On Cultureteca this week, a look at the Geminids, the colourful and highly prolific meteor shower which is reaching its peak over this weekend; a fight breaks out in the Ukrainian parliament, with an aside featuring Chandler Bing and Joey Tribbiani’s unseemly tailor; and a recap of UFC 194, headlined by Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor for the UFC Featherweight Championship.
* * *
The Geminids Reach Their Peak
The Geminids are an annual meteor shower, appearing in the night sky each December. Travelling more slowly and emerging more brightly than the meteors of most other showers, as their small rocks burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, they leave long glowing streaks of light in white and yellow, and occasionally blue, red, and green.
The Geminids are caused by the object 3200 Phaethon, thought to be a Palladian asteroid, with an orbit which brings it unusually close to the sun. This makes the Geminids – along with the Quadrantids which reach a sharp peak in January – one of the only major meteor showers to originate from an asteroid instead of a comet, as far as the distinction holds.
The slow-moving meteors from this shower have their radiant – the point in the sky from which they appear to emanate – in the constellation Gemini. But they can be seen across the night, in their multicoloured hues.
Unlike the Perseids and the Leonids, which were first recorded respectively in 36 AD and 906 AD, the Geminids only came to attention fairly recently, in 1862. They are believed to be intensifying every year, and now vie with the Perseids for the title of most active annual shower, with a Zenithal Hourly Rate of 75. Under ideal conditions, as many as 120-160 meteors can be seen each hour.
The shower began its activity this year on 4 December, and it will run for a few days still, until 17 December, with meteors visible in the sky from around 9 pm every evening until the break of daylight. But the Geminids reach their peak over this weekend, during the early morning hours of 13 and 14 December. As we are just days after a new moon, the dark nights should allow even the faintest of shooting stars to stand out.
* * *
Another Round in the Ukrainian Parliament
In the Verkhovna Rada on Friday – the unicameral parliament of Ukraine – Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk took to wondering: is this really how they do pants?
Yatsenyuk was groped rudely in the middle of a speech by MP Oleh Barna, who at least romanced the Prime Minister a little bit first, handing him a bouquet of red roses before grabbing him about the crotch and pulling him awkwardly from the speaker’s podium.
Following the Euromaidan demonstrations, and the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych in late February 2014, Arseniy Yatsenyuk was made Prime Minister of Ukraine, and tasked with forming a new government. At the same time his ally Oleksandr Turchynov became Ukraine’s acting President.
Presidential elections were swiftly called and held on 25 May, with Petro Poroshenko winning 54.7% of the popular vote. Poroshenko therefore became the next President of Ukraine, assuming office on 7 June. He subsequently called parliamentary elections for October.
Ahead of the parliamentary elections, there were attempts to bring Yatsenyuk and Poroshenko together in one party. Instead Yatsenyuk and Turchynov established People’s Front, with a conservative, pro-European political perspective; while supporters of Poroshenko campaigned as Petro Poroshenko Bloc, with a centre-left background but a similar centre-right contemporary outlook.
At the elections on 26 October, Petro Poroshenko Bloc became the largest party in the Rada, taking 132 out of 450 seats. On the day People’s Front in fact received marginally more votes, 3,488,114 in contrast to 3,437,521. But according to Ukraine’s parallel voting system, People’s Front emerged with just 82 seats.
On 21 November, the five pro-European parties who had won representation in the Rada – Petro Poroshenko Bloc, People’s Front, Self Reliance, Fatherland, and the Radical Party – signed a coalition agreement. And when the new parliament began its term on 27 November, the coalition confirmed Yatsenyuk as Prime Minister by 341 votes.
More than a year later, local elections and shifts in party affiliation have reduced People’s Front to 81 seats in the Rada, while Petro Poroshenko Bloc can now boast 142. The coalition remains intact, and with a significant parliamentary majority, but several of its MPs have begun to blame Prime Minster Yatsenyuk for what they perceive as economic mismanagement, citing inflation and high gas prices.
Barna was pushing for a no-confidence vote against Yatsenyuk in the lead up to his crude attack. Other MPs rushed to the Prime Minister’s aid, as an angry bout of pushing and shoving ensued. Barna was a member of Petro Poroshenko Bloc, but has since been ousted by the party.
According to Ukraine’s oft-criticised semi-presidential system, the Prime Minister and President share executive power. The Prime Minister presides over the cabinet, which constitutes the government of Ukraine, responsible for the day-to-day running of the country. The President meanwhile takes the lead in foreign affairs and matters of national security.
Legislative power is vested in the Rada. The cabinet can propose bills directly to parliament, while the President can veto laws adopted by parliament except in the case of constitutional amendments.
* * *
UFC 194: Aldo vs. McGregor
One of the most anticipated events in ultimate fighting history, UFC 194: Aldo vs. McGregor took place last night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
The headlining fight, for the UFC Featherweight Championship, was originally scheduled for UFC 189 in July, but champion Jose Aldo controversially withdrew owing to a rib injury. Chad Mendes was drafted to face McGregor instead for the interim title, and after being taken down several times in the first round, McGregor knocked his opponent out with three seconds of the second round remaining.
Going into Saturday’s fight, Aldo had suffered only one defeat in an eleven-year career, and this by submission back in November 2005. With twenty-five wins to his name – including seven since joining UFC in 2010, as the promotion’s inaugural Featherweight Champion as part of the merger with World Extreme Cagefighting – he stood as one of the most respected figures in the sport.
In other circumstances, McGregor and Mendes would not have fought at UFC 189 for the interim belt. But Dana White defended his decision citing Aldo’s record of withdrawing from title bouts, suggesting that the Brazilian was overstating the extent of his injury as he was worried about making weight.
Conor McGregor’s mixed martial arts career began in 2008, and he suffered two early losses before amassing a total of eighteen wins heading into UFC 194. Previously considered more for his mouth than his ability in the octagon, possessing a rare self confidence so sure that it routinely appears arrogant, his victory over Mendes was his sixth in UFC, and convinced with regard to the striking power in his left hand.
The Irishman continually picked and probed at Aldo before their showdown on Saturday, questioning Aldo’s willingness to fight. The pair refused to touch gloves prior to the first round, and seconds later it was all over, as Aldo lunged at McGregor with a left-right combination, landing with the right, but succumbing to McGregor’s perfectly timed left fist. McGregor followed up with a couple of blows on the ground, but Aldo was already done. The fight was timed at thirteen seconds.
Elsewhere on the event’s main card, Max Holloway and Demian Maia gained convincing decision wins over Jeremy Stephens and Gunnar Nelson respectively. Yoel Romero dominated the first round against Ronaldo Souza, coming close to stopping the fight following a spinning back fist, but thereafter he produced a strangely lacklustre showing, and Souza almost capitalised in the third. Romero held on to take the split decision.
And in the co-main event, Luke Rockhold gained Chris Weidman’s UFC Middleweight Championship, stopping the champion in the fourth round after seizing command in the third when Weidman threw an ill-advised spinning kick.