July 23rd, 2014
02:25 PM ET

Video game, movie ruffling dictatorial feathers

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

To add to the world's tumult, the North Korean government threatened military action last month over an upcoming Seth Rogen and James Franco movie. It's about television personalities recruited to assassinate Kim Jong Un during an interview. Recently, Pyongyang wrote a letter of complaint to the White House requesting that the movie, which they deemed to be "an act of war," be shut down.

While this seems in keeping with Kim Jong Un's usual antics, he isn’t the only dictator to throw this kind of tantrum.

Remember Manuel Noriega, the former Panamanian strongman? He's suing the makers of the videogame "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" from his Panamanian prison cell.

Noriega alleges in his lawsuit that the game portrays him as "a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state." Perhaps the videogame designers should have had his character stick to drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering – crimes he was convicted of in the United States and France.

Oh, and he was also convicted of murder in Panama.

One would think Kim Jong Un has more important things to worry about than Hollywood comedies. We guess Noriega in his prison cell has more time on his hands.

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Topics: Last Look
July 16th, 2014
12:20 PM ET

Apollo too risqué for Russia?

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

The image in the video shows the world famous Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. A statue of Apollo, the Greek god of music, riding his chariot has sat atop the Bolshoi's portico for more than 150 years. In the 1990s, the statue joined the ranks of princes and emperors when it was added to the nation's currency. It now decorates the front of the 100 Ruble note.

This month, Russian lawmaker Roman Khudyakov requested that the Central Bank remove this iconic image.  It seems he is offended by the Greek god's clothing – or lack thereof. You see, following a recent theater restoration, a more modest version of the Bolshoi statue was unveiled with a strategically placed fig leaf. Khudyakov noted that the bills don’t match the restored statue and finds them unsuitable for children.

This request, unusual as it may be, echoes a growing conservatism in the Russian government. The parliament unanimously passed anti-gay legislation last year banning "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" to youth. Who knows what the law means? But what we do know is that the fine for a person breaking it is steep – up to 100,000 rubles. That's about $3000 dollars.

President Putin has strongly supported this anti-gay legislation. Something tells us, however, that Mr. Putin won’t be as offended by the lack of clothes. Remember the famous image of the bare-chested macho man of the Urals?

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Topics: Last Look • Russia
July 8th, 2014
02:55 PM ET

Can other countries tap into Obama campaign success?

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Last week, Turkey's Justice and Development Party – the AKP Party – announced that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan would be its presidential candidate in the August elections.

His campaign began immediately, and his logo caught our eye. Take a look at the video – it’s a red rising sun. The party said it symbolizes hope, the birth of a new Turkey, unity and togetherness. The winding road, they say, symbolizes Erdogan's "journey of life."

But people quickly pointed out that the logo looks a bit familiar. Yes, it’s very similar to President Obama's campaign logo. At the time, Obama's logo was chosen as a symbol of hope and a new day, and of course because it has an "o."

This isn't the only logo people have compared to Obama's. In 2008, South Africa's Democratic Alliance party unveiled its logo.

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Topics: Last Look • Politics
July 2nd, 2014
04:33 PM ET

Why Bolivia reversed its clock

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Take a look at the picture in the video of the Bolivian congress. Does something look amiss?

Look closely and you'll see the numbers on the clock are reversed...on purpose. You see, modern day clocks reflect the way that a sundial's shadow travels in the northern hemisphere. This clock was reversed to reflect Bolivia's position in the southern hemisphere. The foreign minister said that this "clock of the south" was installed so that Bolivians would embrace creativity and question the status quo.

A symbolic change like this isn't unique to Bolivia of course. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez changed his country's 200 year old flag by adding an 8th star in tribute to Simon Bolivar. He changed the direction the horse in the coat of arms faces from right to left, declaring that the horse had been "freed." (Critics at the time pointed out it was costly to "free" the horse from passports, currency and other government documents.) In Africa, Malawi's former president changed the flag's rising sun to a sun that had fully risen. He wanted the flag to imply Malawi wasn't developing, it had developed.

These may be clear symbols, but what doesn’t seem clear to these leaders – you can change a horse's direction, a sun's position, a date on the calendar or even what clockwise means – but your country's successes will still be based on the substance of your policies, not the style of your symbols.

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Topics: Last Look
June 23rd, 2014
06:04 PM ET

An austere coronation in Spain

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Last week, Prince Felipe became Felipe VI, King of Spain.

Rather than the big "to do" one normally sees in European coronations, Prince Felipe opted for a more muted ceremony. It felt a little like a second marriage rather than a big first wedding ceremony.

There was a military procession and then a simple proclamation. There were no horse drawn carriages; the royals arrived by car. There were no foreign royals or heads of state in attendance. King Juan Carlos himself didn't even attend the ceremony. Instead of a seated banquet, guests were served tapas while standing. The crown was displayed next to Felipe, but he didn’t wear it.

Ardent royalists criticized the austere event as a missed opportunity to project a positive image of Spain to the world. But the occasion was reflective of Spain's economic situation and mood. Still recovering from the recession the country's unemployment rate is roughly 26 percent. For youths that number is north of 50 percent.

That didn't stop other from adding pomp to the event – commemorative souvenirs reminiscent of a royal wedding are being sold all around the country. Of course that could be a nice stimulus that the Spanish economy needs.

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Topics: Last Look
June 18th, 2014
12:17 PM ET

Thai government wants citizens to be happy

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

The Thailand national team may not be in the World Cup, but thanks to the military government that was installed after the recent coup, Thai citizens in that nation will be able to watch the tournament for free.

Since the coup, the junta has increased surveillance, censored TV and radio stations, cracked down on protests and detained critics.

Despite all this, they also have a message for the Thai people – be happy! And free broadcasts of all 64 World Cup games is just part of this attempt to "return happiness to the people." They're also giving away movie tickets, throwing free concerts in Bangkok with singing soldiers and scantily clad women, and even brought horses with bales of hay downtown for people to pet.

The Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha wants to return happiness to Thailand so much he wrote a ballad about it.

It's set to music by the Royal Thai Army Band. With lyrics like "We offer to guard and protect you with our hearts" and "To bring back love, how long will it take? Please, will you wait?" it isn't quite as catchy as that other happy song.

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Topics: Last Look
June 4th, 2014
04:58 PM ET

Should U.S. measure the black market?

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

The government announced last week that the U.S. economy shrank in the first quarter. That's the first quarter in the red in three years. It's certainly not catastrophic, but it got me wondering whether the mafia might be able to help on this one. No, I'm not suggesting that organized crime make offers that American CEO can't refuse. Instead, I'm suggesting that the U.S. might want to take a page from Italy's book. Let me explain.

Italy's GDP has essentially the opposite track record of the U.S. until recently. The fourth quarter of 2013 was the first time Italy's economy grew in two years. So Italy dipped into the shadows this past week, the shadow economy, that is.

Starting in 2014 and going retroactively, Italy has said it will add the mafia's dealings to its GDP. And not just like Cosa Nostra, but anyone who makes money in the black market, drug dealing, prostitution, smuggling. Analysts expect this accounting change to boost Italy's GDP a good percentage point or two.

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Topics: Economy • Last Look
May 25th, 2014
01:49 AM ET

What is humanity's biggest challenge?

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

In 1714, the British government passed the Longitude Act, which offered a prize to anyone who solved a great challenge of the time  accurately determining a ship's longitude. Navigation problems caused wrecks and trade disruption, so the prize was large  20,000 pounds, $3.5 million by today's standards. A working class clockmaker eventually won after years of developing reliable marine clocks, or "chronometers," that allowed sailors to pinpoint their position at sea.

Fast forward 300 years and Britain is offering the Longitude Prize again  this time it's $17 million for solving one of humanity's biggest problems. And a group in the U.K. is letting citizens pick the problem this time. Asking them through a BBC poll if it should be:

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Topics: Last Look
May 20th, 2014
04:55 PM ET

America's linguistic melting pot

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Here at GPS, we love deep data dives. We also revel in the fact that America continues to be the melting pot that it has always been. So we were interested to see a piece on Slate.com last week analyzing the most common languages spoken in each state using U.S. census data.

This first map is predictable – other than English, Spanish is the most spoken language in almost all U.S. states. But watch what happens when you remove Spanish from the equation. Now there is the melting pot.

In Michigan, Arabic clocks in as the third most commonly spoken language.

In Minnesota, it's Hmong.

In Oregon, it's Russian.

It's Vietnamese in four states – Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Washington.

It's a Filipino language called Tagalog in Hawaii, California, and Nevada.

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Topics: GPS Show • Immigration • Last Look • United States
May 7th, 2014
12:09 PM ET

Why the power went off for Pakistan's prime minister

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Last week, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif found out what happens when you don't pay electricity bills – the hard way.

Electricity is often stolen or unpaid for in Pakistan, as it is in many developing nations. And last week, Sharif directed his Ministry of Water and Power to begin a "zero tolerance" policy toward theft, and to crackdown on failure to pay bills.

Well, the minister of state for water and power agreed, and shut off power to more than 18 government buildings (including Pakistan's version of the White House: where the prime minister both lives and works) for failure to pay large bills.

He told us he did so to show that "nobody was above the law." The lights went off for 48 hours in the prime minister's home, but were restored when the bills were paid.

Hats off to Mr. Sharif for trying – and for finally paying his bills.

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Topics: Last Look • Pakistan
April 26th, 2014
12:16 PM ET

How the Cold War affected...deer?

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Pundits have said that the crisis between Russia and the West over Ukraine is a symbol of a new Cold War. There's been much talk about old dividing lines: Russia has been accused of building a new Berlin Wall, Vladimir Putin has said he doesn't want another "Iron Curtain."

But did you know that those old Cold War boundaries are actually still dictating lives today?

Here's how. Straddling the border between the Czech Republic and Germany lies the largest protected wildlife zone in Central Europe. During the Cold War (when that border was between Communist Czechoslovakia and Capitalist West Germany), it was heavily fortified with electric fences.

Just as people were physically divided, a large herd of deer was split apart. A recent study of deer population used satellite tracking to follows the movements of 100 red deer, 50 in Germany and 50 in the Czech Republic. The fences have been gone for a quarter century and the land is open for migration, but researchers found the new generation of deer still respect the boundaries of the iron curtain.

According to the scientist who led the project, biologically it would make sense for a mountain range to be the natural barrier between populations of deer – not this invisible fence. But mothers pass on to their young a sense of where it is safe to go. The electrified fence was a no-go, and these habits live on a generation later.

Perhaps the deer are teaching us all a lesson – it can take a lot longer to break down barriers than to put them up.

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Topics: GPS Show • Last Look
April 22nd, 2014
07:02 PM ET

Will 'Game of Pawns' win over college students?

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

There's an interesting new spy film that's just been released called “Game of Pawns.”

Never heard of it? It’s the dramatization of a harrowing true story. And it's not by some Hollywood fat cat studios. Rather, the FBI was behind the release of this 28 minute anti-espionage film.

It's about an American student who is currently serving four years in prison for sharing secrets with China.

Grab the popcorn. Glenn Duffie Shriver starts out a wide-eyed college student who falls in love with the city of Shanghai. Looking for a visa to prolong his stay he starts "writing papers" for the Chinese government.

The stakes – and the money – increase until his handlers suggest that he apply for a job at the CIA. He soon finds himself sweating through a Langley polygraph, quitting in the middle and attempting to flee to China.

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Topics: GPS Show • Last Look
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