Arts & Entertainment

Top 5 Songs for Week Ending Feb. 18

This is the Top Five Countdown! We’re rewarding the five most popular songs in the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles chart, for the week ending February 18, 2017.

Welcome to our post-Grammy countdown, which sees “nearly” all the artists participating in the big weekend.


Number 5: The Chainsmokers Featuring Halsey “Closer”

The Chainsmokers and Halsey weaken two slots, as their former 12-week champ “Closer” falls to number five.  Grammy night proved turbulent for the duo: on the positive side, they won the Best Dance Recording trophy for “Don’t Let Me Down,” featuring Daya. They drew the wrath of some David Bowie fans, however, by accepting the Best Rock Song award for the late rock legend’s composition “Blackstar.”

Number 4: Machine Gun Kelly & Camila Cabello “Bad Things”

Holding in fourth place are Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello, who marked a milestone on Sunday when Cabello made her solo red carpet debut at the Grammy Awards. It marked her first such appearance since leaving Fifth Harmony on December 18. She also presented the Best Country Solo Performance Grammy, which was won by Maren Morris for “My Church.”

One of Grammy’s biggest stars was missing in action Sunday…

Number 3: Zayn & Taylor Swift “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever”

Zayn and Taylor Swift climb two slots to third place with their Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack hit “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever.”

Last year, Swift took home three Grammy awards, including Album Of The Year for 1989. This year, she had no nominations – for the first time since 2011. Swift was one of the highest-profile Grammy no-shows, along with Justin Bieber, Drake and Kanye West.

Number 2: Migos Featuring Lil Uzi Vert “Bad And Boujee”

Grammy weekend didn’t go so well for our runner-up act: Migos and Lil Uzi Vert lose their singles lead as “Bad And Boujee” falls a slot to second place.

Grammy weekend was an adventure for the Atlanta rappers: it started when group member Offset was kicked off an airliner for refusing to stop talking on his phone. Hours later, police raided Migos’ pre-Grammy party in Beverly Hills. TMZ reports that a number of guests reportedly received citations, but it’s unclear whether Migos will face any legal action.

Number 1: Ed Sheeran “Shape of You”

Only one of our Top Five artists performed at the Grammys, and he turns out to be the one wearing the crown.  Ed Sheeran returns to the Hot 100 summit for a second total week with “Shape Of You.” He performed that song on Sunday at the Grammy Awards telecast. Last year Ed won two trophies; this year he failed to collect on his sole nomination: Song Of The Year, for “Love Yourself.”

Arts & Entertainment

A Visit to the Island of the Turtles

National parks traveler Mikah Meyer continued his journey in the southeastern state of Florida with a visit to Dry Tortugas — a chain of small islands in the Gulf of Mexico. The remote Dry Tortugas National Park is home to beautiful coral reefs, a vast assortment of bird and marine life, and a magnificent 19th century fort. The young traveler, who’s on a mission to visit all of the more than 400 NPS sites, shared highlights with VOA’s Julie Taboh.

Science & Health

Researchers Argue for Eighth Continent: Zealandia

There may be eight continents after all.

Researchers say there is a submerged continent in the southwest Pacific Ocean, that should be considered an eighth continent. They’re calling it Zealandia in a nod to the largest part of the continent that is above water, New Zealand.

According to a paper on Zealandia published in the Geological Society of America, researchers say the continent is about two-thirds the size of Australia, measuring some five million square kilometers.

Only six percent, however, is above water, the majority of which is New Zealand, New Caledonia and some smaller islands.

Traditionally, New Zealand has been associated with the continent of Australia.

While we normally think of continents as needing to be above water, researchers say the new continent does meet other requirements to the title, including elevation over the surrounding area, distinct geology, a well-defined area and crust thicker than the ocean floor, the BBC reports.

Researchers say Zealandia may have broken off from the supercontinent Gondwana between 60 and 85 million years ago, according to the Guardian newspaper.

According to the lead author of the study, Nick Mortimer, it will be hard to get Zealandia classified as a continent because it’s under water.

“If we could pull the plug on the oceans, it would be clear to everybody that we have mountain chains and a big, high-standing continent,” he told TVNZ. “What we hope is that Zealandia will appear on world maps, in schools, everywhere …I think the revelation of a new continent is pretty exciting.”

Zealandia was first named in 1995 by American scientist Bruce Luyendyk.

Silicon Valley & Technology

Google Makes Internet Balloon ‘Breakthrough’

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, says the company has made a “breakthrough” on its plans to offer Internet access to rural areas via connected balloons through an endeavor called Project Loon.

Initially, the idea was to have a steady stream of balloons circling the globe. When one went out of range in a certain area, another would arrive to maintain connectivity to those using the access provided by the balloons.

But now, the company says that through its “smart software,” it has now figured out a way to make the balloons loiter in one place over an extended period of time.

“Project Loon’s algorithms can now send small teams of balloons to form a cluster over a specific region where people need internet access,” the company wrote in an online post. “This is a shift from our original model for Loon in which we planned to create rings of balloons sailing around the globe, and balloons would take turns moving through a region to provide service.”

The company says the discovery was made during testing of balloons launched from Puerto Rico to “hang out” in Peruvian airspace. Some of the balloons lingered there for as long as three months, the company said.

The discovery should speed up the project and reduce costs.

“We’ll reduce the number of balloons we need and get greater value out of each one,” the company said in the post. “All of this helps reduce the costs of operating a Loon-powered network, which is good news for the telco partners we’ll work with around the world to make Loon a reality, and critical given that cost has been one key factor keeping reliable internet from people living in rural and remote regions.”

The Project Loon idea was sparked as a way to bring internet connectivity to the billions around the world who do not have access.

Rather than install traditional and expensive terrestrial wiring, the idea was to float huge, Internet-beaming balloons some 20 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. The balloons would then ride air currents to either remain in place or move to a new location.

Despite the breakthrough, Project Loon still must figure out how to increase the longevity of the balloons, which has maxed out at 190 days, according to the BBC.

Google has also explored the idea of providing internet to rural areas using solar-powered drones, but cancelled the notion due to technological hurdles and costs. Facebook is also looking to do something similar, but one of its drones crashed last summer.

Economy & business

US Allies Optimistic About Political Solution to Syrian Conflict

U.S. allies said after a meeting Friday with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson they were encouraged the United States would support a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

“All the participants want a political solution because a military solution alone won’t lead to peace in Syria,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters in Bonn, where the G-20 summit is under way.

Tillerson met for the first time on the sidelines at the gathering with about a dozen Western and Arab countries as well as Turkey.

US Syria policy

Before the meeting, diplomats were seeking clarity on whether the new U.S. administration of President Donald Trump had changed its policy on Syria, particularly regarding the future of President Bashar al-Assad.

Under the previous administration of President Barack Obama, the U.S. insisted Assad had to go, putting the U.S. at odds with Russia – which supports the Syrian leader.

Trump has emphasized closer cooperation with Russia in combating Islamic State in Syria.

Russia, whose influence in the conflict has grown, hosted separate peace talks in Kazakhstan with Turkey, brokering a fragile six-week truce between Syria’s warring factions.

German Foreign Minister Gabriel said “like minded” nations agreed to increase pressure on Russia to support a political solution and reaffirmed there could be no alternative to United Nations-led talks. A new round of the talks involving the Syrian regime and rebel representatives has been scheduled for February 23 in Geneva.

Secretary of State Tillerson also met Friday with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for the first time and urged China to help assert more control over North Korea after a series of nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

North Korea nuclear threat

Acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Friday in Bonn that Tillerson “highlighted the increasing threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and urged China to use all available tools to moderate North Korea’s destabilizing behavior.”

Wang told Tillerson that the U.S. and China have joint responsibilities to maintain global stability, according to a statement form China’s Foreign Ministry. Wang also said common interests between the two countries far outweigh their differences.


After meeting Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Tillerson said the U.S. could collaborate with Russia if it honored its commitment to help end the crisis in Ukraine.

Tillerson is attending his first G-20 meeting, hosted by Foreign Minister Gabriel, who has been a vocal critic of some of Trump’s policies.

The G-20 countries account for about 85 percent of the world economy and two-thirds of the global population.

The Bonn meeting is a precursor to a G-20 summit scheduled for July in Hamburg in what may be the first time Trump meets Putin in person.

Arts & Entertainment

Oscar-Nominated Documentaries Highlight Refugee Crisis

Two documentaries on the plight of refugees off the Italian coast and the Greek coast have received Oscar nominations this year. “Fire at Sea,” by Gianfranco Rossi has been selected in the Feature Documentary category and “4.1 Miles” by Daphne Matziaraki has been nominated in the Short Documentary category. VOA’s Penelope Poulou spoke with Rossi about his film and how these documentaries bring public awareness to the refugees crisis in a tough political climate.

Science & Health

Soccer May Pose Risk of Repetitive Brain Injury

As evidence mounts of brain injuries in players of American football, new research suggests even lower-impact soccer — the game the rest of the world calls football — may be hard on the brain as well. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Silicon Valley & Technology

Zuckerberg’s Goal: Remake а World Facebook Helped Create

Mark Zuckerberg helped create the modern world by connecting nearly a quarter of its citizens to Facebook and giving them a platform to share, well, everything – baby pictures and Pepe memes, social updates and abusive bullying, helpful how-to videos and live-streamed violence.

Now he wants to remake it, too, in a way that counters isolationism, promotes global connections and addresses social ills – while also cementing Facebook’s central role as a builder of online “community” for its nearly 2 billion users.


The Facebook founder laid out his thoughts on Thursday in a sweeping 5,800-word manifesto that hews closer to utopian social guide than business plan. Are we, he asked in the document, “building the world we all want?”


In a phone interview with The Associated Press, Zuckerberg stressed that he wasn’t motivated by the recent U.S. election or any other particular event. Rather, he said, it’s the growing sentiment in many parts of the world that “connecting the world” – the founding idea behind Facebook – is no longer a good thing.


“Across the world there are people left behind by globalization, and movements for withdrawing from global connection,” Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook in a Harvard dorm room in 2004, wrote on Thursday. So it falls to his company to “develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us.”


Connecting in Facebook’s interest


Zuckerberg, 32, told the AP that he still strongly believes that more connectedness is the right direction for the world. But, he added, it’s “not enough if it’s good for some people but it’s doesn’t work for other people. We really have to bring everyone along.”


It’s hardly a surprise that Zuckerberg wants to find ways to bring more people together, especially on Facebook. After all, getting more people to come together on the social network more frequently would give Facebook more opportunities to sell the ads that generate most of its revenue, which totaled $27 billion last year. And bringing in more money probably would boost Facebook’s stock price to make Zuckerberg – already worth an estimated $56 billion – even richer.


And while the idea of unifying the world is laudable, some critics – backed by various studies – contend that Facebook makes some people feel lonelier and more isolated as they scroll through the mostly ebullient posts and photos shared on the social network. Facebook’s famous “like” button also makes it easy to engage in a form of “one-click” communication that can displace meaningful dialogue.


Facebook also has been lambasted as a polarizing force by circulating posts espousing similar viewpoints and interests among like-minded people, creating an “echo chamber” that can harden opinions and widen political and cultural chasms.


Community support


Today, most of Facebook’s 1.86 billion members – about 85 percent – live outside of the U.S. and Canada. The Menlo Park, California-based company has offices everywhere from Amsterdam to Jakarta, Indonesia, to Tel Aviv, Israel. (It is banned in China, the world’s most populous country, though some people get around the ban.) Naturally, Zuckerberg takes a global view of Facebook and sees potential that goes beyond borders, cities and nations.


Equally naturally, he sees the social network stepping up as more traditional cultural ties fray. People already use Facebook to connect with strangers who have the same rare disease, to post political diatribes, to share news links (and sometimes fake news links). Facebook has also pushed its users to register to vote, to donate to causes, to mark themselves safe after natural disasters, and to “go live.”  For many, it’s become a utility. Some 1.23 billion people use it daily.


“Our next focus will be developing the social infrastructure for community – for supporting us, for keeping us safe, for informing us, for civic engagement, and for inclusion of all,” he wrote.


Long view


Zuckerberg has gotten Facebook to this position of global dominance – one that Myspace and Twitter, for instance, never even approached – partly thanks to his audacious, long-term view of the company and its place in the world.


Last fall, Zuckerberg and his wife, the doctor Priscilla Chan, unveiled the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a long-term effort aimed at eradicating all disease by the end of this century. Then, as now, Zuckerberg preferred to look far down the road to the potential of scientific and technological innovations that have not been perfected, or even invented yet.


That includes artificial intelligence, which in this case means software that’s capable of “thinking” enough like humans to start making the sorts of judgments that Facebook sometimes bobbles. Last September, for instance, the service briefly barred the famous Vietnam War-era photograph dubbed “Napalm Girl” because it featured a nude child, and only reversed its decision after users – including the prime minister of Norway – protested.


AI systems could also comb through the vast amount of material users post on Facebook to detect everything from bullying to the early signs of suicidal thinking to extremist recruiting. AI, Zuckerberg wrote, could “understand more quickly and accurately what is happening across our community.”


Speaking to the AP, Zuckerberg said he understands that we might not “solve all the issues that we want” in the short term.


“One of my favorite quotes is this Bill Gates quote, that `people overestimate what they can get done in two years and underestimate what they can get done in 10 years.’ And that’s an important mindset that I hope more people take today,” he said.