurora’ forecast had given our first night only a 2/9 chance of appearing, and 3/9 change of seeing them the next night, so we sat, chatting and eating in cautious anticipation.

It seemed the Nordic gods were smiling on us as we ate our puffin starters, because very unexpectedly a waiter announced to the room that ‘There are some lights, if anyone wants to see them’… The room instantly became a frenzied free-for-all.

Incumbent guests knew the drill, bee-lining for the freezer suits hanging up in the lobby, while the rest of us just grabbed our cameras and ran into the -20c night.

There were lights alright, but they were very faint. Like green luminous clouds of dry ice at a music festival.

Under the Ice

Displays appear in many colors, though pale green and pink are the most common. Red, yellow, green, blue, and violet are considered a real treat for those who see them every day.

A few minutes of playing with the camera settings later…

Whether they appeared as patches or scattered clouds of light, streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays, it was all the same to me in this perfect moment. I was really watching the Northern Lights… but my pictures weren’t coming out at all!

In a panic I would miss the moment, I approached someone with impressive-looking gear on a tripod and asked them for help.

Following his advice and playing with my camera settings with my now completely numb fingers, I set the camera down in the snow and pointed the lens upwards, leaving it on a 2-second shutter delay. I checked the screen to see what I’d got…

Wow! What I was looking at above me was beautiful, but with some trial and error, the pictures I was getting of it were stunning. But it was short-lived… almost before they’d arrived, they were gone again.

As we sat back down in the dining room, we were all content we had seen one of the greatest natural wonders of the world.

The next night, they would come back much stronger, with deep green hues of otherworldly light dancing on the horizon for twice as long, swirling and plunging in a giant arc.

This was what I had wanted to see my whole life, and I could finally tick the aurora off my bucket list … but I had come to realize that Iceland is more than this; with its mystical aura of ice, fire and magic…

I thought about the curious figure in the national museum who had bewitched me, embodying everything this other-worldly land is about… feeling a call to return again when the ice melts, to discover some more of its secrets.

A four-night Northern Lights trip from London costs from £1,814/ $2,735 pp with The Aurora Zone, bookable until the end of March (summer trips thereafter via Artisan Travel).

Richard Powell is a freelance journalist who also works for the Media Contacts Database and Press Release Distribution firm Presswire, but does not work with or for any of the parties mentioned in this article.



Opening Night at the Arlington Theatre on State Street in the heart of Santa Barbara began with a greeting from Helene Schneider, the Mayor of Santa Barbara. Ms. Schneider spoke before a sold-out house of 2200 people. She praised the Executive Director of SBIFF, Roger Durling, “The festival does so much for Santa Barbara. Roger is able to bring together people who shine. Santa Barbara thanks the Board of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival for all their work and contributions. There are 24 Academy Award nominees who will attend the Festival!” Schneider went on to thank UGG Australia as the presenting sponsor. There are 197 films in the festival selected from 3000 entries to be shown during these 12 days this year. Finally, she thanked “the individual who has really brought along the Festival over the last twelve years to where it is today”, Roger Durling!


Roger came to the stage and spoke from his heart about how grateful he was to be doing what he loves. “I grew up poor in Panama. I came as an immigrant. My mom always taught me to count my blessings so I am counting my blessings! I am so fortunate to be at this majestic Arlington Theatre. We have 58 countries represented in the festival. We have diverse forms of expression. We are so lucky to congregate and see films. I am so fortunate that self expression is accepted here. Je Suis Charlie. I am so fortunate that you all are here. I encourage you to be bold, be brave, be free! Happy 30th SBIFF!” Then Roger introduced the Director of the Opening Night film, “Desert Dancer,” Richard Raymond.


Richard Raymond came to the mike, “This is my first time being a Director here at the Festival. It means so much to follow in the footsteps, standing on the same stage where Scorcese, Ben Affleck and others before me have stood! I want to thank Relativity Films. I want to thank the people that made this film possible. This film was financed by so many brave people. I want to thank the wonderful actors Freida Pinto, Tom Cullen, who just won a SAG Award for his role on Downton Abbey, Reece Ritchie, Nazanin Boniadi, Simon Kassianides. I got the idea for this film because I read an article that told an amazing story of freedom of expression. It was a little like ‘Footloose in Iran.'” The story is about Afshin Ghaffarian, who risked everything to be a dancer in his country, Iran, where dance is forbidden. Raymond continued, “Afshin would have loved to be here but he cannot leave the country. He is a political refugee. He did give me a letter to read to you though.” Raymond read from the letter where Afshin thanked the cast, thanking them for their tenacity and truth, and wishing them good luck. “You have all my heart with you,” he wrote.

“Desert Dancer,” tells the moving story of Afshin Ghaffarian, a self-taught dancer, played by Reece Ritchie, who finds a way to express himself through what he loves in spite of the strict Iranian rules and enforcers who threaten him every step of the way. The film has amazing dance performances and compelling music. Freida Pinto is an extraordinary dancer in addition to Mr. Ritchie.

Watching “Desert Dancer”, and reflecting upon it afterwards, you can’t help but feel gratitude to live in a country where freedom of expression is allowed and celebrated and in our very constitution. The theme of freedom of expression resonated from Roger Durling’s introduction earlier in the evening. The value of coming to a film festival like SBIFF is that you get exposed to the hearts of filmmakers from all around the world and you get to see what they have struggled so hard to communicate.

Following the film, people strolled down State Street to The Opening Night Gala at Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center, all outside with music, food and drink. Strobe lights jetting light up to the stars and general excitement all around for the days ahead.



Photo Credits: Sally Fay

Could this be the big halftime show surprise?

Katy Perry will rock University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, during the Super Bowl halftime show this Sunday, but no one knows exactly how she’ll do it just yet. Perhaps … COMPETITIVE CHEERLEADING?!

YouTube user Thomas Jung nearly destroyed the Internet when he combined Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” with an aerobics video from the late ’80s. Swift herself evenretweeted the video, and the power unleashed was greater than that of a thousand suns.

Well, Jung’s back at it with a brand new mashup, just in time for the Super Bowl, creatively pairing Katy Perry’s “Firework” with a competitive cheerleading video from 1984 (the very year Perry was born … coincidence?! Yes, probably).

By: Tanya Lewis
Published: 01/30/2015 09:38 AM EST on LiveScience

Football fans, take note: The outcome of this weekend’s Super Bowl, along with other major sporting events, may depend on whether the players are night owls or early birds, a new study suggests.

Scientists found that the performance of competitive athletes varied by as much as 26 percent over the course of a day.

“Even 1 percent makes the difference between winning a race and losing it,” said Roland Brandstaetter, a biologist at the University of Birmingham in England and co-author of the study published today (Jan. 29) in the journal Current Biology. [10 Things You Didn’t Know About You]

The findings could have big implications for the timing of major sporting events, and how athletes train for them, the researchers said.

Larks and owls

Previous studies have always found that athletes perform their personal best in the evening, but nobody considered body-clock types properly, Brandstaetter told Live Science. All people, not just athletes, fall into categories based on internal biological clocks. People who are more awake earlier in the day are called “larks,” whereas those who are more awake at night are known as “owls.” Members of a third group have “intermediate” clocks.

These three clock types are determined by genetics, but can be synchronized to the environment, Brandstaetter said.

In the recent study, Brandstaetter and a colleague developed a new test to determine the body-clock types of more than 120 athletes. The researchers chose 20 athletes (all field hockey players) representing the three types (larks, owls and the intermediate group), and gave each athlete a standard fitness test six times in a single day.

The participants showed remarkable variation in their physical performance throughout the day. The amount of time elapsed since their natural waking times — the times when they would get up without help from an alarm clock — was the best predictor of their performance, the researchers said.

The larks reached their peak around midday, whereas the owls tended to perform better in the evening, the researchers found. The group of people with intermediate clocks reached peak performance in the afternoon.

Around the clock training

The message for coaches and athletes is to find out their biological clock type, and try to schedule competitions at the right time of day, Brandstaetter said. It may be possible to shift your clock schedule with training, but only to a limited extent; it’s almost impossible to turn an owl into a lark, for example, he said.

Biological clocks may explain why some soccer teams perform well in their league games, which tend to happen in the afternoon, but underachieve in championship matchups, which often take place in the evening,Brandstaetter said.

“Maybe in future, [soccer] coaches will look into having a good mix of players in their teams,” Brandstaetter said.

The findings apply not just to elite athletes, but to everyone, the researchers said. And biological clocks can influence not just athletic performance, but cognitive performance, as well.

Aptitude tests at schools and offices often take place in the morning, Brandstaetter said, so “how many talented people are we missing out on?”

Follow Tanya Lewis on Twitter. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Copyright 2015 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

LONDON — Just days after shaking European economic policy to its core with a sweeping win in Greek elections, the radical leftist party Syriza is challenging a fundamental tenet of the continent’s foreign policy by seeking a softer stance on Russia.

Both before and after coming to power this week, party leaders have made no secret of their affinity for the Kremlin. They visited Moscow to show solidarity after Western condemnation of the Russian annexation of Crimea last spring. New Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made the Russian ambassador his first foreign visitor within hours of taking office Monday.

Now Syriza is complicating Western efforts to take a tough line against Moscow amid an escalating Russian-backed insurgency in southeastern Ukraine.

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