From daredevils to Good Samaritans: 9 people who made 2014 count

By RT

Into the fire

When it comes to literally falling into a burning ring of fire, George Kourounis has probably come as close as anyone. In August, he and his fellow explorer Sam Cossman became the first two people to ever step foot inside Marum crater – a boiling lake of lava in the archipelago of Vanuatu. Along the way, they managed to capture one hell of a selfie!

WATCH MORE: ‘Crater like Empire State Bldg’: US daredevil recalls hanging over scorching lake of lava

Man’s best friend

But while some people will risk their own lives for the thrill, others do everything they can to save creatures big and small from a less than charmed life. Amanda Bird came to Sochi as a spokeswoman for the American bobsled and skeleton team. And while all eyes were on who brought home Olympic gold, she made her own waves through a long and difficult struggle to bring home one of Sochi’s many stray dogs. Her quest to bring a dog named “Sochi” from Russia to her home in Nashville was a long one. In the end, she herself said it wasn’t just about compassion for a dog, but compassion “for one another.” In her own words: “Isn’t that what the Olympics teaches us?”

Video: /files/news/35/7e/30/00/amanda-bird-dog-sochi-0200.mp4

Anti-fracking crusade

Just as Amanda’s heart guided her to give a dog shelter, environmental activist Vera Scroggins made it her mission to be compassionate to the Earth as a whole. But her peaceful anti-fracking activism has put her on a crash course with Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation, which is seeking to fine and imprison Scroggins for defying an injunction barring her from areas near its well sites in Pennsylvania. But Scroggins has gotten another day in court, with a judge recently ruling she could present more testimony and evidence to determine if the injunction holds water.

READ MORE: ‘I don’t want it for my kids’: Anti-fracking activist in PA battles gas giant

Braving jail for activism

The battle against the big and powerful is, of course, a universal experience. After serving two years in prison for taking part in unauthorized protests, Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was released from prison in November, though he has been barred from leaving the country. Now that he’s free Rajab has vowed to continue his fight, saying there is no “bargaining” when it comes to his human rights work. “The struggle has to continue for justice and democracy.”

A court in Manama ordered Rajab’s release but barred him from leaving the country. His next hearing will be on January 20. Rajab is the director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and was freed in May after serving two years for taking part in unauthorized protests.

Arrested – for feeding the homeless

Arnold Abbot is a 90-year-old war veteran who has been feeding homeless people in the streets of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for some 23 years. But after the city council pushed through laws strictly regulating the practice of public feeding with threat of fines and imprisonment, Abbot felt had no choice but to get arrested, standing up for his beliefs.

“I am not afraid at all. I was a combat infantryman for 2 1/2 years. I’ve spent 50 years fighting for civil rights for the minorities in this country. I don’t have the slightest fear of being arrested,” he told RT. “The only thing I am concerned about is that there would be nobody to feed the homeless outdoors, which is what I do – and what I intend to do as long as there is breath in my body.” Right on, Arnold!

READ MORE: 90yo US WWII vet vows to defy arrest for feeding homeless

Matt’s shirtstorm

Matt Taylor is a British scientist who made history by helping land the European Space Agency’s Philae lander on a comet over 400 million kilometers from Earth. Back on Earth, Taylor nearly overshadowed an accomplishment of cosmic proportions by wearing a T-shirt with pin-up girls bearing firearms to a press conference. Some hated him for it, others defended the eccentric scientist, but few could disagree that a historic event in human history was partially eclipsed by the smallness of our nature.

READ MORE: #Shirtstorm backlash: Internet steps up to defend Rosetta scientist

#Saveourname

For many, the acronym ISIS became synonymous with the devil incarnate. But for those named after the Egyptian goddess who epitomized the ideal mother, equating their name with the Islamist militant group was outright blasphemous. Isis Martinez decided not to take the slight sitting down, kickstarting a campaign to take her name back from the jihadists. But while she has so far failed to win her name back, her fight to maintain honor and dignity for the name that both she and thousands of other women share is commendable.

READ MORE: ‘Brand suicide’: Companies sharing name with ISIS forced to rebrand

Palestinian teen tweeting from frontline

At the tender age of 16, Farah Baker has already survived three wars in the Gaza Strip, which are three wars too many in her opinion. Living a stone’s throw away from Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, she has been given a front row view of the atrocities of battle. She generated an unexpected social media buzz after documenting her experiences on Twitter, with 189,000 followers now eager to catch a glimpse of her unique voice on the conflict.

While I was checking my old tweets I remembered those photos which summarize the hardest days of my life pic.twitter.com/lxNTsyrE9C

— Guess What (@Farah_Gazan) December 8, 2014

READ MORE: Digital front line: How Israel is shutting down Gaza’s Twitter voices

“This is in my area. I can’t stop crying. I might die tonight,” she harrowingly wrote during the 2014 Israeli invasion of Gaza. Luckily for her and for us, she made it through that dark, dark night.

On top of the world

Scaling 121 stories of steel girders takes nerves of steel, as two unflappable daredevils – Vitaly Raskalov and his partner Vadim Makhorov – proved on January 31 when they scaled Shanghai Tower. A YouTube video of the vertiginous ordeal has already gotten 38 million views and sent more than one person into vicarious fits of vertigo.

WATCH MORE: #OnTheRoofs: Russian daredevils climb world’s tallest skyscrapers, bridges

When asked why he risked life and limb to scale the heights of man-made structures, Raskalov said he merely liked seeing the world from “unusual angles.” But for anyone willing to attempt such a feat, his point of view has probably always been far away from that of the average man.

Via:: RT.com

From daredevils to Good Samaritans: 9 people who made 2014 count

By RT

Into the fire

When it comes to literally falling into a burning ring of fire, George Kourounis has probably come as close as anyone. In August, he and his fellow explorer Sam Cossman became the first two people to ever step foot inside Marum crater – a boiling lake of lava in the archipelago of Vanuatu. Along the way, they managed to capture one hell of a selfie!

WATCH MORE: ‘Crater like Empire State Bldg’: US daredevil recalls hanging over scorching lake of lava

Man’s best friend

But while some people will risk their own lives for the thrill, others do everything they can to save creatures big and small from a less than charmed life. Amanda Bird came to Sochi as a spokeswoman for the American bobsled and skeleton team. And while all eyes were on who brought home Olympic gold, she made her own waves through a long and difficult struggle to bring home one of Sochi’s many stray dogs. Her quest to bring a dog named “Sochi” from Russia to her home in Nashville was a long one. In the end, she herself said it wasn’t just about compassion for a dog, but compassion “for one another.” In her own words: “Isn’t that what the Olympics teaches us?”

Video: /files/news/35/7e/30/00/amanda-bird-dog-sochi-0200.mp4

Anti-fracking crusade

Just as Amanda’s heart guided her to give a dog shelter, environmental activist Vera Scroggins made it her mission to be compassionate to the Earth as a whole. But her peaceful anti-fracking activism has put her on a crash course with Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation, which is seeking to fine and imprison Scroggins for defying an injunction barring her from areas near its well sites in Pennsylvania. But Scroggins has gotten another day in court, with a judge recently ruling she could present more testimony and evidence to determine if the injunction holds water.

READ MORE: ‘I don’t want it for my kids’: Anti-fracking activist in PA battles gas giant

Braving jail for activism

The battle against the big and powerful is, of course, a universal experience. After serving two years in prison for taking part in unauthorized protests, Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was released from prison in November, though he has been barred from leaving the country. Now that he’s free Rajab has vowed to continue his fight, saying there is no “bargaining” when it comes to his human rights work. “The struggle has to continue for justice and democracy.”

A court in Manama ordered Rajab’s release but barred him from leaving the country. His next hearing will be on January 20. Rajab is the director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and was freed in May after serving two years for taking part in unauthorized protests.

Arrested – for feeding the homeless

Arnold Abbot is a 90-year-old war veteran who has been feeding homeless people in the streets of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for some 23 years. But after the city council pushed through laws strictly regulating the practice of public feeding with threat of fines and imprisonment, Abbot felt had no choice but to get arrested, standing up for his beliefs.

“I am not afraid at all. I was a combat infantryman for 2 1/2 years. I’ve spent 50 years fighting for civil rights for the minorities in this country. I don’t have the slightest fear of being arrested,” he told RT. “The only thing I am concerned about is that there would be nobody to feed the homeless outdoors, which is what I do – and what I intend to do as long as there is breath in my body.” Right on, Arnold!

READ MORE: 90yo US WWII vet vows to defy arrest for feeding homeless

Matt’s shirtstorm

Matt Taylor is a British scientist who made history by helping land the European Space Agency’s Philae lander on a comet over 400 million kilometers from Earth. Back on Earth, Taylor nearly overshadowed an accomplishment of cosmic proportions by wearing a T-shirt with pin-up girls bearing firearms to a press conference. Some hated him for it, others defended the eccentric scientist, but few could disagree that a historic event in human history was partially eclipsed by the smallness of our nature.

READ MORE: #Shirtstorm backlash: Internet steps up to defend Rosetta scientist

#Saveourname

For many, the acronym ISIS became synonymous with the devil incarnate. But for those named after the Egyptian goddess who epitomized the ideal mother, equating their name with the Islamist militant group was outright blasphemous. Isis Martinez decided not to take the slight sitting down, kickstarting a campaign to take her name back from the jihadists. But while she has so far failed to win her name back, her fight to maintain honor and dignity for the name that both she and thousands of other women share is commendable.

READ MORE: ‘Brand suicide’: Companies sharing name with ISIS forced to rebrand

Palestinian teen tweeting from frontline

At the tender age of 16, Farah Baker has already survived three wars in the Gaza Strip, which are three wars too many in her opinion. Living a stone’s throw away from Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, she has been given a front row view of the atrocities of battle. She generated an unexpected social media buzz after documenting her experiences on Twitter, with 189,000 followers now eager to catch a glimpse of her unique voice on the conflict.

While I was checking my old tweets I remembered those photos which summarize the hardest days of my life pic.twitter.com/lxNTsyrE9C

— Guess What (@Farah_Gazan) December 8, 2014

READ MORE: Digital front line: How Israel is shutting down Gaza’s Twitter voices

“This is in my area. I can’t stop crying. I might die tonight,” she harrowingly wrote during the 2014 Israeli invasion of Gaza. Luckily for her and for us, she made it through that dark, dark night.

On top of the world

Scaling 121 stories of steel girders takes nerves of steel, as two unflappable daredevils – Vitaly Raskalov and his partner Vadim Makhorov – proved on January 31 when they scaled Shanghai Tower. A YouTube video of the vertiginous ordeal has already gotten 38 million views and sent more than one person into vicarious fits of vertigo.

WATCH MORE: #OnTheRoofs: Russian daredevils climb world’s tallest skyscrapers, bridges

When asked why he risked life and limb to scale the heights of man-made structures, Raskalov said he merely liked seeing the world from “unusual angles.” But for anyone willing to attempt such a feat, his point of view has probably always been far away from that of the average man.

Via:: RT.com

From daredevils to Good Samaritans: 9 people who made 2014 count

By RT

Into the fire

When it comes to literally falling into a burning ring of fire, George Kourounis has probably come as close as anyone. In August, he and his fellow explorer Sam Cossman became the first two people to ever step foot inside Marum crater – a boiling lake of lava in the archipelago of Vanuatu. Along the way, they managed to capture one hell of a selfie!

WATCH MORE: ‘Crater like Empire State Bldg’: US daredevil recalls hanging over scorching lake of lava

Man’s best friend

But while some people will risk their own lives for the thrill, others do everything they can to save creatures big and small from a less than charmed life. Amanda Bird came to Sochi as a spokeswoman for the American bobsled and skeleton team. And while all eyes were on who brought home Olympic gold, she made her own waves through a long and difficult struggle to bring home one of Sochi’s many stray dogs. Her quest to bring a dog named “Sochi” from Russia to her home in Nashville was a long one. In the end, she herself said it wasn’t just about compassion for a dog, but compassion “for one another.” In her own words: “Isn’t that what the Olympics teaches us?”

Video: /files/news/35/7e/30/00/amanda-bird-dog-sochi-0200.mp4

Anti-fracking crusade

Just as Amanda’s heart guided her to give a dog shelter, environmental activist Vera Scroggins made it her mission to be compassionate to the Earth as a whole. But her peaceful anti-fracking activism has put her on a crash course with Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation, which is seeking to fine and imprison Scroggins for defying an injunction barring her from areas near its well sites in Pennsylvania. But Scroggins has gotten another day in court, with a judge recently ruling she could present more testimony and evidence to determine if the injunction holds water.

READ MORE: ‘I don’t want it for my kids’: Anti-fracking activist in PA battles gas giant

Braving jail for activism

The battle against the big and powerful is, of course, a universal experience. After serving two years in prison for taking part in unauthorized protests, Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was released from prison in November, though he has been barred from leaving the country. Now that he’s free Rajab has vowed to continue his fight, saying there is no “bargaining” when it comes to his human rights work. “The struggle has to continue for justice and democracy.”

A court in Manama ordered Rajab’s release but barred him from leaving the country. His next hearing will be on January 20. Rajab is the director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and was freed in May after serving two years for taking part in unauthorized protests.

Arrested – for feeding the homeless

Arnold Abbot is a 90-year-old war veteran who has been feeding homeless people in the streets of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for some 23 years. But after the city council pushed through laws strictly regulating the practice of public feeding with threat of fines and imprisonment, Abbot felt had no choice but to get arrested, standing up for his beliefs.

“I am not afraid at all. I was a combat infantryman for 2 1/2 years. I’ve spent 50 years fighting for civil rights for the minorities in this country. I don’t have the slightest fear of being arrested,” he told RT. “The only thing I am concerned about is that there would be nobody to feed the homeless outdoors, which is what I do – and what I intend to do as long as there is breath in my body.” Right on, Arnold!

READ MORE: 90yo US WWII vet vows to defy arrest for feeding homeless

Matt’s shirtstorm

Matt Taylor is a British scientist who made history by helping land the European Space Agency’s Philae lander on a comet over 400 million kilometers from Earth. Back on Earth, Taylor nearly overshadowed an accomplishment of cosmic proportions by wearing a T-shirt with pin-up girls bearing firearms to a press conference. Some hated him for it, others defended the eccentric scientist, but few could disagree that a historic event in human history was partially eclipsed by the smallness of our nature.

READ MORE: #Shirtstorm backlash: Internet steps up to defend Rosetta scientist

#Saveourname

For many, the acronym ISIS became synonymous with the devil incarnate. But for those named after the Egyptian goddess who epitomized the ideal mother, equating their name with the Islamist militant group was outright blasphemous. Isis Martinez decided not to take the slight sitting down, kickstarting a campaign to take her name back from the jihadists. But while she has so far failed to win her name back, her fight to maintain honor and dignity for the name that both she and thousands of other women share is commendable.

READ MORE: ‘Brand suicide’: Companies sharing name with ISIS forced to rebrand

Palestinian teen tweeting from frontline

At the tender age of 16, Farah Baker has already survived three wars in the Gaza Strip, which are three wars too many in her opinion. Living a stone’s throw away from Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, she has been given a front row view of the atrocities of battle. She generated an unexpected social media buzz after documenting her experiences on Twitter, with 189,000 followers now eager to catch a glimpse of her unique voice on the conflict.

While I was checking my old tweets I remembered those photos which summarize the hardest days of my life pic.twitter.com/lxNTsyrE9C

— Guess What (@Farah_Gazan) December 8, 2014

READ MORE: Digital front line: How Israel is shutting down Gaza’s Twitter voices

“This is in my area. I can’t stop crying. I might die tonight,” she harrowingly wrote during the 2014 Israeli invasion of Gaza. Luckily for her and for us, she made it through that dark, dark night.

On top of the world

Scaling 121 stories of steel girders takes nerves of steel, as two unflappable daredevils – Vitaly Raskalov and his partner Vadim Makhorov – proved on January 31 when they scaled Shanghai Tower. A YouTube video of the vertiginous ordeal has already gotten 38 million views and sent more than one person into vicarious fits of vertigo.

WATCH MORE: #OnTheRoofs: Russian daredevils climb world’s tallest skyscrapers, bridges

When asked why he risked life and limb to scale the heights of man-made structures, Raskalov said he merely liked seeing the world from “unusual angles.” But for anyone willing to attempt such a feat, his point of view has probably always been far away from that of the average man.

Via:: RT.com

With Eyes on Russia, Lithuania Joins Eurozone

By webdesk@voanews.com (Reuters) Lithuania joined the eurozone Thursday, hoping to anchor itself in Europe as its former master Russia flexes its military muscle in the region.

The first Soviet republic to declare independence, in 1990, Lithuania is the last of the three Baltic states to join the currency union and will be the last country to do so for the foreseeable future.

By becoming the 19th member of the euro bloc, Lithuania hopes for a boost in trade and lower borrowing costs to help it recover from a 15 percent contraction in 2009 at the height of the global financial crisis.

But the country’s central bank governor, Vitas Vasiliauskas, stressed the “geopolitical” significance of the move, which puts the former Soviet state firmly in the sphere of what used to be considered Western Europe.

“You live where you live — you have to keep that in mind,” he told Reuters when asked about benefits of eurozone entry, referring to the recent flare-up in tensions in the region.

Russia’s role in the Ukraine crisis, which included the annexation of Crimea, has awakened fears in the Baltics that they could be next. All have sizable ethnic Russian minorities.

NATO scrambled its jets more than 150 times in 2014 in response to Russian sorties, three times more than in the previous year. Moscow also held surprise military exercises in Kaliningrad, its enclave that borders Lithuania, in December, with 9,000 troops and 55 ships.

Despite rising political tensions, Lithuania’s credit rating is now well into investment grade, and rating agency Fitch expects its economy to grow by 3.5 percent in 2015, three times as fast as that of the eurozone as a whole.

Still, the common currency remains a divisive issue, with polls showing half the population of 3 million still not convinced dumping the litas is a good idea.

Three-quarters of people expect price increases after adopting the euro, and almost two-thirds fear Lithuania is losing part of its identity, a Eurobarometer poll found.

“I think it will be hard for my parents to get adjusted to it, but after some time, I think, it will all be fine,” said student Domas Ziegoraitis, 16.

Estonia joined the eurozone in 2011, followed by Latvia in 2014. All three Baltic nations joined the European Union and NATO in 2004.

Via:: Voice of America