Feb. 12, 2012: Romanian Government Collapses, Santorum Strikes Back, and Google Gives Your Cash to Pickpockets. Also, Tazers.

Normally, I like to highlight a series of news stories that have all gotten a fair amount of attention in the press — it makes it easier to find multiple articles on the subject, after all. This week, however, I’d like to lead with a story that has received minimal coverage, as there’s a point to be made here.

Last Monday, Romania’s government collapsed. Like many other European countries, Romania has been struggling to cope with extreme debt over the past several years, and has taken on a series of austerity measures like salary cuts and tax increases. Needless to say, many citizens did not appreciate these changes, and their waves of protests finally reached their peak last week. Prime Minister Emil Boc, along with virtually the entire Cabinet, stepped down all at once. As Boc put it, he and others resigned from their posts “to defuse political and social tension” and to make way for a new government to take their place.

So, why wasn’t Romania’s governmental collapse a hot topic in the press? (Indeed, it was largely ignored — even a cursory Google News search for “Romania” yielded a top story about snow.) As surprising as it may sound to lifelong U.S. residents, other governments collapse with relative frequency. Besides, “collapse” in this sense doesn’t mean that the country fell into anarchy, but merely that the existing Cabinet was forced into mass resignation so that the government could be reformed. In fact, while the collapse occurred just a week ago, Romania’s Parliament has already approved a new brand-new Cabinet. The U.S. has rarely experienced the resignation or impeachment of even a single political leader, but other governments are well-equipped to quickly handle complete political overhauls in a hurry. Let that be a lesson about how quickly the global political scene can change.

I have to admit, though, even I’m surprised by all the momentum shifts in the Republican primaries. After his virtual tie with Rick Santorum in Iowa and his decisive win in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney looked ready to close out the nomination. Then Newt Gingrich devastated him in South Carolina, putting Romney’s invulnerability in serious doubt. Just two weeks later, Romney took back-to-back wins on Jan. 31 in Florida and Feb. 4 in Nevada… which were followed by a trio of stunning Santorum upsets on Feb. 7. Maine held its caucuses yesterday (although this post was written before results were posted), but if the remaining Republican challengers keep building their electability, the nomination may not be decided for months. That’s good news for the incumbent, President Barack Obama, who would certainly prefer to have the Republican challengers fighting each other for as long as possible. A prolonged primary season would make it much easier for him to keep his image intact since he won’t have to deal with legitimate challenges from fellow Democrats during the Republican infighting. Besides, the more that those candidates have to tout right-wing ideals and otherwise prove themselves to their Republican base, the further they will likely drift away from the all-important moderate votes. However, if Santorum and Gingrich keep hitting logistic roadblocks like Santorum’s possible absence from Indiana’s ballot, then Romney’s primary victory may already be decided.

Google has had a busy week, too. Reports suggest that the company is working on an entertainment device similar to Apple TV. The move would make sense, given that Google is in the process of acquiring Motorola — after all, Motorola has plenty of experience with home entertainment systems. Not all the news is so positive for Google, though. You may recall that last year, Google was charged with privacy law violations when the company revealed users’ personal information while starting the ill-fated Google Buzz service. The company ultimately struck a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in November, and its staff has since been working to fulfill that settlement. Well, now that Google has revealed its new privacy policy, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is incensed over many of the same privacy concerns as those from last year. Rather than act directly against Google, however, EPIC is suing the FTC in the hopes that the court will “block new information sharing and force federal regulators to protect Google users.” Google, for its part, claims that its new privacy statement is in full compliance with the FTC settlement and also submitted a self-assessment to the FTC showing the company’s progress in both its privacy statement and internal policies. In the meantime, Google is facing a potential crisis over a security flaw in its Google Wallet app. If someone gets access to your phone for about 1-2 minutes, that person can reset the application and create a new PIN number of his or her choosing. Even though the app will have been reset, any credit card data that was on the device itself will be reloaded to the app, which effectively means that whoever is holding your phone can access your funds with the new PIN number. It’s an incredibly easy exploit that could give any pickpocket instant access to all of your credit cards at once. One can only hope that Google patches the security hole in a hurry.

Now, as I’m so fond of doing, we conclude this post with our zany news item of the week. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. It’s time for Ultimate Tazer Ball!

Feel the heart-stopping action as athletes from across North America take the field in this battle for global supremacy!

Revel in the future of sport as these top-notch competitors rack up goals and test their mettle in a fight to the finish!

Witness the excitement of grown men collapsing in agonizing pain from electric shocks!

Ultimate Tazer Ball — which its backers compare to the Ultimate Fighting League — is a four-against-four contest. Teams try to score goals by throwing or carrying a beach ball-sized soccer ball. Games last for three periods, each of which is seven minutes long, and there are overtime and sudden death rules to break ties.

Oh, and every player has a Tazer. There’s that too.

Either this is a fake, or there’s going to be a lot of screaming in Thailand when UTB hits Bangkok for the March 2-3 tournament.

Right now there are just four teams from Philadelphia, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Toronto. Assuming that this isn’t a hoax, the league’s founders hope to eventually expand the league, but this small group is enough for the fledgling sport to start.

Some stories lend themselves to obvious conclusions. Other times, I just don’t know what to think. Let’s just say that it’s funny to see spitting listed as a “major penalty”… especially since “Tasing people in the face” didn’t make the list.

Other articles of interest:
Little-known brain disease rips apart lives of victim, loved ones
Alzheimer’s brain plaques ‘rapidly cleared’ in mice
Alzheimer’s Families Clamor for Drug
3-D images show earthquakes before and after activity
Makeup of rain forest may have been altered by farmers
Syria draft resolution reaches UN General Assembly
West offers words, only, as Syria killing rages
Egypt strike to mark Mubarak departure anniversary
Iran increasingly controls its Internet
Anonymous took down cia.gov
Windows 8 Consumer Preview Date Confirmed
Sales of Video Games and Accessories Fell in January
MMO Update: Examining World of Warcraft’s Q4 Subscriber Numbers
Much Awaited Tesla Model X Crossover Unveiled, Coming in 2014
Madonna found M.I.A’s Super Bowl stunt childish and “irrelevant”

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