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  1. It's always Christmas in North Pole, Alaska May 16, 2018 by Amanda Bohman - Daily News Miner Excerpt: FAIRBANKS - North Pole’s town motto is “Where the spirit of Christmas lives year round,” and the city website—www.northpolealaska.com—has a counter showing how many days are left until Christmas, but there’s more to do in North Pole than check out where Santa Claus lives. The community 14 miles southeast of Fairbanks down the Richardson Highway has a network of trails, including an exercise path with stations for doing different kinds of strength training, a new library and a growing inventory of parks, including a music park, a dog park, a newly-expanded skate park and a new memorial park dedicated to people in uniform who have died in the line of duty. **** The Santa Claus House, the red and white building beside a 42-foot tall, 900-pound Santa Claus statue, was originally a trading post and served as the first post office in North Pole. It’s now a gift shop and a top attraction along the Richardson Highway, where visitors can meet St. Nick and pick up some Christmas treasures. The Christmas-themed town of about 2,000 people is home to a large concentration of military veterans and hosts one of the most patriotic Fourth of July parades in the area. A street fair follows with games, family-friendly activities and vendors. One of the features of the block party is an ice-carving demonstration. SOURCE
  2. Michael Rielly

    Tis the Season for Christmas Movies

    Tis the Season for Christmas Movies MyMerryChristmas.com May 22, 2018 EXCERPT: A new survey commissioned by MyMerryChristmas.com has determined that 46 percent of annual Christmas movie watching happens between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The survey, conducted over a three day period offline in 7 American cities, reveals some surprising facts about summer Christmas movie watching in America. More than 1 in 3 Americans will see something Christmas-related at home during the dog days of summer and of those a whopping 82 percent watch a Christmas-themed show on purpose. The primary reason people watch so much Christmas during the off-season? Simple. There just isn’t time to see it all when it is Christmas in December. MyMerryChristmas.com has conducted regular surveys since 1998 and this survey actually stemmed from another that wanted to determine if President Trump had actually affected how people were saying “Merry Christmas”, as he has claimed (he hasn’t, by the way). But one of the ancillary questions on that survey, asked many times before in the past, was about Christmas movies. In studying those results a curious trend emerged that caused us to commission another survey just about Christmas movies. Perhaps most revealing in the survey was not the fact that Christmas movies are watched but rather which Christmas movies were viewed during the summer months. Of more than 1800 respondents, here is the compiled top-ten of Christmas movies of summer: Bad Santa The Muppet Christmas Carol The Polar Express Scrooged The Santa Clause While You Were Sleeping Home Alone Die Hard Christmas Vacation Elf This is a vastly different list than you traditionally see about Christmas movies in December. Some of these movies traditionally never make the top 25 much less the top 10 in December. But where are the customary classics like It’s a Wonderful Life? Those movies, the survey says, are seemingly reserved as must-watch, during the season. The summer top ten tends to be movies that respondents claim they just didn’t get time to watch the previous year. The Hallmark Channel made a splash in the news early this year for their announcement of the production of 34 new Christmas movies in 2018. That heavy production schedule is indicative not only of how popular Christmas is as a movie theme but also of the appeal of year-round Christmas movies. Hallmark famously airs Christmas movies of the past to terrific ratings during the months of summer – a counter-trend to traditional television viewing habits in America. Another interesting tidbit revealed by the summer Christmas movie survey is that the decline of Hollywood’s traditional summer blockbuster has seen the gap filled by the tried-and-true Christmas movie. 76 percent of respondents said they spend more time watching Christmas movies during the summer and less time watching the latest release at the local theater simply because old Christmas movies are more reliably entertaining. For more information about our Christmas summer movie survey, please take a listen to the latest episode of the Merry Little Podcast. SOURCE: https://mymerrychristmas.com/tis-the-season-for-christmas-movies/
  3. The star atop Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree is getting a makeover May 21, 2018 Timeout.com By Jennifer Picht EXCERPT: Pardon our interruption on things to do in summer updates, but we need to share some news for all you Christmas fanatics. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree—the nexus of the holiday season in New York—is getting a new Swarovski star this year. The crystal brand is working with accomplished architect Daniel Libeskind to design a stunning tree topper set to debut on November 18. Like most stars, this new reiteration is inspired by the cosmos and includes dramatic architectural lines and geometries in true Libeskind fashion.n Libeskind says, “The new Swarovski Star for the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is inspired by the beauty of starlight—something that radiates meaning and mystery into the world. The Star is a symbol that represents our greatest ambitions for hope, unity and peace. I am tremendously honored to collaborate with Swarovski on the Star, and with the entire design team, to bring cutting-edge innovation and design to crystal technology.” We can’t wait to see it. Except, we’d really like to enjoy the warm weather, drinking outdoors and visiting beaches in NYC first. SOURCE: https://www.timeout.com/newyork/news/the-star-atop-rockefeller-centers-christmas-tree-is-getting-a-makeover-052118
  4. Santa Claus-themed letter wins national UPU contest May 11, 2018 by Vietnam Plus Excerpt: Hanoi (VNA) – A letter about Santa Claus written by an eighth grader in Hai Duong province has won the first prize of the 47th International Letter-Writing Competition for Young People in Vietnam. Nguyen Thi Bach Duong, an eighth grader at the Nguyen Trai Junior High School in Nam Sach district, Hai Duong province, won the top prize of the contest, which was launched globally by the Universal Postal Union (UPU). **** This year’s contest is themed "Imagine you are a letter travelling through time. What message do you wish to convey to your readers?" In her letter, Duong imagined herself to be a real letter which was written by an editor of The Sun newspaper of the US in 1987 to reply to the question “Is there a Santa Claus?” asked by an eight-year-old reader. With a natural, pure and humane writing style, the letter combined messages calling for love and respect for children along with attention to disadvantaged and unprotected children. It makes readers think about a world free of wars, violence, poverty and injustice. SOURCE
  5. Michael Rielly

    How Tiny Red Dots Took Over Your Life

    How Tiny Red Dots Took Over Your Life New York Times By John Herrman February 27, 2018 EXCERPT: As the ranks of tech-industry critics have expanded, it has become harder to tell what common ground they occupy. Across various political divides, there is a sense that Facebook, Twitter and Google exert too much influence on the national discourse; closely connected to this is the widespread concern that we users have developed an unhealthful relationship with our phones, or with the apps on them. But on any more specific claim than that, consensus becomes impossible. The sudden arrival of a new class of tech skeptic, the industry apostate, has only complicated the discussion. Late last year, the co-inventor of the Facebook “like,” Justin Rosenstein, called it a “bright ding of pseudopleasure”; in January, the investment firm Jana Partners, a shareholder in Apple, wrote a letter to the company warning that its products “may be having unintentional negative consequences.” All but conjuring Oppenheimer at White Sands, these critics offer broadsides, warning about addictive design tricks and profit-driven systems eroding our humanity. But it’s hard to discern a collective message in their garment-rending: Is it design that needs fixing? Tech? Capitalism? This lack of clarity may stem from the fact that these people are not ideologues but reformists. They tend to believe that companies should be more responsible — and users must be, too. But with rare exceptions, the reformists stop short of asking the uncomfortable questions: Is it possible to reform profit-driven systems that turn attention into money? In such a business, can you even separate addiction from success? SOURCE: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/02/27/magazine/red-dots-badge-phones-notification.html
  6. Michael Rielly

    Toys R Us announces final store closures

    Toys R Us announces final store closures Remaining 75 Toys R Us and Babies R Us stores will close by April 24th. Toy News Online April 11, 2018 Jack Ridsdale EXCERPT: Toys R Us administrators Moorfields have confirmed the closure dates of the final Toys R Us stores in the UK. The remaining 75 Toys R Us and Babies R Us stores in the UK are to close by Tuesday, April 24th 2018. All 2,054 employees have been informed and will be paid up to and including their last day of employment. Stores will continue to trade as normal up until the dates listed below and the nationwide stock discounting programme has been extended further. Discounts of up to 70 per cent are available throughout the stores, with all bikes, car seats, strollers and action figures currently on offer at half-price. Further 'Manager’s Specials' deals are available on selected products in stores. “We are grateful for the hard work of everybody at Toys “R” Us’ during this extremely difficult and challenging time," said Simon Thomas, joint administrator and partner at Moorfields. "We are working closely with the 2,000 employees affected by the closures to ensure they receive the support they need for redundancy and other compensatory payments." “The stores across the county will be open as usual until the last day of trading and we would encourage shoppers to make the most of the great deals on offer. Extended discounts of up to 70% are in place from today and offers are available on some of our best-known brands.”
  7. Become Fairmont The Palm Jumeirah's Santa Casting call launched for Father Christmas at five-star Dubai resort August 9, 2017 by Holly Sands - Timeout Dubai Excerpt: Dubai - Are you perennially jolly and more than a little red in the face? Put all those Dubai brunches to good use and get yourself a job as Fairmont The Palm’s Santa Claus. A global recruitment hunt has been launched by the Palm Jumeirah resort as it seeks to find an in-house Santa for its 2017 Christmas festivities. The lucky candidate will win an all-inclusive trip to Dubai to stay at the hotel (with their guest) for three weeks between Tuesday December 5 and Tuesday 26, where between a few hours of Santa duties each day, they will be able to enjoy a “memorable” stay, followed by return flights home. Applicants from around the world are asked to upload a 30-second video to Instagram or Facebook, tagging #MyDubaiSanta and #FairmontThePalm, by Monday October 30. Think you’ve got what it takes? The key attributes required for the role include “having a jolly disposition, must be compatible with elves, must have a certain-sized waistline, needs a minimum length for his white beard and, of course, must ooze festive flair…”.If all that sounds like you, what are you waiting for?Check out the full job description **** Remuneration: In kind Job Summary: This festive season, Fairmont The Palm is looking for the jolliest, gleaming, funniest and red-faced Santa Dubai can imagine! Required for all typical Santa roles and responsibilities, the resort is looking for the crème de la crème of Santa’s, one that goes above and beyond the usual Christmas cheer and showcases themselves as being the best Santa that the region could ever have asked for SOURCE:. Carlo's note *** remuneration "IN KIND"
  8. Tracking down a child letter writer — 87 years later Jan 4, 2018 by Dale Brumfield - News Leader Excerpt - What are the odds of finding a girl who wrote to Santa in 1930? We did, though. Not only is one of our history article subjects still alive but also she still lives here. Staunton woman Millicent Hall Brubek’s childhood letter to Santa Claus was published not once in the Staunton News Leader, but twice — and 87 years apart. “I was rather surprised to see it,” the 97-year-old retired psychiatric nurse says of finding her letter (first published Dec. 24, 1930) republished on Dec. 19, 2017, in the same paper in a feature on letters to Santa from the past. **** Like most children at the time, Millicent asked Santa for nuts, candy and oranges at Christmas, in addition to small, utilitarian articles, such as gloves and dishes. “I had a stocking but I don’t remember where I hung it, because the stove was in the middle of the tea room,” she says of her early Christmases at the inn. She pauses in thought. “That’s why I warned Santa [in the letter] to not come down the chimney!” Today the Tumble Inn is long gone and Millicent is surrounded in her Staunton home with childhood memories and memorabilia of her life there. SOURCE:
  9. Christmas in Action keeps giving spirit alive year-round Times Record News March 23, 2018 Patrick Johnston EXCERPT: In Wichita County, some need goes unseen or unnoticed as homeowners remain silent and make do with what they have. Plumbing for a kitchen sink stops working, so the disabled resident simply starts washing dishes in the bathtub or a working bathroom sink. A house may look fine from the front, but a short walk around the home reveals a very different story – a leaky roof covered by a tarp to prevent overnight rains from soaking the elderly homeowner as they sleep in bed. It's stories like these that Cassie Ahearn hopes to shed light on and make the repairs for low-income residents of Wichita County who are elderly, disabled or a veteran. "Sometimes I get phone calls from churches with a member who has an issue. I'll send them an application," the executive director of Christmas in Action said. "Or, I'll get a call from a neighbor about a person who has a leaking roof. They say the person won't call because they are too proud." If it weren't for neighbors helping neighbors – a slogan the non-profit has painted on their wall, Christmas in Action may not be able to help people in dire need. "I have some people though who won't fill out an application though," Ahearn said. "They say they won't fill it out because other people need the services more than them." SOURCE: https://www.timesrecordnews.com/story/news/local/2018/03/23/christmas-action/454390002/
  10. Elections Chairman Bob Partlow chaired the election of candidates to serve as members of the NORPAC Executive Board for the next two years. The slate included: Chairman-Trever Waltos Vice Chair-Gene Sanders Past Chair-Dennis Simpson Secretary-Dale Scott Treasurer-Dennis Gorley At Large-Ron Kearns At Large-Jerry Galland At Large-Randy Cook Mark DeMonbrun moved that the slate be approved as presented (several 2nded). The voice vote was unanimous. Per NORPAC bylaws, the next election of board members will be two years from now (February, 2020). Note; Ron Kearns has since resigned
  11. Found: A 700-Year-Old Ring Adorned With St. Nicholas Atlas Obscura by Vittoria Traverso February 26, 2018 EXCERPT: The ancient Egyptians, the classical Greeks, the people of Middle Earth—they all saw rings as powerful symbols for human institutions such as marriage, religion, and political power. During the Middle Ages, it was not uncommon for wearers to don multiple rings, each signaling a different aspect of identity, from social class to political affiliation. Last week, Dekel Ben-Shitrit, a 26-year-old gardener who was minding a private lot near HaZore’a kibbutz in northern Israel, found a 700-year-old bronze ring bearing an engraved image of St. Nicholas, the saint believed to be the inspiration for Santa Claus. “I rubbed it slightly and I saw it was carved with a human image inside a frame,” Ben-Shitrit told CBN News. Shortly after the discovery, Ben-Shitrit, who happens to have been born on Christmas Day, shared a photo of the ring on social media, where it was noticed by heritage authorities. According to Yana Tchekhanovets, a expert on the Byzantine period at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the artifact dates to a period between the 12th and 15th centuries. As explained in a video produced by the IAA, during the medieval period, travelers carried icons to protect them while on the road, and St. Nicholas is the patron saint of travelers (along with pawnbrokers, children, thieves, and more). As the ring was found in Lower Galilee, near ancient Roman roads that brought people from around Europe to the Holy Land, Tchekhanovets believes that it was probably lost by pilgrim passing through. SOURCE: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/found-saint-nicholas-ring-medieval-israel
  12. Olympic ice dancer Madison Hubbell's other talent is making Christmas stockings with her mom February 19, 2018 by Maggie Hendriks - USA Today Excerpt - Along with her partner Zach Donohue, U.S. ice dancer Madison Hubbell is in third place heading into the free dance. It’s been a breakout year for the pair, as they won their first national championship and medaled at two grand prix events. But ice dancing is not her only skill, as Hubbell and her mother run an Etsy shop selling gorgeous Christmas stockings. (Etsy shop picture) Hubbell had a great tutor for learning how to sew. Her mother designs and sews the intricate costumes she wears on the ice, including the hand-beaded dress she will wear for the free dance. SOURCE:
  13. Official 2018 White House Christmas ornament honors Harry Truman February 19, 2018 by Matt Campbell- Kansas City Star Excerpt - This is Harry Truman’s year. The White House Historical Association every year commissions a unique Christmas ornament to sell. Since 1981, the ornament has honored either an individual president or a White House event. This year it’s the 33rd president’s turn. The announcement was made Monday at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence. “This ornament is designed to illustrate three significant changes made by President Truman during his administration: one to the Presidential Seal, and two to the White House itself,” according to the association’s website. “One side of the ornament features his celebrated Truman Balcony, added in 1947-48 to the South Portico, and the other side features his renovated Blue Room, which, like all the rooms of the house, was dismantled and rebuilt during the renovation of 1948-52.” SOURCE:
  14. The Afro-Colombian village which celebrates Christmas in February February 20, 2018 BBC Excerpt - Residents of the Colombian village of Quinamayó have been celebrating Christmas with a procession featuring a statue of a black baby Jesus. Villagers say the tradition dates back to the days of slavery when their ancestors were banned from marking Christmas on 24 December. They chose mid-February instead and the tradition has been preserved ever since. Fireworks, music and dance all form part of the colourful celebrations. "The people who enslaved us celebrated in December and we were not allowed to have that day off, but were told to choose another day," the event's co-ordinator, Holmes Larrahondo, said. *** As part of the celebrations, villagers go round the houses "searching" for baby Jesus, who is represented by a wooden statue which is kept safe by one of the villagers in her home for the rest of the year. Once the statue has been found, it is paraded around the village by residents of all ages dressed up as angels and soldiers. SOURCE:
  15. Christmas came early! Kurt Russell gets into the holiday spirit dressed as Santa Claus while filming in Toronto DailyMail Tracy Wright January 22, 2018 EXCERPT: His stellar career has seen him on stage and screen for more than five decades. And Kurt Russell quickly got into character as a lovable Santa Claus while filming a new Netflix movie in Toronto, Canada, on Sunday evening. The 66-year-old legend looked every inch the jolly holiday gift-giver as he showed off a luscious grey beard while riding on the roof of a bright red sports car. ... Decked out in an updated Santa Claus costume which included a bright red shirt and matching pants, golden buttons ran down his chest to reveal a thick black belt around his waist. He covered his hands with elbow-length black gloves and wore black leather boots while filming. SOURCE: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-5299309/Kurt-Russell-films-holiday-flick-dressed-Santa-Claus.html ## I found this link to a new Christmas Film project being presently shot in Toronto featuring Kurt Russell as Santa.
  16. Christmas lights coming down in downtown Maryville January 29, 2018 By Jay Malone - Daily Times Excerpt - While the holidays ended a month ago, one thing remained to be taken down: the bright lights. That began to change on Monday, as Christmas Decor of Knoxville began removing lights the company had wrapped all around Maryville to brighten to season. The process began in October for the decoration company, as employees lined businesses, residential homes and, most notably, the Altar’d State headquarters building located at 150 W. Church Ave., Maryville. In the midst of removing over 3,000 bulbs from the trees located in Founders Square, Locke Jones, a member of the team taking on the work, said the Altar’d State building ended up having over 58,000 lights alone. The lights were assembled using a complicated assortment of methods, “We multi-purpose hot glued all the lights to the front of the brick of their building, then attached the lights on top with magnets. ... Then we wrapped all their trees with mini-LED lights,” Jones said. **** Christmas Decor of Knoxville was brought in for the first time this year to boost decorations, and Jane Groff, community relations manager for the city of Maryville, said their addition went over very well. “I think a lot of people ended up enjoying the additional decor downtown,” she told The Daily Times. Groff also pointed out the impressive 30-foot tree that Christmas Decor assisted putting up. But with February around the corner, the decorations are coming down, signaling an unofficial end to the holiday season for both Christmas Decor of Knoxville and downtown Maryville. SOURCE
  17. Christmas gift turns into $300K lottery win for Wayne County man January, 25, 2018 by Matt Durr - Michigan Live Excerpt - LANSING, MI -- A stocking-stuffer for Christmas turned into stuffed pockets for a 58-year-old Wayne County man who won $300,000 on an instant lottery ticket gifted to him for the holiday. The winner, who chose to remain anonymous, says the ticket was given to him by his wife. "My wife put two tickets in my stocking and I scratched them on Christmas night," said the player. "I was stunned that I won $300,000 and when I showed my wife the ticket, her jaw dropped. **** "I can't believe it happened to me. You never plan on winning, but when you do it's amazing," the player said. SOURCE
  18. Star Wars Toy Sales Fall in 2017 as Movie-Tie Fatigue Sets In Bloomberg By Matthew Townsend and Christopher Palmeri January 17, 2018 EXCERPT: The warning signs for the toy industry started last year when “Cars 3” -- considered a surefire success -- proved lackluster for licensees like Mattel Inc. Now toymakers’ big bets on movie tie-ins look downright bleak. Playthings based on the “Star Wars” saga -- the franchise that kicked off the whole phenomenon four decades ago -- were down in 2017 despite a new film, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” in December during the all-important holiday-shopping season. Call it “Star Wars” burnout, or better yet “movie fatigue,” said Gerrick Johnson, an analyst for BMO Capital Markets. Hollywood and toymakers have fixated on toy-friendly films at a time when kids are increasingly turning to YouTube, Netflix and social media for entertainment. More than 20 major films, including “The Last Jedi,” had robust toy-licensing programs last year. A decade ago, it was about half that. Movie attendance in the U.S. has dropped almost 14 percent in that span. “There are so many screens now; kids aren’t just at the movies,” Johnson said. “A movie doesn’t have the same resonance it used to.” While “Star Wars” was still the top-selling toy line during the nine-week holiday period, it fell to second place overall last year and below the all-time high seen in 2016, according to data from market research firm NPD Group shared with Bloomberg News. “Star Wars is a force to be reckoned with in the toy industry,” the brand’s owner, Walt Disney Co., said in a statement. “It remains the leading film-driven property for the entire year.” Sequel Barrage After a decade without a “Star Wars” film, Disney has released three movies since December 2015, and another one is coming in May. The latest installment, “The Last Jedi,” didn’t include many new memorable characters beyond those introduced in the preceding film, Johnson said. That left fans looking for newness elsewhere this year, leading to weaker results than expected, he said. U.S. sales of the brand’s toys slowed in late 2017, Drew Crum, an analyst for Stifel Nicolaus & Co., wrote in a note to clients last week. This was despite “Last Jedi” being the top-grossing film released in the U.S. last year at $596 million. Adult collectors, who grew up with the brand, are still buying a lot of merchandise when the toys come out, but demand dies down afterward, according to Johnson. That doesn’t bode well for Hasbro Inc., which has the main “Star Wars” toy partnership, or Jakks Pacific Inc., which has a secondary license. Jakks said it couldn’t comment on “Star Wars” sales, but that merchandise tied to “Moana,” another Disney film, “remains very strong.” Hasbro declined to comment. The “Star Wars” performance could hinder Disney’s bid to revive growth at its consumer products division, where sales fell 13 percent to $4.83 billion for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Dragged Down The September bankruptcy filing of Toys “R” Us Inc., which makes up about 15 percent of the market, added to the challenges for “Star Wars” sales growth this year, though the company continued to market the toys. Visitors to the Toys “R” Us store on Los Feliz Boulevard in Los Angeles recently had plenty of “Star Wars” merchandise to choose from. A whole aisle included everything from a $3.99 Millennium Falcon Hot Wheels car to a $250 AT-ACT remote-controlled vehicle that walks and fires Nerf projectiles. Tracey Gordon, a full-time mom from Glendale, California, shopping at the store, said her three boys, ages 2 to 7, aren’t “Star Wars” fans even though she wore a Princess Leia costume on Halloween for years when she was younger. “It’s a generational thing,” she said, adding that her nephew likes the toys largely because his dad “drags him to see the movies.” ... Even more toy-licensed films are scheduled, including the prequel “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and new Transformers, “Fantastic Beasts,” “Jurassic World” and superhero fare. The lesson toymakers will draw from the 2017 slate is that they can’t just rely on the movie to do the marketing anymore. “There is a new paradigm,” Johnson said. “Just because there is a movie with a toy tie-in doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work. It used to mean it would work.” SOURCE: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-18/-star-wars-toy-sales-fall-in-2017-as-movie-tie-fatigue-sets-in
  19. Elf Without Jingles

    Mick Foley Releasing New Book in Late 2017

    Mick Foley Releasing New Book in Late 2017 by Eric Lynch, SEScoops.com | Posted: 02-11-2017 EXCERPT: A new book from Mick Foley will be hitting bookshelves later this year. The WWE Hall of Famer and best-selling author is currently working on Saint Mick, which is scheduled to be released just in time for the Christmas season of 2017. The book takes readers inside the world of people who portray Santa Claus around the holiday season and takes readers into the story of Mick's own Santa-related work since his retirement from wrestling. Foley's previous titles have placed multiple times on the New York Times' bestsellers' list; and he's best known for his still-continuing series of memoirs, which he personally writes on his own, without the aid of a ghostwriter. SOURCE:
  20. Facebook Is Changing. What Does That Mean for Your News Feed? New York Times January 12, 2018 By JONAH ENGEL BROMWICH and MATTHEW HAAG Facebook has overhauled how it ranks the posts, videos and photos that appear in its users’ News Feeds, introducing major changes on Thursday designed to put what friends and family have to say first. In short, you’ll see more posts from friends that have spurred lively debates in the comments. And you’ll see fewer cooking videos from brands and publications. Prioritizing what your friends and family share is part of an effort by Facebook to help people spend time on the site in what it thinks is a more meaningful way. Facebook is making the changes by tinkering under the hood, reconfiguring its algorithms that guess what you may be most interested in. Here’s what it means for you. Publishers and brands are the losers. Facebook is not being coy about this: Those third-party organizations that took over large swaths of your News Feed years ago — sites that post funny pictures and memes, sell you clothing, or deliver articles about the world — will have the visibility of their posts scaled back under the new arrangement. In a post on the company’s blog Thursday, the head of its News Feed team, Adam Mosseri, wrote that showing more posts from friends and family “means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.” For many people, that news will come as a relief. In December, Facebook itself acknowledged that passive consumption of information — surfing shopping websites or reading news articles like this one — is often bad for your mood. (Sorry!) It gestured toward a 2015 paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology that showed that passive usage of the website, even for just 10 minutes a day, had a negative effect on students’ sense of well-being. Those who still want to see posts from their favorite brands and trusted, wonderful publishers, one of whose articles you may be reading at this very moment, will be able to. The options under the News Feed tab on Facebook will allow users to prioritize the pages (and friends) whose posts they are most interested in. And Mr. Mosseri explained that other posts that your Facebook connections find engaging will also rise to the top. Conversations stemming from live videos, celebrities’ posts, private groups and other highly interactive post types will be among those highlighted on the new News Feed. Posts from people you know will rise to the top. Without that kind of explicit direction, though, Facebook’s top priority will remain posts from your friends and family. “To do this, we will predict which posts you might want to interact with your friends about, and show these posts higher in feed,” Mr. Mosseri wrote. A video attached to his post said that indicators the algorithm takes into account are likes, comments and shares. Facebook will remain customizable, with the options that allow you to limit your exposure to certain people — even if those people are your pesky siblings or that one over-the-top uncle. One option is to quietly “snooze” a Facebook friend, which will cause their posts to disappear from your feed for 30 days. Facebook says that it has long been its policy that “friends and family come first,” language that appeared in the site’s “News Feed Values,” which were posted in 2016. Facebook expects you’ll spend less time on the site. Implicit in the changes that Facebook introduced this week is that for many users, the News Feed had become mindless scrolling, moving from one autoplaying video to the next, without offering people much of substance. It was serving up junk food. In an interview with The New York Times, Mark Zuckerberg said that it was the company’s expectation that many users would be gravitating to other sites to get their viral fix. But with more than two billion monthly users, Facebook has gained a foothold that allows it to play a longer game. And Mr. Zuckerberg said that if people begin to feel better while on the site, that Facebook’s business, and its users, will benefit. “I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down,” he said in his post about the changes. “But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.” SOURCE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/12/technology/facebook-news-feed-changes.html
  21. 'Edmonton Project' finalist pitches plan for Christmas village January 12, 2018 CBC News Excerpt - Edmonton, Alberta - Christmas might be 347 days away, but Georgina Atkin has the holiday on her mind. Atkin wants to bring a longstanding European tradition to Edmonton by building Christmas or Advent villages during the holidays. Temporary holiday markets would bring the spirit of the season to the streets, Atkin said. The pop-up bazaars are a time-honoured tradition overseas. "They have markets set up where you can purchase all kinds of different items, from food to clothes to Christmas gifts," Atkin said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. "They also have kiosks where you can buy some hot cider and mulled wine and you get your cup and walk around the village, do some shopping, watch some the entertainment. "It's a great family outing. It is awesome." The festive proposal is one of 10 finalists for the Edmonton Project, a partnership of five companies looking to create a distinct landmark in the city. **** Atkin, a local nurse, said the city could repurpose its Green Shacks to create unique street-side spaces for vendors, who could deck out the buildings in holiday decor. Depending on the location, markets could also feature family skating or curling tournaments. There are plenty of places that would be a good fit for a market Atkin said, highlighting Churchill Square, the legislature grounds, the Muttart Conservatory and Whyte Avenue as possible locations. "As it grows, I would like to see it move out into different venues," she said. "And eventually, out in the communities, where each community league would have their own little Christmas village." SOURCE:
  22. New Research Suggests Christmas Story of Visit by Wise Men Was ‘Historically True’ Breitbart News December 24, 2017 by Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D. EXCERPT: Despite attempts by modern biblical scholarship to debunk the gospel account of three magi visiting the newborn Jesus in Bethlehem, the stories were “historically true” according to extensive research by author Dwight Longenecker. In his new book, Mystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men, Longenecker, a scholar and Catholic priest, states that an impartial study of the relevant data “shows beyond reasonable doubt” that the Magi of Matthew’s gospel were historical figures. For many years, Longenecker writes, skeptical scholars have rejected the possibility that the infancy stories about Jesus could be historical for a number of reasons, such as the fact that they contain supernatural elements. “The first problem with this is that the skeptic simply assumes supernatural experiences are impossible, therefore any story that contains supernatural elements must be a fanciful invention,” he notes. “In the early twentieth century, Bible scholars began to write off the stories of Jesus’ birth—especially the story of the wise men—as pious fantasies,” he continues. “They did so without considering if the stories might, at least, be rooted in real events.” ... SOURCE: http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/12/24/new-research-suggests-christmas-story-of-visit-by-wise-men-was-historically-true/
  23. Best Christmas in decade will still leave some retailer behind January 4, 2018 AdAge.com Excerpt - The good news for U.S. retailers is that the just-ended Christmas shopping season was probably the best one in a decade. The bad news? Some chains are still struggling to benefit from the industry's upswing. Consumer confidence is high, unemployment is low, and Americans are increasing spending -- with some third-party data showing holiday purchases up about 5 percent. But what Christmas 2017 may end up crystallizing is that a rising tide doesn't lift all boats. A few major retailers, including Amazon.com Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Home Depot Inc., are expected to reap an oversized share of the gains. For department-store chains and apparel sellers, it may be harder to please investors -- leading to more doomsday talk for the brick-and-mortar sector. "The money and the sales are gravitating toward fewer and fewer players," said Ken Perkins, president of research firm Retail Metrics Inc. "There are a lot of tailwinds behind these retailers, but they aren't generating a whole lot of profit growth." The uncertainties have kept Wall Street analysts from fully feeling the Christmas cheer. They estimate that retail earnings will rise a tepid 2.7 percent in the fourth quarter, according to Retail Metrics. The forecast has climbed half a percentage point over the past month, but it's still far from the 11 percent profit gain expected for the entire Standard & Poor's 500 Index. The question now is whether companies can exceed those low expectations. Macy's Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. saw their shares plunge last year, leaving room for upside if their holiday seasons were a pleasant surprise. **** Americans are still shying away from conspicuous consumption, according to Sarah Quinlan, senior vice president at Mastercard Inc., which tracks purchasing patterns. People are spending on their homes, because values are going up and they see it as an investment. They're also purchasing more experiences, like travel and activities, she said. "They don't overbuy," Quinlan said. People are avoiding "stuff they don't need." One variable is how much the recent tax overhaul figured into shoppers' decisions. Though the legislation might not have made a big difference for holiday consumers, it could help fuel retail spending in 2018 if Americans find more money in their paychecks, Johnson said. "These are all the ingredients for a sustained retail boom over the next year, and possibly into 2019," he said. SOURCE
  24. Here’s how to cure your Christmas debt hangover January 2, 2018 Scott Terrio - Macleans Excerpt- It’s January, otherwise known as the month of holiday-spending regret. You know the feeling. Despite making a deal with your family—again—to stick to a scaled-down, old-fashioned Yuletide, you couldn’t resist. There were just too many Star Wars things! You’re not alone. The average Canadian adult spent an estimated $1,500 on Christmas in 2017. About 41 per cent of that was slated for gifts, with the rest going to holiday travel and entertainment, according to a report from PWC Canada. Other studies tell us that two-thirds of Canadians do not save a penny in preparation for their Christmas spending. So how did they do it? You guessed it: credit. Canadian households were already stretched before the holidays, with the pace of debt growth far outstripping wages over the last decade or so. And every holiday season many reach their debt limit. Licensed insolvency trustees typically see a big uptick in filings around the fourth week of January. That coincides with credit card bills rolling in to Canadian households. Call it the Great Christmas Reckoning. Having worked with around 4,000 clients over close to a decade, I have assembled an approach to getting excess holiday spending under control. **** So, if you overspent at Christmas, what can you do about it? Let’s talk holiday debt repair. Step 1: Assess the damage Step 2: Put your credit cards away Step 3: Make an austerity plan Step 4: Pay your debts first Step 5: Stay out of shopping zones Regardless of your situation, now is a good time to start putting aside some money for next Christmas, and avoid another post-Christmas debt hangover. SOURCE:
  25. Why do Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Day on January 7 and how does the date differ across the world? January 3, 2018 by Josie Griffiths - The Sun Excerpt- IF YOU'RE gutted that Christmas is over, try not to feel too jealous of these Orthodox Christian countries - who haven't even celebrated yet. From Russia to Israel, scores of countries celebrate Jesus' birth in January. Here's why... Christmas is still to come for the Eastern Orthodox community, who will be celebrating on January 7 Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7 - which this year falls on a Sunday. The celebrations tend to begin at midnight on Christmas Eve, by which we mean January 6. It's all down to a difference in calendars. In the West we use the Catholic-created Gregorian calendar, which was introduced by Pope Gregory in 1582. But, in much of the Soviet bloc and Middle East, they still use the Julian calendar - which was created by Julius Caesar in 45 BC. Germany didn't accept the Gregorian calendar until 1775, and Bulgaria followed suit in 1917. There's a 13-day gap between the two calendars, meaning Christmas Day falls on what we now know as January 7. Nowadays, most Orthodox countries follow the Georgian calendar, but still observe religious holidays on the Julian dates. The Orthodox Epiphany, for example, is on January 19 - instead of the 6th. SOURCE:
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