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The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development released a new study ranking the world’s nations by the happiness levels of their citizens.

The report looked at subjective well-being, defined as life satisfaction. Did people feel like their lives were dominated by positive experiences and feelings, or negative ones?

According to the published results, northern Europeans are the happiest people in the world. The top ten are:

1. Denmark
2. Finland
3. The Netherlands
4. Sweden
5. Ireland
6. Canada
7. Switzerland
8. New Zealand
9. Norway
10. Belgium

Why did the northern European countries come out looking so good? Overall economic health played a powerful role, says Simon Chapple, senior economist from the Social Policy Division of the OECD, which put together the report.

In Depth: World's Happiest Places

Ms. Mason died on Monday at her home in Lattimore, N.C. She was 71 and had lived for more than 60 years in an iron lung.

Paralyzed from the neck down as a result of childhood polio, Ms. Mason was one of the last handful of Americans, perhaps 30 people, who live full time in iron lungs. There is no documented case of any American’s having done so for quite as long as she.

From her horizontal world — a 7-foot-long, 800-pound iron cylinder that encased all but her head — Ms. Mason lived a life that was by her own account fine and full, reading voraciously, graduating with highest honors from high school and college, entertaining and eventually writing.

She chose to remain in an iron lung, she often said, for the freedom it gave her. It let her breathe without tubes in her throat, incisions or hospital stays, as newer, smaller ventilators might require. It took no professional training to operate, letting her remain mistress of her own house, with just two aides assisting her.

Ms. Mason is the subject of a documentary film, “Martha in Lattimore ,” released in 2005 and directed by Ms. Dalton. She also appeared in “The Final Inch,” a documentary about polio that was nominated for a Academy Award this year.

Martha Ann Mason was born on May 31, 1937, and reared in Lattimore, a small town about 50 miles west of Charlotte. In September 1948, when she was 11, Martha went to bed one night feeling achy. She did not tell her parents because she did not want to compound their sorrow: that day, they had buried her 13-year-old brother, Gaston, who had died of polio a few days before.

Full article


Its claim to fame is its name - one of the world's longest.

So you might expect those writing signs to Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg to try extra hard to copy it down correctly.

But it has emerged that directions to the beauty spot have been spelled wrong for years.

The Indian name, which means 'The fishing place at the boundaries, the neutral meeting ground', was written with an O at letter 20 in place of a U and an H at letter 38 instead of an N.

Officials in Webster, Massachusetts, found the error by consulting historical books and have promised to correct it.

Many residents in the small town do not even try to pronounce its name, simply referring to it as Lake Webster.

For all you Lego lovers out there, hold onto your hats. There has been quite a bit of online buzz about a soon-to-be-released Lego mobile phone.

This colorful little gadget is geared towards the younger crowd but the phone may be a big hit for Lego lovers of all ages. Users can easily change the look and color of the phone by switching out the detachable snap-on pieces, in a snap. If you're having a blue day, just snap-on the blue Lego block.

Although not much information has been released, the phone, from Alcatel-Lucent, is expected to retail for around $60 and should be released sometime this year.


Disney says it will no longer scan riders on Splash Mountain and three other rides for guests who feel the need to flash their breasts for souvenir photos.

Disney confirmed Tuesday that it has reassigned employees at Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure who watched for breast-baring riders because "actual inappropriate behaviors by guests are rare."

Disneyland spokeswoman, Suzi Brown, says the changes took effect Sunday at Splash Mountain, Tower of Terror, Space Mountain and California Screamin'.

Riders are photographed on the attractions and can then buy souvenir copies. Some have exposed their breasts in hopes that the picture would make it onto a photo preview screen at the ride's exit.

Disney Parks Stop Scans for Topless Riders


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(La Tomatina, Valencia)

Rhine in Flames

If you missed Valencia's Las Fallas, this German festival is the next best thing in pyrotechnics. On five summer nights the skies above the Rhine Valley are lit up by firework displays to rival any in the world. Bonn to Linz: May 3, Bingen/Rüdesheim: July 5, Koblenz: Aug 9, Oberwesel: Sept 13, St Goar: Sept 20.

May 3-Sept 20
www.germany-tourism.co.uk

White Nights, St Petersburg
Thanks to the city's northern location, the sun never sets during the six weeks of this festival, which offers an eclectic programme of ballet, dance, opera, jazz and classical music performances.

May 15-June 18
www.saint-petersburg.com

Isle of Wight Festival
Forget Glastonbury: take the ferry over to this festival near Newport, which has re-established itself as one Europe's finest. This year's line-up includes Razorlight, Stereophonics, the Prodigy, Neil Young and the Pixies.

June 12-14
www.isleofwightfestival.com

Il Palio, Siena
If you think the Grand National has thrills and spills, you should see this: 10 jockeys (representing the city's 10 districts) ride bareback around three laps of the dangerously tight Piazza del Campo. The race lasts just 80 seconds, but people come from far and wide to be part of the event, and the grappa-fuelled parties.

July 2 and Aug 16
www.ilpalio.org

Benicàssim Festival
Think Mediterranean beaches rather than mud baths. Benicàssim serves up a great selection of indie bands, rock groups and DJs. This year's line-up includes the Killers, Kings of Leon and Oasis.

July 17-20
www.benicassimfestival.co.uk

Bregenz Festival
This open-air opera festival, set on Lake Constance, is as much a visual experience as an auditory one. The audience looks out from the shore on to an epic floating stage that featured in the last James Bond film. This year the centrepiece will be a Verdi's Aida.

July 25-Aug 22
www.bregenzerfestspiele.com

Marciac Jazz Festival
This small French town in Armagnac hosts one of the world's best jazz festivals. Among the performers this year are Sonny Rollins, Ray Gelato and Wynton Marsalis.

July 31-Aug 16
www.jazzinmarciac.com

Edinburgh Festival
Together with the Edinburgh Fringe this is the world's largest festival of the performing arts, including dance, theatre, opera, comedy, music and film. This year's performances include a giant outdoor production of Faust, a new take on Voltaire's Candide and a dance production based on the music of Iggy Pop, David Bowie and Lou Reed.

Aug 14-Sept 6
www.eif.co.uk

La Tomatina, Valencia
On the last Wednesday of August each year, the tiny village of Bunyol stages one of the world's quirkiest festivals. Some 275,000lbs of ripe tomatoes are available for 20,000 people to throw at one another.

Aug 25
www.tomatina.net

Goodwood Revival
See out the summer with a nostalgic journey back to the golden age of racing. Thousands descend on Goodwood dressed in the fashions of the Fifties and Sixties, while E-Type Jags and Ferrari Dinos roar round the circuit, reminding all that there is more to life than Formula One.

Sept 18-20
www.goodwood.co.uk


via Telegraph, UK
(Pointing with an extended finger is offensive in many cultures.)


Giving a thumbs-up or the OK sign can mean trouble in some parts of the world.

Here are two of the five common American gestures that will get you into hot water in foreign countries.

Don’t Tell Them to Come Hither in Japan.

I tried teaching English in Japan for a couple years, and was trying hard to keep up with Japanese gestures.

One day I beckoned for a student with my index finger. Her mouth dropped open and other students stared.

While in America the “come hither” finger is a perfectly acceptable way to ask someone to come to you, in Japan it’s a highly offensive gesture. I later learned that this gesture isn’t welcome in most Asian countries, and symbolizes death in Singapore.

The Japanese way to beckon someone looks like an American wave, palm out and fingers waving down.

Keep Your Thumbs Down in the Middle East

A friend of mine was once bargaining for trinkets at a street market in Iran, negotiating for a decent price.

Although they couldn’t speak the same language, he and the storekeeper were having an agreeable exchange…until one good ol’ American gesture got him into trouble.

After they agreed on a price, he gave the shopkeeper a hearty thumbs-up. The shopkeeper’s brow crinkled in confusion, then he muttered something in Arabic before turning away.

My friend was baffled until a fellow traveler leaned over and told him that his hand gesture signified that the shopkeeper could stick his price where the sun don’t shine.

In certain parts of the Middle East, thumbs-up is definitely a highly-offensive thumbs-down.

Read the other three common American gestures that might insult the locals


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YourTango.com, a self-described "community for love, sex, dating and relationship advice," has created an instructional video called "Facebook Manners and You." Styled after one of those frighteningly cheery '50s educational films, the video's instructions for proper behavior on the "electric friendship generator" is funny in a hits-close-to-home way.

The video covers everything from how to dump someone (do not break up with your partner by changing your relationship status) to the best practices for starting a hate group (don't create an "I hate so-and-so" group. But if you already did, don't use it to call someone a communist). Still, there are a number of Facebook etiquette rules the video does not cover. TIME would like to suggest these additional "electric friendship" guidelines:

1. Stop taking quizzes. Nobody cares what literary time period you are.

2. If you sync your Twitter account to Facebook so that you fill others' news feeds with a constant stream of mundane updates and references to people with little @ symbols before their names, be prepared for people to de-friend you. Maybe even in real life. (Read "25 More Things I Didn't Want to Learn About You On Facebook." )

3. Don't friend someone you don't actually know

4. If you must friend someone you don't know, include a message explaining why you are doing so. For example, "Hi, I'm your cousin's roommate!" would suffice.

5. Actually, no. Why would your cousin's roommate want to be your friend? That's still weird.

6. Don't invite people to events if they don't live in your city. I'm glad you still live in our old college town, but guess what? I don't. Even if I did, I still wouldn't waste my Friday night listening to you play music at that vegan coffee shop I frequented when I was 19 because I couldn't get into bars.

7. I'm sorry your grandfather died of emphysema, but I will not join your "cause."

8. Make sure all your photos are rotated in the proper direction. How will people know how fun your Fourth of July barbecue was if every picture looks like you fell over?

9. If you create a group called "Lost my cell phone; need your numbers!," I will join, but I won't give you my number.

10. Cryptic status updates about your mental state — "Rachel is trying so hard," "Rachel wishes things were different," "Rachel is starting her life over" — don't make you sound intriguing, just lonely and pathetic.

Further reading
Top 10 Facebook Etiquette Rules


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It's a question that has baffled scientists, academics and pub bores through the ages: What came first, the chicken or the egg?

A team made up of a geneticist, philosopher and chicken farmer claim to have found an answer. It was the egg.

Put simply, the reason is down to the fact that genetic material does not change during an animal's life.

Therefore the first bird that evolved into what we would call a chicken, probably in prehistoric times, must have first existed as an embryo inside an egg.

The living organism inside the eggshell would have had the same DNA as the chicken it would develop into, he said.

"Therefore, the first living thing which we could say unequivocally was a member of the species would be this first egg," he added. "So, I would conclude that the egg came first."

David Papineau, an expert in the philosophy of science, agreed that the first chicken came from an egg and that proves there were chicken eggs before chickens.

He told PA people were mistaken if they argued that the mutant egg belonged to the "non-chicken" bird parents.

"I would argue it is a chicken egg if it has a chicken in it," he said.

Charles Bourns, chairman of trade body Great British Chicken, said: "Eggs were around long before the first chicken arrived. Of course, they may not have been chicken eggs as we see them today, but they were eggs."

In biology, the term egg is biologically ambiguous and the theory of punctuated equilibrium, for example, does not support a clear division between a chicken and the closest ancestors of that chicken. If the egg is not necessarily of any specific type: Then it could be said that the egg came first, because other animals had been laying eggs long before chickens existed, such as the dinosaurs. In biology, egg is used as a general term in this way.

Further reading
Chicken or the egg
Chicken and egg debate unscrambled


Diplomats, soldiers, politicians and economists all love a good acronym. Here is one of the five of the most misleading, insulting, and just plain annoying acronyms.

RINGO, BINGO, and GONGO

What does it stand for?
Research and independent non-governmental organization, business and industry non-governmental organization, and government-organized non-governmental organization.

What is it?
As the influence and prominence of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) has grown in international affairs, a subfield of civil society taxonomy has grown to distinguish abnormal NGOs. RINGOs (such as the Center for Clean Air Policy) and BINGOS (such as the European electricity industry's Eurelectric) come up frequently in climate-change discussions. GONGO generally refers to organizations set up by authoritarian governments to fake the appearance of civil society. Nashi, Russia's state-organized, pro-Kremlin youth group, is a great example.

Why it's bad:
RINGOs and BINGOs just sound silly, bringing to mind a Beatles concert in a church basement more than and public-private partnerships to address emissions standards. Creating the designation BINGO also implies, inaccurately, that normal NGOs are completely independent from the interests of industry. In fact, many so-called independent NGOs rely on corporate donations for their activities. As for GONGOs, an acronym generally shouldn't directly contradict itself. Why not just call them what they are? Government agencies.

Read the rest of the worst acronyms ever

What's your least favorite acronym?


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Funny cartoon of the day

Funny cartoon of the day