Too busy to read the news this week? We’ve rounded up the stories from this past week that everyone’s most likely to be buzzing about. Here, everything you need to know to sound like you know what you’re talking about when you hit the party circuit this weekend.
The Oscar Nominees Are ...
The Oscar nominations were announced Thursday, and something particularly novel happened this year: the Academy nominated movies people have actually seen. Lincoln, Life of Pi, Les Misérables, Django Unchained, and Argo all scored major nods (including Best Picture) and were box-office hits. That means the average moviegoer can actually have an informed opinion about this year’s races. Among the major talking points: Lincoln earned the most nods. This year’s Best Actress group boasts both the oldest (Amour’s Emmanuelle Riva) and youngest (Beasts of the Southern Wild’s Quvenzhané Wallis) contenders ever in the category. And, because complaining is the most fun, the list of snubs: Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow, John Hawkes, Leonardo DiCaprio, Moonrise Kingdom.
Alex Jones Went Berserk
The phrase “lost his damned mind” was invented for moments like this. Alex Jones, a radio host who co-created the official White House petition to deport CNN host Piers Morgan for passionately supporting gun-control laws on his show, appeared on Morgan’s program and began verbally attacking him for his views. “1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms!” Jones warned. “And I’m going to say this here, you think you’re a tough guy? Have me back with a boxing ring, and I’ll wear red, white, and blue, and you’ll wear your Jolly Roger.” As the interview went viral, Jones, a noted conspiracy theorist, expressed fears that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was dispatching “crackheads” to kill him for speaking the truth.
The Flu Is Bad
It’s an epidemic! It’s a public-health emergency! It’s the worst we’ve seen in decades! Boo! The media are doing their trademark best to scare the bejesus out of us with incessant coverage of the particularly severe spread of the flu this year. It is true. Forty-four states are reporting widespread sickness, while Boston alone already has 700 cases compared with last year’s 70. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the number of patients seeking influenza treatment nationwide has doubled in the past month. So what gives? This year’s vaccine may not be well matched to the current strain. There are also reports of a rogue second strain causing many cases. It could also just be a fluke year for the disease. The lesson: stock up on tissues.
‘Downton Abbey’ Is Back
Not too long ago, you were cool if you were among the few initiated who were clued into Downton Abbey, the costume soap opera (airing on PBS) about the upstairs-downstairs liaisons within the walls of a British estate in the early 20th century. Now that the show is a bona fide, mainstream hit—a whopping 7.9 million viewers tuned in to Sunday night’s Season 3 premiere—is it now more hip not to like it? Either way, passions for all things Downton reignited with Sunday’s episode. Mary and Matthew got hitched. Shirley MacLaine arrived to trade barbs with Maggie Smith. The new butler was very tall. So much to discuss (and debate).
Chuck Hagel Nominated for Secretary of Defense
Despite what appeared to be the staunch opposition of many—including members of his own party—President Obama made the controversial decision to nominate Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense Monday. Hagel would be the first person of enlisted rank and first Vietnam vet to take the Pentagon’s top office. His opposition to Iranian sanctions rankles Republicans, and many are worried that his call for direct negotiations with Hamas could send Israel and allies in the Middle East the wrong message. That’s not to mention the kerfuffle over previous statements he’s made—and recently apologized for—that were considered antigay. Pundits are expecting a fight to get the nomination confirmed by the Senate and are questioning the wisdom of Obama putting forth another controversial contender following the Susan Rice debacle, but few think that at the end of the day Hagel won’t be given the post.
There Will Be Hockey
The people of Canada—and Buffalo, N.Y.?—are very excited. After a four-month lockout, a new labor agreement between the NHL owners and players’ union was reached Sunday, meeting a deadline at the 11th hour that allows for a partial hockey season to be played. Details are still being hammered out, but it’s likely that the abbreviated season will involve each team playing 48 games. Which teams are likely to benefit from this sprint? The Edmonton Oilers have a young squad that should be able to explode out of the gate. The L.A. Kings are eager to defend last season’s Stanley Cup. The Philadelphia Flyers sent the most players of any team to Europe to stay active during the lockout, so they’re game-ready. And if you’ve made it this far into this paragraph without your eyes glazing over, congratulations, you must be a true hockey fan, and you too will benefit from these games being played.
It Was Really Hot This Year
2012 was the hottest year on record in the U.S., it was announced Wednesday, with the 55.3-degree average scorching the previous record, set in 1998, by a full degree Fahrenheit. It was also the second-most extreme weather year ever recorded. With fires raging in Australia and the Corn Belt and the deadly drought still having ramifications across the U.S., it’s not hard to see why those who don’t believe in global warming are becoming a shrinking majority.