News In Focus: A Look At This Week’s Most Interesting Stories

Entertainment / Business:  Pop star Taylor Swift stood up to Apple Inc. last Monday, forcing the tech giant to bow and U-turn on its royalty policy.

Apple had planned to not pay any royalties during a free three-month trial for its Apple Music offering — a subscription-based music streaming service that launches on June 30th.

But Swift, 25, blasted the company for being “shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.”

“We don’t ask you for free iPhones,” Swift added.  “Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”

Within a day, Apple responded with a change of heart.  The tech company’s senior executive, Eddy Cue, called Swift personally, assuring her that Apple would pay royalties to music labels and publishers upon the launch of the new service.

The tech company has not announced how much they would pay musicians, but Music Business Worldwide reported that independent labels would likely receive US$0.002 per stream.

Apple has said that disbursements would increase once people started paying for the service.

Here’s the BBC with more:


Environment: Leading scientists warn that Earth’s sixth extinction has begun, and humans are the cause.

Environment Professor Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University points out in his latest research published in the journal Science Advances last Friday that “species are disappearing up to about 100 times faster than the normal rate.”

The professor warns that pollution and climate change – caused by large scale land development and environmental degradation — have already resulted in the loss of at least 77 species of mammals, 140 types of birds and 34 types of amphibians since 1500.

Animals that have become extinct as a result of human activities include the dodo, Steller’s Sea Cow, the Falkland Islands wolf, the quagga, the Formosan clouded leopard, the Atlas bear, the Caspian tiger, and the Cape lion, according to the Telegraph.

If species continue to disappear at this rate, Earth’s biodiversity could be significantly and permanently altered within three generations.

Scientists estimate that Earth has experienced five mass extinctions in the past.  The last incident is believed to have happened about 65 million years ago when dinosaurs died out in as little as three human lifetimes.

Professor Ehrlich talks more about his research in this Stanford-produced piece:


China: Animal rights activists are upset about the annual Lychee and Dog Meat Festival that was held in the city of Yulin in Guangxi province on Sunday and Monday.

About 10,000 dogs were slaughtered during the traditional event to mark the summer solstice.

Dog eating is legal in China.  But stealing or poisoning dogs for dog trading isn’t tolerated, and local traders are not allowed to slaughter dogs in public, or place canine carcasses on display, according to the New York Post.

Local eateries claim the animals are killed humanely, but according to BBC as well as a Hong Kong–based charity, Animals Asia, stolen pets and stray dogs are often treated badly before they end up as food.

Activists around the world are outraged by the massive killing and have started an online campaign to ban the festival.  More than 3.8 million signatures are said to have been collected so far.

Celebrities such as British comedian Ricky Gervais and Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen have called for an end to the festival.

Vice explores the subject further in the following clip:


India: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined thousands of yoga enthusiasts in practicing the ancient art at New Delhi’s main thoroughfare last Sunday to mark the first International Yoga Day.

The crowd included school children, bureaucrats, homemakers, and soldiers.

Similar events were contemporaneously held in Paris, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Beijing, Manila, and other cities.

Modi’s message for the activity was one of peace and harmony, as he told participants that “this is a program for the benefit of mankind, for a tension-free world and to spread the message of harmony.”

But many in India were concerned that yoga was promoted to boost to Hinduism.  Some Muslim leaders resisted the exercise, saying that yoga was a Hindu practice.

The Indian government tried to appease skeptics by dropping the “sun salutation” exercise and the “om” chant – two practices that some believe have religious undertones.

If you’d like to learn about yoga, we offer you YouTube’s most popular yoga work-out for beginners:


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