Firsts and Lasts

Firsts and Lasts

Watching the world go by on a day-to-day basis is like riding a train through the countryside. It can be beautiful and interesting, but at some point the landscape begins to blur together. The purpose of this section is to highlight milestone events that may otherwise get overlooked or be under-appreciated. The world is changing at an ever-accelerating rate. A quick review of the FIRSTS and LASTS we have identified puts the magnitude of change in better perspective than any commentary we can offer.

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In unprecedented move, pension plan cuts benefits promised to retirees

January 27, 2017

Excerpt: A pension fund in Cleveland became the first plan to approve benefit cuts for current retirees — even though it is still years away from running out of cash. The move, some critics say, could open the door for other troubled pension plans to follow suit. The financially strapped Iron Workers Local 17 Pension fund proposed a plan for extending its lifespan by reducing benefits for workers and retirees. Now that the plan has received final approval, roughly half of the 2,000 participants will see their pension benefits shrink on Feb. 1. Benefits will be cut by 20 percent on average, but some retirees are expecting their monthly payments to be slashed by as much as 60 percent.

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(Photo Credit: Dustin Franz for The Washington Post)


New Jersey Just Became The First State To Give New Parents Baby Boxes

January 26, 2017

Excerpt: Since the 1930s, the nation of Finland has given new parents special “baby boxes” that contain newborn essentials and can serve as infant beds. Now, new parents in New Jersey have access to the same resource, and experts believe it will help prevent infant deaths just like it has in the Nordic country. The Baby Box Company partnered with New Jersey’s Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Board (CFNFRB) to give parents durable cardboard boxes filled with diapers, clothes, baby wipes, breast pads and more. The box also contains a mattress that allows it to serve as the baby’s first bed. Starting Thursday, new and expectant parents can register online at “Baby Box University” to receive their free box. The process requires that recipients complete the New Jersey “syllabus,” a series of videos from health professionals that educate parents on newborn care. Video topics include safe sleep, local family services, breastfeeding and more.

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(Photo Credit: The Baby Box Company)


The London of London's Mayor

January 25, 2017

Excerpt: Catch the red double-decker bus on Buckingham Palace Road — outside Grosvenor House, which was once home to the Dukes of Westminster, but which now holds a luxury hotel owned by an Indian conglomerate and a fancy Cantonese restaurant called the Grand Imperial. Ignore the Starbucks. Breathe deeply and feel as if you’re in the thick of the Great British Empire. If it’s a quiet Sunday, you may get a front-row seat on the bus’s upper level, before the doors close and the cordial but firm female voice of the automated conductor welcomes you aboard Bus '44 to Tooting Station." Many Londoners will be familiar with Bus 44, if only in lore. It’s the route that the father of London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, used to drive. During the city’s mayoral race — which swept Mr. Khan to power last May, with more than 1.3 million votes and the largest personal mandate of any politician in British political history — the “son of a Pakistani bus driver” became, in the words of the BBC, “one of the most hackneyed phrases of Mr. Khan’s time on the stump … so overused in his leaflets and speeches."

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(Photo Credit: Andy Haslam for The New York Times)



Want a Piece of Mohamed Sanu? Go Out and Buy Some Shares

January 23, 2017

Excerpt: Sanu is one of a handful of N.F.L. players who were paid a hefty upfront fee by a company called Fantex Holdings in return for a share of his future earnings.The company formed a trading exchange several years ago on which investors could buy and sell shares of a tracking stock tied to an athlete’s financial performance and which rises or falls based on the athlete’s perceived value. The idea was to create a chance for investors and fans to cash in on a player’s rising fortunes, whether it be a new contract, a sponsorship deal or other sources of income related to his football career.

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(Photo Credit: Jason Getz, USA Today Sports, via Reuters)


Ringling Bros. circus closing after 146 years

January 14, 2017

Excerpt: The "Greatest Show on Earth" is getting its curtain call. Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus said in a statement that the show will end is 146-year run in May. The iconic circus declined in recent years due to high operating costs and long, costly legal battles with animal rights groups, such as the one to eliminate elephant acts. Ticket sales had already fallen, but they dropped more significantly than anticipated after the elephants were retired last May, according to the statement.

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(Photo Credit: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus)


Norway Becomes First Country to Start Switching Off FM Radio

January 11, 2017

Excerpt:  Norway opened a chapter in telecommunications history on Wednesday, becoming the first country to cease FM radio broadcasting. The switch, to digital broadcasting, is intended to save money, but critics are worried about the effect on drivers and listeners of small radio stations. The move to “radio digitization” was decided by Parliament in 2011, and a timetable was announced in 2015. At 11:11 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 11 — a time chosen because it was easy to remember, according to the national broadcaster, NRK — nationwide radio channels began stopping FM broadcasts, switching to a system known as digital audio broadcasting that proponents say offers a wider range of broadcasting options and greater sound quality.

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(Photo Credit: Jan Morten Bjornbakk/European Pressphoto Agency)


A convicted killer became the first U.S. inmate to get state-funded gender-reassignment surgery

January 10, 2017

Excerpt: After a lengthy legal battle, a California transgender woman became the first inmate in the United States to receive a government-funded gender-reassignment surgery. Convicted murderer Shiloh Quine, who is serving a life sentence for her role in a deadly 1980 incident in Los Angeles, is currently recovering from the surgery, according to the Transgender Law Center, which represented Quine in a federal civil rights lawsuit against California prison officials.

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(Photo Credit: Kris Lyseggen/Women of San Quentin/SFINX via Reuters)



North Korea Will Test Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, Kim Says

January 01, 2017

Excerpt:  North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said on Sunday that his country was making final preparations to conduct its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile — a bold statement less than a month before the inauguration of President-elect Donald J. Trump. Although North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests in the last decade and more than 20 ballistic missile tests in 2016 alone, and although it habitually threatens to attack the United States with nuclear weapons, the country has never flight-tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM.

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(Photo Credit: Reuters)



Michigan is the first U.S. state to establish self-driving car regulations

December 22, 2016

Excerpt: Late last week, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed groundbreaking new statewide legislation governing the use, testing, and sale of self-driving vehicles. Without the new regulations, only permitted, manufacturer-owned vehicles would be allowed to drive on public roads. But now, autonomous cars can undergo road testing without needing a brake pedal, steering wheel, or human rider in the front seat. The self-driving cars can also be used for ridesharing fleets and, when they’re ready, be sold to the public.

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(Photo Credit: University of Michigan)



Tupac, Pearl Jam and Journey among 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees

December 20, 2016

Excerpt:  Tupac Shakur will make history as the first solo hip-hop artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The slain rapper is to join the institution next year along with Pearl Jam, Journey, Yes, Electric Light Orchestra and Joan Baez, the rock hall’s foundation announced Tuesday.

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(Photo Credit: AP; Danny Clinch; Richard Drew/AP; Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

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