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News and Trends
January 10, 2011


Iran's Haircut Police are Watching
The 103-Year-Old Judge
Top Words of 2010
Why China's Dogs are Off the Menu
The Hologram Rock Star
Is Your School Logo Illegal?

Iran's Haircut Police are Watching
Guys, how would you like your hair cut? If you're passing through Iran, you better hope your style meets the standards in the official haircut catalog issued by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. For more than 30 years, Iran's hard-line Islamic government has waged a battle against Western cultural influences in everything from movies and music to fashion, and now, men's hairstyles. Every summer, Iran's morality police target "un-Islamic" dress and styles, including long hair on men and loose veils on women. Last summer's crackdown was particularly harsh, with special squads stopping and some-times arresting unmarried couples, women with too much makeup, and people playing Western music. Curiously, the official haircut catalog shows only beardless men, even though beards are a mark of Islamic orthodoxy in Iran. An Iranian official said that this particular battle was focused on the scalp. "We want to preserve our culture . . . and come up with hair-styles that confront Western cultural invasion."

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The 103-Year-Old Judge
When President John F. Kennedy appointed him in 1962, no one could have guessed that Judge Wesley E. Brown of the U.S. District Court in Wichita, Kansas, would still be handing out sentences nearly 50 years later. At 103, Brown uses an oxygen tube during hearings and warns lawyers that their cases may outlive him. The Constitution says federal judges can stay on the bench "during good behavior"—which, barring impeachment, means a lifetime appointment. One defendant, Randy Hicks, worried whether Brown could handle what turned out to be two years of hearings on a complex banking case. "And then," he says, "I realized that people were probably thinking the same thing 20 years ago." In June, when Brown turns 104, he will become the oldest practicing federal judge in U.S. history. "At this age," he jokes, "I'm not even buying green bananas."

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Top Words of 2010
You may not have used the word "Spillcam" in too many conversations lately, but according to the Global Language Monitor, it was the most used word in 2010 among the world's 1.6 billion English speakers. ("Spillcam" is the BP camera that documented last spring's Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.) GLM, which is based in Austin, Texas, scours millions of Web pages, newspapers, and social media sites to find the words that appear most often in various categories, from politics to science. GLM's president says that to make the list, words must be used outside of London and New York. "If people aren't using it in Beijing," he says, "it doesn't count." Here are a few more of 2010's top words and phrases.

Vuvuzela (the plastic horns used by spectators at the World Cup in South Africa) • Deficit (Most governments have one today.) • Climate change (Not only on the 2010 Top Ten, but also the No. 1 phrase of the decade.) • Refudiate (Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's cross between "refute" and "repudiate.")

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Why China's Dogs are Off the Menu
The Chinese have eaten dog meat for thousands of years, in part for its supposed medicinal properties. But in Beijing today, it's easier to find dog-treat stores, doggie social networks, and doggie swimming pools than dog entrŽes. It's a big change from just two decades ago—and a sign of how quickly China is hurtling from impoverished nation to global economic power. More than 900,000 dogs are now registered in Beijing as pets, and the number is growing by 10 percent a year. In a way, China is coming full circle as far as dogs go. Centuries ago, the elite kept dogs as pets; the Pekingese breed dates to the 700s, when Chinese emperors made it the palace dog and executed anyone caught stealing one. But after the Communist Revolution in 1949, dogs were considered a bourgeois luxury, and for a time banned from Beijing. Now, wealthy city dwellers see dogs as status symbols—particularly the Tibetan mastiff, for which one woman recently paid $600,000—and as cherished family members. The government's one-child policy is also a factor, with dogs providing companionship for children without siblings.

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The Hologram Rock Star
Sixteen-year-old Hatsune Miku filled stadiums of adoring fans on a recent concert tour. Her albums have topped Japan's music charts. She's attracted more than 55,000 Facebook followers. Oh, and one other thing worth noting: She's totally fake. Miku is a singing digital avatar created by Crypton Future Media in Sapporo, Japan. Crypton's software, which retails for about $200, allows anyone to write lyrics and melodies for avatars to perform on-screen in a lifelike voice synthesized to sound like real-life Japanese pop stars. (A 3-D hologram of Miku performs at her "live" concerts.) Since Miku was introduced to the world in 2007, more than 30,000 songs and movies about her have been created, and you can see many of them on YouTube and the Japanese video-sharing site Nico Nico Douga. Though Miku-mania started in Japan, it's now catching on in the U.S. Last fall, Miku made her first American appearance at the New People center in San Francisco's Japantown.

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Is Your School Logo Illegal?
Glades Day School sits on the edge of swampland in Belle Glade, Florida. With alligators swimming in canals nearby, the Gator has been a perfect mascot for the school—until last winter, when the University of Florida, with a nearly identical logo, sued the school for trademark violation. Universities have always fiercely protected their school logos, which appear on everything from T-shirts to beach towels and dog bowls. But as the profile of high school sports has risen on TV and online, universities are noticing more trademark violations and issuing warnings to high schools across the country. Most of them settle out of court to avoid huge legal fees. But changing logos—on uniforms, websites, and gym floors—can cost tens of thousands of dollars. "We send them our students, we send them our money, and we support them," Glades's headmaster says about UF. "It just hurts; it stings."

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