Police in Canada say a man was driving 112 MPH on a highway south of Black Diamond, Alberta. In court, the man explained that he had just washed his car, and was simply speeding in order to dry it off.
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The martini: international drink of mystery?
There’s no cocktail more distinctly American than the martini. It’s strong, sophisticated and sexy. It’s everything we hope to project while ordering one.
Baltimore-born satirist H.L. Mencken is said to have called the martini “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.” But is the martini perfectly American? Maybe not entirely.
So in honor of National Martini Day on Wednesday, we decided to dig into the drink’s muddled past.
The history of the martini is a murky one. As is the case with many alcoholic concoctions through time, things weren’t always written down, and memories got fuzzy from drinking a few of them.
Many historians follow the martini back to a miner who struck gold in California during the Gold Rush. The story goes that a miner walked into a bar and asked for a special drink to celebrate his new fortune. The bartender threw together what he had on hand — fortified wine (vermouth) and gin, and a few other goodies — and called it a Martinez, after the town in which the bar was located.
The Martinez was a hit, according to the city of Martinez’s official website, and word soon spread about the new drink. It was published in the Bartender’s Manual in the 1880s.
And yet, author Barnaby Conrad III, who wrote a book on the drink’s history, asserts that San Francisco is the martini’s true birthplace. Then there’s the claim that a New York bartender created it in 1911.
And wait, there’s more: An Italian vermouth maker started marketing its product under the brand name Martini in 1863.
“Personally … I think the martini may have gotten its name because of Martini Rossi vermouth,” says Robert Hess, secretary of the Museum of the American Cocktail in New York. “A customer asks for a ‘Martini’ cocktail because it utilized that product, much as they might ask for a ‘sherry’ cocktail in those days if they wanted a cocktail which used sherry. During the 1800s, many drinks were named very simply (gin cocktail, fancy gin cocktail, gin cobbler, gin daisy, etc.),” Hess tells us via email.
Over the years, the drink’s fame has grown, as its ingredients (Butterscotch? Seriously?), the ratio of spirits to vermouth, and even its name changed (try saying Martinez three times fast). And there are people who prefer drier versions of a martini, vodka instead of gin, and shaken instead of stirred.
But where does that all-important olive garnish come in?
Nobody knows for sure, but our far-flung correspondent Deborah Amos may have a lead.
Last year, she tells The Salt, she was interviewing a Dr. Ammar Martini, a member of the Syrian Red Crescent, at a Syrian rehab hospital on the Turkish border.
“As we were chatting, I said, ‘Hmmm, Martini, that’s an unusual Arab name, no?’ And he said, ‘There are a lot of Martinis in northern Syria. In fact, my grandfather gave the name to a famous drink in the West,’ ” Amos recalls.
And how did that happen? she asked. Martini said that after the French left Syria (they occupied it from 1920-1946), his grandfather went to Paris and ran a bar and a café.
“His contribution to the famous drink, according to his grandson, was to put an olive in the glass — and he did so because Idlib province in Syria [where he was from] is famous for olives — and so the drink was called Martini after its Syrian inventor,” she tells us.
While it’s a great story, “unfortunately, this particular one doesn’t hold up when you realize that the martini cocktail existed pre-1900,” Hess says.
It seems that everyone wants to take credit for this famous cocktail.
Extra Credit: In 1935, Mencken wrote an essay called How to Drink Like a Gentleman: The Things to Do and the Things Not To, as Learned in 30 Years’ Extensive Research, which contains some surprisingly modern advice about how best to enjoy alcohol and some sharp passages on the state of American education.
“Drinking with skill and taste is no more a natural art than love; either it must be learned by the onerous process of trial and error, or it must be taught,” he writes. The essay was recently republished here by Gawker.
The White House says the United States will arm Syrian rebels, but a new poll shows most Americans don’t like the idea. Guest host Celeste Headlee speaks with Shadi Hamid of The Brookings Institution, about America’s current and future involvement in Syria.
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A mass protest in Sao Paulo on Monday night was one of several across the country where demonstrators raised a host of grievances. Some demonstrators said they drew their inspiration from the protests in Turkey.
They are young, they are angry and they have drawn inspiration from protest movements a world away in places like Turkey and the Middle East.
Tens of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets across the country Monday night, and more demonstrations are slated for the coming week. Brazil doesn’t have a history of this kind of mass dissent, but it seems to be catching on very quickly.
“The social movements in the world are learning from each other,” said Marco Antônio Carvalho Teixeira, a professor at Fundacao Getulio Vargas in Sao Paulo. “This is a brand new way of protesting in Brazil.”
The Brazilian protesters have a lot in common with their Turkish counterparts: They are leaderless, the message is a bit fuzzy, and the growth of the movement has been organic and organized on social media.
And like Turkey, Brazil is a vibrant democracy and a growing global power.
Unlike the protesters in the Arab Spring, Brazilians can take their grievances to the ballot box.
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A Range Of Grievances
At the protest in Sao Paulo on Monday, demonstrators were holding signs opposing Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup next year, while others decried corruption, high taxes and poor transportation services.
In Turkey, the security forces have cracked down on demonstrations several times, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded that they stop.
In Brazil, the protests are in their early stages, and it’s not clear what the government reaction will be.
Last week, 100 Brazilians were injured when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets. This week, the protesters in Sao Paulo were allowed to walk unimpeded and there were no police on the streets.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff said Tuesday that her government was listening to those protesting the high cost of hosting sporting events like the World Cup.
“These voices need to be heard,” she said in an address at the presidential palace. “My government is listening to these voices for change.”
The demonstrations are countrywide, and the protests in Rio de Janeiro have a very different flavor from those in Sao Paulo or Brasilia. No one city so far has emerged as the center of operations. According to organizers in Sao Paulo, there’s been little coordination between cities other than to agree on the date and time of the protests.
Still, protesters say they are watching what is happening elsewhere and applying the lessons learned here.
“I don’t know if you can say it is a model, but everyone saw what happened there [in Turkey] and was inspired by it,” said Luiza Mandetta, one of the protest organizers in Sao Paulo.
And in this connected world, the place where groups in different countries can meet — at least virtually — is social media.
Meanwhile, Turks are expressing their solidarity on Twitter at #changebrazil and #occupybrazil
Nearly half of the 7,000 languages spoken in the world are expected to vanish in the next 100 years. One of them is Athabaskan, a language of the Siletz tribe in the Pacific Northwest. Bud Lane, vice chairman of Siletz tribal council, explains the importance of language diversity.
Twelve years after the war began, Afghanistan’s president announced Tuesday that Afghan forces officially assumed control of security for the country. U.S. and NATO troops will remain until the 2014 deadline, but the Afghan military is now expected to fight without NATO support.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan drew hundreds of thousands supporters to Taksim Square, where he celebrated the successful eviction of protestors by riot police using teargas and water cannons. Unions have called for a national strike to protest Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule.
Jordan is hosting major military exercises known as Eager Lion 2013. More than 15,000 soldiers from 18 countries, including the U.S., will be participating. The war games kicked off as Syria’s civil war rages next door.
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A 2013 Accord is ready to come off the line at the Honda automobile plant in Marysville, Ohio, in 2012. Accords built at the 4,400-employee plant are shipped to South Korea — an example of the importance of trade to manufacturing jobs.
If economists were cheerleaders, their favorite shout-out might be: “What do we want? Growth! When do we want it? Now!”
They won’t actually shout those words, but they may be thinking them as global leaders meet this week for a G-8 summit. Economists are hoping that at the gathering in Northern Ireland, leaders of eight major economies will discuss expanding global trade and investment to spur job creation.
“The world needs growth,” said Scott Miller, a trade policy expert for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research group.
Too many countries have legions of unemployed people but too few tools to boost job creation, he said. That’s because their leaders are trying to cut government deficits, limiting their ability to fund “stimulus” programs. At the same time, central bankers can’t lower interest rates further because they already have done lots of slashing.
So if you can’t spend government money or cut interest rates, where can you find a hot poker to jab the economy and get it moving?
“Trade is where the growth is now,” Miller said Friday at a gathering of economists and trade experts at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Miller and the other participants were poring over new data put together by the institute.
The study’s conclusion was: “Increased trade means more jobs in the export sector, and export jobs are generally better paid than jobs in other sectors of the economy.”
Economists say examples abound. Here’s just one: Honda Accords built in Marysville, Ohio, are shipped to South Korea. The Buckeye plant now has 4,400 workers and is undergoing a $23 million expansion.
You don’t have to try to persuade British Prime Minister David Cameron that trade can boost growth. As host of the G-8 Summit, he has promised to put the focus on expanding commerce among nations. His agenda is strongly backed by President Obama. The two are meeting at the Lough Erne Resort in Northern Ireland, along with the heads of Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Russia and Japan.
The eight leaders will spend two days on “the three T’s” — trade, taxation and transparency.
Given how slow job growth is in Europe, where the unemployment rate exceeds 12 percent, Cameron says more business opportunities have to be created for exporters. The EU says about 30 million of its jobs — or 10 percent of all paid positions — are tied directly to international trade.
The EU and U.S. are about to begin negotiations to create the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — a pact that would expand trade across the Atlantic Ocean and create the world’s largest free trade zone.
Still, Cameron won’t have an easy time getting all the leaders on the same page. For example, France is strenuously objecting to any deal that might allow Hollywood moviemakers to overshadow the French film industry. The French already have persuaded EU trade ministers to promise that “culture” will not be up for negotiations, at least for now.
And many Europeans do not want U.S. ideas about data privacy and genetically modified foods to take root on their continent.
And in this country, many labor leaders and consumer groups also have various objections to massive trade deals that could have all sorts of implications for food safety standards, wages, import competition and more.
Those interest groups are not being included in talks that could lead to “trade agreements, enormous in their scope and reach, [that] pose serious threats to consumer health and food safety, in the U.S. and in other countries,” Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, said in a statement.
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Secretary of State John Kerry (left) meets with Jordan’s King Abdullah at the Dead Sea last month.
Jim Young/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Young/AFP/Getty Images
Jordan’s King Abdullah says his country stands ready to respond to any threat from a spillover of the civil war in neighboring Syria, a day after the U.S. announced it would leave fighter jets and Patriot missiles in his country after joint military exercises end this week.
“If the world does not help as it should, and if the matter becomes a danger to our country, we are able at any moment to take the measures to protect the country and the interest of our people,” Abdullah said, speaking to graduating military cadets.
He said Jordan “will emerge victorious in the face of all challenges, the way we always have in the past.”
As NPR’s Deborah Amos reports from Amman, the Pentagon’s decision to leave the F-16s and missiles in Jordan at the conclusion of the exercises has led to speculation they could be used in establishing a no-fly zone over Syria.
The White House last week said it would provide direct military support to rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad after it established that Syria had used sarin gas against its people.
Amos says Jordan has backed the U.S. campaign against the Syrian regime and “has become a transit route for secret arms shipments and hosted a covert rebel training program.”