The most anticipated athletes in the Rio Olympics

 

The 2016 Rio Olympic Games are underway, and people from every corner of the globe have astronomical expectations for their athletes. The United States have dominated the record standings since the fall of the USSR, with the People’s Republic of China almost consistently coming in at close second. This year looks to be no different. Let’s take a look at the most anticipated athletes in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Image source: swimmingworldmagazine.com

Michael Phelps

As of this writing, the incomparable Michael Phelps has 24 Olympic gold medals and is competing in his 3rd Olympic Games. He has the most medals of any athlete in Olympic history and the most gold medals at 20. That is more than double of the second-most gold medals for an athlete. He is a phenomenon by all accounts and arguably the greatest athlete in the history of the world.

The Golden State Warriors

Three players of the Golden State Warriors are joining Team USA in Rio– Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and newly-acquired Kevin Durant. Thompson and Green are first-timers while this is Durant’s second tour. After a disappointing end to a historical season in the NBA, Thompson and Green are hungry for victory while Durant is seeking to repeat his stellar performance from London 2012, where he led the USA Men’s Basketball team in offense, toward a gold medal.

Image source: sportsnaut.com

The United States Women’s Volleyball Team

The USA Women’s Volleyball Team is out for blood. Four years ago in London 2012, they were beaten by Brazil in the gold medal match. It was hailed as one of the biggest shocks of the 2012 Olympics. They are the current world champions and ranked number one, and they are looking to prove they deserve to be on top of the mountain.

#ThisFlag: Zimbabwe’s fight against corruption, injustice, and poverty

Months of turmoil and civil unrest in Zimbabwe culminated in a peaceful, united stand against corruption, injustice, and poverty last July 6.

A number of anti-government protests and riots have flooded the country due to economic collapse and perceived political impunity. It is said that Zimbabwe’s financial resources have almost dried up that even government employees have not yet received their wages.

Recently, with the government cash-strapped, most of the prisoners have been released and wildlife from the national game reserves have been sold.

Image source: newsday.co.zw

Even the local currency had been beset by runaway inflation that the citizens are using foreign currency for transactions. With an unnerving 90 percent of the population technically unemployed – most are poor farmers or informal laborers – the public outcry for the government, led by the 92-year-old Robert Mugabe for 36 years, to step down had grown more resounding by the day.

More Zimbabweans joined the protest movement in April, when outspoken pastor Ewan Mawarire uploaded a YouTube video denouncing the corruption in the government, while draped in the flag of Zimbabwe. The video has been watched hundreds of thousands of times and jumpstarted the #ThisFlag movement.

Social media, particularly the messaging app WhatsApp, have been instrumental in the organization and mobilization of the protests. As a result, the government have cracked down hard on social media, even issuing public notices that users were being closely monitored. Approximately a hundred people had been arrested for “instigating criminality.”

Image source: mahkuwa.co.zw

On July 4, violent clashes occurred between the police force and taxi drivers who were decrying harassment. The police also had to respond with deadly force after public transportation workers who were rallying for delayed salaries threw stones and burned tires in the two of the biggest cities in Zimbabwe.

With violence seemingly reaching its peak, organizers, leading activists, and union leaders decided to take a more peaceful and more meaningful approach to the demonstration. July 6, 2016 saw one of the biggest stay-away actions in the country for quite a long time. People were told to stay home to show solidarity, leading to a shutdown of almost all businesses, schools, and hospitals in various cities, including in the capital city, Harare.

A local electric shop worker illustrated it best when he told a news agency, “I can’t go to work when the rest of the country is not going to work. Life is tough and we need to show the government that we have been stretched to the limit.”

Marvel and Star Wars: The two greatest Disney acquisitions

There is very little doubt that Walt Disney Company rules the entertainment world. Disney movies have always been box-office hits. The theme parks have made hundreds of millions of people happy, and billions of dollars. Almost every child in almost every corner of the world has Disney merchandise in one form or another.

The same can be said about Marvel and Lucasfilm, the studio that brought Star Wars to life. The only difference is that both Marvel and Lucasfilm are owned by Disney. Both companies were bought by Disney at an estimated $8 billion combined. Let’s take a closer look at the buyouts.

 

Image source: chipandco.com

Disney and Marvel

This happened in August of 2009. Before the acquisition, Marvel Studios had two respectable box-office hits. “The Incredible Hulk” had moderate success worldwide, raking in $263 million. The following year, pre-Disney Marvel had its biggest hit with the first “Iron Man” movie, which hauled in $586 million.

Disney Marvel, however, is a different story. Ever since Disney acquired Marvel, the worldwide grosses of the movies have been jaw-dropping. As of 2015 (without counting “Captain America: Civil War” yet), the overall estimates of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies post-buyout are over $8.5 billion.

Image source: comicbook.com

Disney and Lucasfilm

A little over two years after acquiring Marvel, Disney set its sights on one of the most beloved studios in movie history – Lucasfilm. With the acquisition of Lucasfilm, Disney also gained ownership of the Indiana Jones franchise, and more significantly (in financial terms) the Star Wars franchise.

As with Marvel, upon the acquisition, Disney wasted no time developing future projects, the first of which became the third highest grossing film of all-time. Reports have come in that after “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was released, with ticket and merchandise sales, Disney quickly recovered the $4 billion it spent on acquiring Lucasfilm.

Not a bad move at all.

Malala Yousafzai and her advocacy for girls education

Image source: bustle.com

Malala Yousafzai is a children’s and women’s rights activist advocating for girls education worldwide. She co-founded the Malala Fund with her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, to establish and support education programs for girls around the globe.

Malala was born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, a town in the Swat District of northwest Pakistan. At a young age, she was already advocating for education in her conflict-stricken town. Malala published a blog for BBC Urdu under the pseudonym “Gul Makai.” She wrote about the increasing military activity in the Swat District and her fears that the Taliban would attack her school. Archbishop Desmond Tutu nominated Malala for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011. In the same year, Malala received the first National Youth Peace Prize in Pakistan.

Malala’s activism and her increasing influence led the Islamic fundamentalist group Taliban to issue a death threat against the young girl. Malala was only 14 then. On October 9, 2012, a masked gunman shot Malala in the head leaving her in critical condition. She was flown to Birmingham, in the United Kingdom to receive extensive medical rehabilitation.

Image source: france24.com

The Taliban attack was condemned worldwide and sparked protests across Pakistan. Shortly after the attack, 2 million people signed a right to education petition and the National Assembly promptly ratified the country’s first Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill.

The Malala Fund was established to bring awareness to the social and economic impacts of education girls. It also aims to empower girls to raise their voices and to demand change. Some of the programs of the Malala Fund include partnerships with local education organizations to educate girls in Pakistan and community-based alternative learning programs. The advocacy also invests in schools for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan and supports IT and life skills training in the Nairobi slums in Kenya. Ultimately, the fund aims to enable girls worldwide to complete 12 years of safe, quality education.

In 2014, Malala received the Nobel Peace Prize Award. She is the youngest person to receive the prestigious award, and she contributed her $1.1 million prize money to build a secondary school for girls in Pakistan.

US presidential polls: What do voters think of the process?

Image source: express.co.uk

According to a recent poll by Reuters and Ipsos, more than half of Americans believe that the process of candidate selection among political parties for presidency is rigged. More than two-thirds of these voters want to see change in how parties nominate their candidates.

The results are consistent with complaints from Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, and Bernie Sanders, a Democratic challenger. They believe that the system is against them, and that it favors people with close ties to party stalwarts. This has triggered a debate on whether the selection process is fair.

Image source: courselinea.com

The online survey was answered by more than 1,500 Americans and was conducted from 21 to 26 April. More than a quarter of the population claimed not really understanding the process. They said they prefer a single day of voting for the primary process for all 50 states to a staggered schedule that would take months.

Many voters also think that the process overall is complex. Donald Trump has previously mentioned how the complicated system is being rigged by double-agent delegates who reject the choices over the voters. Meanwhile, Sanders took on the issue of the existence of superdelegates who were mostly for Hilary Clinton. The survey also showed that about 44 per cent of the voters did not understand the role of the pledged and super delegates in the process.

The year in business: The biggest stories of 2015

This year, the business scene has been both turbulent – with global economies, particularly China, suffering heavy blows that had financial markets jittery and panicky – and fascinating – with the corporate landscape facing significant transformation in terms of power unions and generous work-life policies. To recap, below are three of the most notable stories that stirred up the business community this year:

Volkswagen
Image source: latimes.com

Corporate mea culpas: 2015 saw big-name companies taking a hit reputation-wise and prompting a wave of product recalls and a massive overhaul of business procedures. One of the brands that faced intense scrutiny for its transgressions was Volkswagen. In September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealed that the German automaker cheated on emission tests for hundreds of thousands of diesel cars it had touted as “green.” Volkswagen admitted to its misdeeds, leading to the resignation of its CEO, Martin Winterkorn and a plan to recall 11 million cars globally.

Another company that took a beating this year was Chipotle, with reports of food-borne disease outbreaks hitting its restaurants and more than 500 people in various states falling in. The crisis prompted the fast-casual chain to close several stores and re-evaluate its food safety program.

Image source: nytimes.com

M&A mania: Bursting with corporate deals year-round, 2015 saw global merger and acquisition activities surpass $5 trillion, a record-setting feat, according to Dealogic data. The number of mega-mergers, or deals worth $10 billion or more, was also at a record high at 10. Among this year’s highlights are the $160 billion merger of drug firms Pfizer with Allergan, Dell’s $67 billion tech deal with EMC Corp, and the $106 billion transaction between arch-rival brewers Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller.

The rise of the ‘gig’ economy: The idea of a lifetime career was tested this year as more people chose to make a living as freelancers rather than full-time employees. While the concept of part-time work is not entirely a new one, 2015 saw a shift in employment buoyed by technology and global trade. Even traditional companies are more open to the idea of hiring independent contractors. Although the gig economy encourages more empowered workers and boundless innovation and creativity, it also raises questions about workplace protection and benefits.

The ABCs of Alphabet, Google’s new parent company

Image Source: time.com

In what could be one of the biggest business moves in recent history, Google announced on August 10 that it is rebranding itself as Alphabet. If some industry observers deemed the creation of the new holding company a radical move by the technology giant, others believed this innovation is exactly what Google is known for. As Google co-founder Larry Page stressed in the blog post “G is for Google”, the company has “always strived to do more, and to do important and meaningful things with the resources we have.” Something he and Sergey Brin made clear early on in their founders letter 11 years ago, “Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.”

The restructuring puts Alphabet as a holding company whose largest asset is the search firm Google. Serving as Alphabet’s CEO is Page, with Brin as president. Completing the ruling triumvirate is Eric Schmidt, who assumes the executive chairmanship post.

Google meanwhile will be headed by Sundar Pichai, who has been running most of the company’s major businesses since October of last year. Pichai, who has been with Google since 2004 and has been credited for pitching the idea of the company creating its own browser, will now be overseeing search, advertising, maps, the video service YouTube, and the mobile operating system Android. As Page wrote in the blog post, he is confident that “Sundar will always be focused on innovation — continuing to stretch boundaries.”

Other companies under Alphabet’s portfolio include:

• Calico, an anti-aging biotech company
• Sidewalk, a company focused on smart cities
• Nest, a developer of Internet-connected devices for the home
• Fiber, high-speed Internet service provider
• Investment arms Google Ventures (focus on venture capital) and Google Capital (zeroes in on private equity deals)
• Incubator projects such as Google X, which is working on self-driving cars and delivery drones

Image Source: theguardian.com

The restructuring comes at a time of immense pressure on companies, even high-flying ones like Google, to continue innovating while delivering short-term results. And Google responded in a way that may seem “crazy”, but is really an accurate demonstration of the company’s culture. “We did a lot of things that seemed crazy at the time,” wrote Page. “Many of those crazy things now have over a billion users, like Google Maps, YouTube, Chrome, and Android. And we haven’t stopped there. We are still trying to do things other people think are crazy, but we are super excited about.” Only revolutionary ideas from a certified trailblazer.